(Article has been edited to add Jennicet’s name.)
This Wednesday, I was blessed with the opportunity to share space with my friends at Solutions Not Punishment Coalition (SNAPco), an organization dedicated to keeping transgender and gender nonconforming people and other marginalized populations out of the criminal justice system. They were celebrating the impending anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that created the modern lgbt movement and the legends that raised hell that fateful night in June 1969. I left the event and walked to the train station feeling full and inspired. As I waited on my train, I scrolled down my Facebook page and saw the following video:
Jennicet Gutiérrez, a trans Latina, interrupted some bougie white house event to rightfully call Obama out on the government’s treatment of undocumented people, especially queer and trans people that have been detained by ICE. After repeated shushing and sass from the president, she was escorted out to a chorus of boos from the crowd. But, this wasn’t just any crowd, it was a crowd of lgbt people and Obama was commemorating Pride month. As I watched this disgusting display, I felt deja vu because I had watched the video below less than an hour prior at the SNAPco meeting.
Sylvia Rivera, a bisexual trans Latina, fought her way to the stage a mere four years after the Stonewall riots to speak to a hostile crowd at a pride event about jailed activists. Barely a half a decade had passed since Stonewall and white middle class gays had already decided that politics had no place in Pride. Similarly, a new generation of assimilationist gays and a puppet of a president wouldn’t allow this woman to speak her piece in what is supposed to be Pride month. These videos, recorded over 40 years apart, are indicative of a bigger problem. I’ve spoken of my ambivalence toward the marriage equality movement before and I retain that feeling as the Supreme Court makes decisions that could declare that movement a success. I’ve had people insinuate that I’m a party pooper because I’m not jumping for joy over the inevitable legalization of same-sex marriage.
I cannot celebrate knowing that so many people are being left out of a movement they started in the first place. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black bisexual transwoman, threw the shot glass that popped off the riot but in 2015, transwomen of color are still being murdered in the streets like roadkill. Twinks are ready to skip to the courthouse while those aforementioned ICE detainees are being physically and sexually abused. We hear about Matthew Shepherd but what about Sakia Gunn, Crystal Jackson, Brittany Crosby, Islan Nettles, Penny Proud and countless others? In some countries, the mere existence of queerness and transness is a crime punishable by death so marriage is definitely out of the question. What about them?
The fight for queer and trans rights has become a corporate assimilationist mess and its history has been gentrified. Marriage equality is not a win for all of us and to treat it as such is disingenuous at best and life threatening at its worse.
Folks might think Pride is just supposed to be a huge party but Stonewall was definitely a riot and it is time to reclaim that hell-raising spirit.