A little over a week ago, the Trump administration eliminated nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in the areas of healthcare and health insurance, which were originally enacted during the Obama administration. On the same day, many in the LGBTQIA+ community remembered the 49 people who were killed in a mass shooting four years ago at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Three days later, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision that protects LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination. It has certainly been a rollercoaster month for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States and its territories.
In a recent Humanities Half-Hour show, Dr. Bobby Cruz gave listeners a mini-history lesson about PRIDE, and the lesson, I think, is instructive for LGBTQIA+ people and their allies as we continue celebrating PRIDE in the last weeks of PRIDE month and as we continue our work moving forward.
As jubilant as we should be during PRIDE month—and yes, for the love of all that is good and holy—let us celebrate, let us revel in our fabulousness, and find ways to celebrate safely and responsibly during this pandemic—as happy as we should be during this month wherein at least for a moment, our LGBTQIA+ lives are affirmed in special ways in our community and in celebrations around the world, let us also remember.
PRIDE started as a riot that turned into a protest, as Dr. Cruz reminded us. Marsha P. Johnson—a Black, queer, gender-nonconforming drag queen and a transgender hero—is credited as being central to the Stonewall riots of 1969 that effectively commenced PRIDE protests and celebrations in the U.S.
I marvel at queer existence, not because we are anything special—certainly not more special than anyone else—but because we are alive. Hundreds of years, some might say thousands of years, and we’re still here. Discrimination. Oppression. Shame. Death. And we’re still here. At least some of us.
Today, for just a moment, I want to remember Sara Hegazy. She was an outspoken Egyptian LGBTQ+ rights advocate. She became famous because a photo of her waving a PRIDE flag at a concert in Cairo, Egypt, went viral. As a result of that photo, Sara was arrested and spent three months in prison, where she was tortured. She was released and lived in exile in Canada for a number of years. Unfortunately for those who loved her and for those who admired her, she died by suicide on June 14, but her legacy lives on. Below is an excerpt from a tribute from a queer woman activist that appeared on a website created for people to share their memories of Sara anonymously because in some parts of the world, people can’t celebrate PRIDE openly, can’t be their authentic selves because to do so would result in their imprisonment or worse.
She wrote: “I want you to know that I feel and see the change happening in our societies. I feel the anger building up, I feel the people becoming more conscious…wanting to talk about the uncomfortable things, calling out the homophobes, the racists, the sexists, the capitalists, the police brutality that occurs every single day, the sexual harassment, and all the other human rights violations. I know people laugh at me and tell me there’s too much bad in the world, too much that needs to be solved, but I like to imagine that this is not how you viewed the world. From what I’ve read about you, you were a dreamer like me, you believed in a better future and you fought for it, so thank you for fighting for us, it’s our job now to continue your fight” (https://bit.ly/3eo8ufo).
Today, I say her name—Sara Hegazy—to remind myself that every day I wake up is a gift not only to me but also to the world. Every day LGBTQIA+ people wake up, we stake our claim. We say in ways big and small: “We’re here. We’re queer. We will not live in fear. We’re here. We’re queer. We will not disappear. We’re here. We’re queer. We’d like to say hello. We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it!”
I want to thank Pride Marianas Youth for the work that it does for and in our community and for allowing so many of us—queer and straight—to join PMY in its endeavors to create a more accepting and inclusive community. In particular, I want to recognize the work of Dr. Jennifer Maratita, founder of Pride Marianas Youth, and Mr. Dan Brown, PMY chair for this year’s PRIDE activities in the CNMI. Speaking for that 12-year-old kid who would spend far too many years in the closet and far too many years ashamed to be who he is, thank you.
Through PRIDE, with PRIDE, and in PRIDE—let us remember, let us celebrate, let us fight.
Kon kåriñu, Jonathan Pangelinan Del Rosario Cabrera
Fort Worth, Texas