The more you know about the legacy of our community, the prouder you’ll be to have been born into this family of revolutionaries and rabblr-rousers. Gay Pride parades actually started with Christopher Street Liberation Day, a commemorative celebration of the Stonewall riots. It was the first gay Pride gathering of that size in the history of the U.S. And as much as we criticize other countries for their antigay “indecency” laws, as recently as the 1950s and '60s, it was illegal to be gay in public. Yep! In New York City, it was illegal for gays to be served alcohol or dance in public. Sip and strut proudly, my queens! Then pick up Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio, profiling the life of the openly gay civil rights pioneer credited for teaching Martin Luther King Jr. the principles of nonviolent protest, and A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski for a thorough reading of queer history from the times of Columbus onward.
2. Act up.
This month there are numerous Resistance demonstrations, marches, and protests happening in alignment with Pride. In honor of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) marches of the 1980s and '90s, LGBT people and their children will be honoring the manifesto of the ACT UP movement. The history-making document stated that being queer “means every day fighting oppression, homophobia, racism, misogyny, the bigotry of religious hypocrites, and our own self-hatred.” So if you feel like you're new to “this resistance stuff,” fear not, because your brothers, sisters, and gender-nonconformingers have literally written the playbook. No marches in your town? Use social media to raise your voice or just express your feelings to a friend. Create a work of art, a poem, or a blog post, or share one that resonates with you. Whatever you do, be brave and act up. No act of expression is too small. You have worth and you have purpose in this family. Join us.
Can’t show up to an event? Internet on the fritz? Put your money where your Pride is and donate to an LGBT organization working in the Resistance or donate your time and/or money directly to an LGBT individual. Queer youth represent 40 percent of all young homeless people. If you can, buy them a meal, ask their name, say it out loud, and let them know they’re not alone. All those dollar bills in your pocket don’t need to go strictly to your favorite drag queens and hottest hetero bartenders. They could help save a life too.
4. Let your true colors shine.
“Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about the freedom to be public, to just be who we are.” In 1990 the organizers of an ACT UP demonstration passed out a flier to passers-by that included this essential message of the modern LGBT movement. In the early stages of the movement, the motivation was far more about denying our “disability” as supposedly mentally damaged individuals. But as time marched on, we came out of the closet and out of the shadows of our internalized self-hate, ultimately realizing that our queerness is not just about feeling safe, but about the freedom to explore the depths of our own personal self-expression. It’s not just about showing our “true colors,” it’s about understanding that shedding our shame and celebrating the prism of our identities is an experience we should all enjoy freely. In demanding this for ourselves and defending the laws that already protect us, we are creating a safe space for others to be inspired to join us in our fight.
5. Embrace change — and your fellow freedom fighters.
Change is uncomfortable, even positive change. So it’s important to remember that resistance is nothing without resilience. At this critical point in America’s history, we must call upon one another to hold each other up. We aren’t all going to be on the front lines of this fight, but we must still make ourselves available to each other to make getting back up again easier and easier. We cannot rest until the pride and unity of our community outweighs the discomfort of the positive change we are fighting for.
6. Rise above the crisis.
Each color on the LGBT rainbow flag, a design credited to the late gay activist Gilbert Baker, has special significance. For example, green is for nature — dispelling the notion that we are abominations of nature (girl, please) — and pink is for sex (a.k.a. that good-good). But orange is the one that I hold in particularly high regard. Orange represents healing. Without healing, pride exists in a cloud of shame, a debilitating and often confusing feeling we quietly battle before we even learn the word “gay” or “sexuality.” Psychologist Alan Downs, author of The Velvet Rage, put it succinctly: “The one and only skill that resolves the crisis of meaning is that of acceptance.” So do the work. Accept yourself. Heal. And rise above the crisis. (And read The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs.)
7. Have faith in a brighter future.
Not every country or town offers the same freedoms many of us enjoy in cities with a strong and visible LGBT community, like Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. Furthermore, not every town has a strong Resistance movement. But it is important to keep faith in a positive future. Nothing is certain right now; that much is true. But we mustn’t forget that when nothing is certain, anything is possible. Stay focused on what’s good. Write, sing, make art, perform, and talk about the future you want to see. Do that, and soon you’ll see that you’ll be called upon to co-create it. Take ownership of the future by believing it’s possible.
8. Spread the good news.
LGBT people are becoming more and more visible in our fight to protect and elevate our freedom. The media is beginning to take notice and publish stories that demonstrate that our fight doesn't just represent our own agenda, but reflects a passion for civic and social good that extends beyond our community. Stories like this need to be shared! We need to upset the never-ending jetstream of fear-based news with positivity. We can’t celebrate our progress if we can’t see it. Ireland, for example — the first country on the planet to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, by the way — elected Leo Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant, as its first openly gay prime minister. And other stories like that of Pueblo, Colo., resident Erica Segura, who is Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School’s — and possibly Colorado’s — first transgender prom queen. People like Erica and Leo are our living legacy and we need to make sure people know about their bravery to resist hate and change history. As Erica courageously told The Pueblo Chieftain, “I was a little apprehensive about doing this article because I was afraid of being so visible. But I thought if I could reach just one person and show them this kind of positivity, that this is becoming something that is more celebrated, then it would be worth it.” It’s worth it, Erica.
9. Resist hate. Create love
I’ve been a guest speaker at a couple local high schools and middle schools here in Los Angeles. I’ve had to be very sensitive talking about politics, because in four years, these kids are going to be of voting age. As their elder who will be creating the future with them, I want them to arrive at the voting booth not just with a sense of purpose but with a sense of peace. And who better to lead that charge than a proud, diverse, and united LGBT community? We resist hate, and The Resistance is naturally adopting our tried-and-true message of love. So I tell my students, “Remember, we aren’t fighting Trump, we are resisting hate. Don’t put being right above doing right.” It’s not easy, but resisting hate requires that we create love — and we can only do that together.
10. Use words to heal, not hurt.
I had an unexpected realization in a seventh-grade class that I was teaching recently. The class clown was acting up and called someone a name. Soon he had the whole class turning on him. I stopped the class and said that this was an opportunity. Instead of reprimanding the boy, I looked him right in the eyes and said, “Every time you do or say something mean to someone, you give permission for them to be mean back.” When we invite insults, belittling, and unkindness into any resistance, we take a step backward. No one ever healed tension by rubbing salt in the wound.
11. Don't forget to celebrate.
Take a look at our Pride events. The colors, the parades, the costumes, the makeup, the food, the dancing — it’s a celebration! The same goes for our resistance. Yes, what we are up against is serious, but we can’t get lost in the dark. Take a cue from Pride and keep it light.
Because it’s what the world needs now.
Tyler Batson is the filmmaker of A Chance for Peace, a nine-year journey of exploring peace movements across the globe, and a volunteer with the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Follow him on Twitter @tyler_batson.