“Happy Pride!” is a phrase I would have uttered thousands of times starting June 1, the first day of Pride month. I had some damn high hopes for Pride in the year 2020. I published my first book, Our Gay History in Fifty States, and planned an amazing whirlwind book tour, advocating for the inclusion of a more diverse rendition of our community’s history. I envisioned myself demanding more states join the ranks of California, Colorado, New Jersey, Illinois, and Oregon in requiring the teaching of LGBTQ+ history in schools. I had a goal to get 1,725 of books donated to LGBTQ+ youth-focused learning centers across the country, especially in conservative states and counties, so that kids there know that they are seen, valued and part of a rich community that has contributed so much to this country.
However, my plans were hit with a one-two punch: First Covid-19, and then the murder of George Floyd.
I am a Black man in Minneapolis and my world stopped on Memorial Day. The Black community is crippled with grief and anger, but not disbelief. We’ve seen this story before: We watched Ahmaud Arbery murdered by vigilantes. We followed the trial of Trayvon Martin’s murderer as the state let him walk free. Our eyes were glued to the video of Eric Garner in New York gasping for his last breath crying out, “I can’t breathe.”
George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe” too. And yet, we are here, still unable to breathe. The Black community, my community, is being snuffed out and nobody cares.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, which began as a commemoration of the events of June 28, 1969, when, empowered by the Black Power, women’s liberation, and anti-war movements, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn said “enough is enough!” Black, brown, transgender, and gender non-binary people spearheaded the resistance. A revolutionary riot lasted six days. There were both peaceful protestors and defiant rioters. There was unrest. There was violence. There was property damage. And people went to jail.
Today, the country celebrates their contributions, even though none of them were celebrated at the time. Stonewall, like every riot in our country’s history was sparked by a push back against police violence and brutality.
Today, as I stand in Minneapolis, I ask, where is the groundswell of LGBTQ+ community warriors now when my Black community is under attack? Peaceful Black Lives Matter protests occurred at Pride parades across the country have been met with boos, jeers, and social media rants. This is what happens when we fail to tell the history of our movement, including who was involved from the very beginning. This is what occurs when we fail to ensure that Black, Brown, and Indigenous voices are part of our leadership structure and have an equal voice. Without diverse voices and leadership, people believe the false narrative that white gays and lesbians secured gains on their own without the rest of us.
Contrary to the beliefs of the heterosexual community, we are not one big happy family. They’d be shocked to learn racism exists in the LGBTQ+ community, and is an ailment we, as a community, need to address. I don’t have to go far to see posts from my gay white male cisgender “friends” who can, without irony, ask, “Why are they damaging property? Can’t they protest peacefully?” while in the same breath post “Happy Pride.”
Pride was a riot, not an uprising or a protest. It was a riot.
Rioting cannot be celebrated for white LGBTQ rights while ignoring when my life is on the line. How can the queer people of color community celebrate Pride when the racism within our own community is just as prevalent as in the broader community? Ask any LGBTQ+ person of color you know if they have ever experienced racism from within our community. Then, and this is important, sit back and just listen.
Why did it take the murder of George Floyd for you to include us in a solidarity march in L.A. and New York Pride? We told you about Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and Philando Castile. We told you that we feared we’d be next but you wouldn’t listen. We are hurting. The Black community is hurting. The transgender community is hurting. Your silence regarding the value of our lives lets us know where you stand.
My community here in Minnesota is in legitimate fear that their homes will be targeted by white supremacists if they proudly raise their Pride flag along side their “Black Lives Matter” and “All Are Welcome Here” lawn signs. The fear is akin to fearing that you will wake up in the middle of the night with a cross burning in your lawn.
Where is the groundswell from my white LGBTQ+ love warriors? Where are our allies? You know what it’s like to feel like second-class citizens in our own country. We all should be out fighting this fight and not just a smattering of us here and there. Although virtually all in-person Pride events have been cancelled for this June, let us take this time to recalibrate regarding what it truly means to be “in community” with each other.
Zaylore Stout serves as a fierce advocate on LGBT issues. Through his law firm, Zaylore Stout & Associates, he’s represented HIV+ and transgender employees who were discriminated against at work. Zaylore volunteers through the LGBT Law Clinic and serves on the board for RECLAIM, an LGBTQIA+ nonprofit, and Quorum, the Minnesota LGBTQ+ Allied Chamber of Commerce. He also ran for City Council in St. Louis Park where he championed the call for the passage of a Gender Inclusion Policy to protect transgender and gender non-conforming youth in schools. In November 2017, he gave an impassioned speech at the Quorum’s National Coming Out Day Luncheon alongside Judy Shepard. His law firm was recently selected by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal for their Business of Pride award and he was also won a contest putting him on the cover of Lavender magazine. His first book, Our Gay History in Fifty States, has already sold 1,500 copies in its first few months after publication. It was honored with the distinction of being named the 2020 Human Relations Gay Awareness Book of the Year and the Foreword INDIES Book Award finalist for the LGBTQ+ (Adult Nonfiction category). Additionally, text has been approved for use in the State of Illinois for teaching LGBTQ+ history in compliance with their new Inclusive Curriculum Law signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker on August 9, 2019. Finally, Zaylore is a sought after local and national speaker. He’ll be moderating a discussion at the 2020 Lavender Law Conference this summer on the topic “Extreme or Essential: Understanding the Shifting Legal Landscape of LGBTQ-specific Community Inclusion in U.S. School Curricula.”