J. Eric Fisher

J. Eric Fisher

This weekend, we mark the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ pride in a historic and extremely important moment, which ought to be a reckoning within our own community.

As people continue to march for Black lives, we in the LGBTQ community must acknowledge that we have our own sordid relationship with racism.

Our too-often sanitized celebrations of Pride Month (June) make it all too easy to forget — particularly for white queer folks like me — that we are recalling an uprising not unlike the one that Black Americans and their allies are experiencing today.

And, like the Black Lives Matter uprisings occurring across the country and around the globe, the Stonewall uprisings — which began June 28, 1969 —were led by our Black and Latino siblings.

The truth, not acknowledged often or loudly enough, is that the LGBTQ community stole “Pride” from the Black Freedom Movement. It is long past time for us to clearly and constantly unite our movements with each other and all dispossessed peoples.

While our work for queer liberation is far from over, what gay rights we do have today are literally thanks to transgender women of color like the late Marsha P. Johnson in the Stonewall uprisings.

The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in New York City that was raided by police  —  this sparked demonstrations by Johnson and others no longer willing to put up with anti-gay police raids.

All these years on, the white LGBTQ community is not immune from racism; we are complicit in systemic racism even as we experience, understand and fight related systems of oppression and discrimination. This is inexcusable.

We must renounce racism within and outside of the LGBTQ  community. We must remember that many queer people benefit from levels of privilege that too many of our queer siblings of color do not.

Our work is not done simply because cisgender, gay, white men like me are comfortable. Our work must continue forward as we advocate for our Black, Brown, transgender, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary siblings to be seen, heard and protected — work that, to be clear, will never be finished. 

On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination based on sex (though its ruling noted that the religious freedom rights of employers may supersede this protection).

That came after June 12 — the fourth anniversary of the massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Florida, which claimed the lives of 49 people — a day on which the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era health care protections for transgender individuals.

The journey toward justice continues.

Our work must be visible enough for young LGBTQ people, especially those who are Black and Brown, to hear, see and feel the work we do.  These youth comprise our most vulnerable and they deserve spaces free of racism, homophobia and transphobia. They deserve spaces that actively and continuously work to protect them. This point cannot be emphasized enough.

Lancaster's young Black and Latino individuals far too often rely on services provided by faith-based organizations that openly discriminate against the LGBTQ community in policy and practice — some within the confines of our city in defiance of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance.

Tackling discrimination and the safety of queer people of color have become increasingly challenging as anti-LGBTQ organizations relocate to downtown Lancaster, and as the grip of gentrification solidifies. We can support freedom of religion and religious expression, even as we do not agree with some or all of the homophobic and transphobic beliefs held by some people of faith.

We can even, when appropriate, show civility to those whose institutions seek to further oppress us. But we are not doing justice to our queer siblings of color when we include these institutions at tables intended to cultivate diverse, multiracial coalitions.

Belief systems that are entrenched in prejudice and discrimination will not be untangled in a single workshop. Our oppressed siblings must not be obligated to sit at the table with bigotry in order to be at the table at all.

It is not our job to help racists and homophobes become more aware and grow, nor is it the responsibility of the people calling out oppressive organizations to hold hands and listen to rationalizations based in fear, misconceptions, prejudice and stereotypes.

When oppressed populations unite under a common pursuit of liberation and justice for all, we are stronger than when we work in isolation. White siblings: This is on us. Our liberation as working people depends on the liberation of black people. As we recognize LGBTQ Pride month, I call on my community to immediately declare that Black and Brown Lives Matter — including those who are transgender.

Let’s do this in memory of Tony McDade and Iyanna Dior. And Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells. And Riah Milton. Say their names.

J. Eric Fisher is a member of Put People First — PA! and a Lancaster resident.