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This Pride, the LGBTQ+ Community Is in Crisis

Person holding rainbow flag with others around them
Via Shutterstock

"We are living in a state of emergency."

Views expressed in The Advocate's opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Pride Media.

During Pride Month, we celebrate our stories: stories of our elders who fought so hard to realize the progress many never got to see, stories of our chosen families, our own stories of coming out, of falling in love, of finding healing in community.

As the interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, I get to hear so many powerful stories directly from folks in our community. And this Pride Month, I need you to hear these stories as well: stories of trans and nonbinary children, their families, and millions of LGBTQ+ people whose rights and lives -- right now -- are under attack.

Every school day, a mother in Texas helps get her young trans daughter ready for school. She braids her daughter's hair, helps pick out the best sparkly accessory, and packs her daughter's lunch. And every day, she makes sure her child has the number for the family attorney tucked safely in her backpack in case Family and Protective Services is called -- because Gov. Greg Abbott is threatening to investigate affirming parents as child abusers.

Every school day, a teenage trans girl in Kentucky walks home alone while her friends on her former soccer team have practice. She was never a star athlete, but she loved kicking the ball around, and she made some great friends. Now she's been told by Kentucky's legislature that, as a trans girl playing sports, she's no longer welcome. This once bubbly, upbeat teenager has become silent and withdrawn.

Every school day, a nonbinary teacher in Florida gets ready to welcome their fifth-grade class. For them, teaching is not just a job -- it is a calling. Now, because of Florida's "don't say gay or trans" law, seeking to silence teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues, they're not allowed to use their pronoun pins or share their pronouns at all. They're increasingly misgendered, increasingly miserable, and increasingly unsure if they can keep pursuing their passion of educating and supporting their students.

I have heard these stories and too many others like these every day. And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that my LGBTQ+ family is going through this. And it breaks my heart that too many of the folks who should be showing up for us are simply standing by.

Our LGBTQ+ community is in crisis. We are living in a state of emergency.

State lawmakers have spent the past three years attacking the rights and lives of our trans and nonbinary family, particularly our trans and nonbinary youth. Over 17 states have passed legislation preventing trans kids from playing sports with their peers. Two states have passed legislation preventing trans kids from using the appropriate restroom at school. Five states have passed legislation censoring LGBTQ+ issues in schools. And two states have banned lifesaving, medically necessary care.

They're bullying children and terrorizing families. They're spreading propaganda and lies attacking our community. They're trying to censor those they disagree with. For our trans and nonbinary family, particularly Black trans women, they are pouring gasoline on a wildfire of stigma, discrimination, and violence.

These attacks are horrific. And they are part of a coordinated campaign to erode the foundational rights of our democracy.

From our right to abortion access to our right to participate in our democracy, from our freedom of speech to our freedom of information, our rights are being eroded. This is the vision of a white nationalist America -- where identity is immutable and hierarchal, where more freedoms for some mean fewer freedoms for others.

The truth is this: While we uphold systems and institutions that maintain the status quo -- a status quo of institutionalized white supremacy and its attendant forces of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia -- we allow our democracy to decay.

When we just shake our heads and then move on from someone else's injustice, we abdicate our responsibility to ourselves, to each other, and to the ultimate direction of our nation.

So this Pride Month, I want us each to think about what community means: showing up for one another when it counts.

If you are excited about Pride, I want you to hold tight to that joy. I want you to own and embrace all of who you are, as a member of our beautiful rainbow family, as a proud and loving accomplice towards liberation.

And then I want you to take to the streets in protest, march for transgender kids, for LGBTQ+ lives, for Black lives, for Roe v. Wade, for our right to vote, and for all the rights that we hold dear. I want you to tell every single person in your life exactly how high the stakes are, to share the stories of where our community is, and let them know they need to get off the sidelines.

This is an emergency -- but I also believe it is an opportunity. The next chapter of our movement, of our nation, and of our world is yet to be written. And we have the power to write a chapter where we not only save ourselves but become giants for the next generation to stand upon our shoulders, for them someday to declare liberation for us all. That's the story -- and the promise -- of Pride.

Joni Madison is the interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.

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