This month marks the annual international PRIDE celebration, highlighting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identifying people. It all started back in 1970, one year after the 1969 Stonewall Riots were sparked in New York City by a 25 year-old transgender woman named Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was celebrating her birthday in one of the only known public spaces where the LGBTQ community could peacefully dance, drink, and enjoy each other’s company without facing harassment. Police raided the bar and patrons fought back. What followed was a monumental 6-day upheaval that was the beginning of the gay rights movement.
Over the decades there have been many milestones for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer community, with 2015’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage being one of the most notable. This week another ruling regarding an LGBTQ case was made. “Cake Shop”, as the case came to be known, was settled in favor of the Colorado bakery owners who refused to bake a same-sex wedding cake because of their religious beliefs, but still was a positive step for gay rights, according to gay rights legal experts. The case shed light on the continued fight for fairness and America’s progressive movement on civil rights, despite the Trump administration’s and other groups’ opposition to equality.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s James Esseks explained why Masterpiece Cakeshop’s narrow win doesn’t mean a step backward for gay rights in a blog post following the ruling. He wrote, “Monday’s decision gives a very narrow victory to the bakery. But the court has clearly signaled that the broader rule the bakery was seeking here — a constitutional right to discriminate and turn customers away because of who they are — is not in keeping with American constitutional tradition.” I’m optimistic that there will be less cases like this in our country’s future, and when they do arise, our justice system will present a fair trial for those involved.
Recent years have also seen strides being taken in representing the transgender community. Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair coming out cover story opened a conversation about the struggles transgender people live with before and after transitioning. Furthermore, 2015’s Tangerine brought transgender life to the spotlight with a comedic tale of two trans-women navigating friendship, romance, and street culture in Los Angeles.
Growing up with an openly gay uncle, with whom my siblings and I are very close, opened my eyes to both the power and plight of the gay community. As a leader in the HIV movement, our uncle taught us the importance of social justice, spreading awareness and fighting for impartiality. In the years to come I hope to see more tolerance, compassion, and equality around the lifestyle of non-straight and non-gender conforming people. Like with any other reform in this country it will take time, tireless effort, and strong leaders to continue making an impact.
Overall, I’m proud of our country’s conviction in pushing the gay rights movement forward despite adversity. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable PRIDE season.