Pride did not start as a fight for marriage equality, for corporately-made rainbow gear, or for LGBTQ+ representation in Disney movies, and it certainly cannot end with the acquisition of those things. Pride started as a riot against police brutality carried out on transgender and gender-nonconforming people of color. It started as a refusal to be policed out of existence. Pride started as a fight for the right of LGBTQ+ people to live, in public, without apology. That is a fight that is not yet won, and we cannot win it alone.
Recent research has shown that around 5% of young people in the United States identify as transgender or nonbinary. The numbers for the general population are even smaller, at approximately 1.6%. This tiny minority of Americans is being directly targeted by people, groups, and institutions with massive amounts of power and money. In 2022 alone, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in legislatures across the country. In Montana, where I live and work, it is now illegal for trans youth to play on sports teams that align with their gender identity, and a law barring trans people from access to accurate identification is caught up in a hotly contested court battle. An elected official in our state recently said, very publicly, that violence is an appropriate consequence for being openly queer.
Through all of this, we keep fighting, we keep living and working and creating and dreaming, as we have always done and will always do. We find moments of joy, connection, and celebration. We throw glitter in the face of persecution. And we need your help.
When I said that the fight for equality can’t end at corporate rainbows, I meant it, but there’s more to it than that. When young queer and trans people in a place like Montana see a t-shirt celebrating their identity in a small-town Wal Mart, that’s not nothing. Being seen is a lifeline.
The same is true in organizing. When LGBTQ+ people are constantly barraged with messages that we don’t belong (in this state, this country, this sport, this bathroom), we need a chorus behind us saying yes, you do. We need to hear it from the local nonprofits, the schools, the politicians, our employers, our colleagues, our friends. We need your help to make it so obvious that trans people belong that it seems absurd that it was ever a question, because it is! If ever there was a time to be full-throated in your unconditional support for trans youth, it’s now. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the right things to say; if you show up for us, we’ll gladly teach you. Queer organizers have taught me what it means to work for a better world, and they’ll teach you, too.
So, consider this a call to action. How are you committing to showing up, in ways big and small, for the queer and trans people in your workplace, your state, our country, once June is over?
Izzy Milch is the LGBTQ2S+ Advocacy Organizer at Forward Montana. They’re a Montana-born queer who believes deeply in the revolutionary potential of joy. When they’re not organizing for a safer, queerer Montana, they like to spend their time tending to their small zoo of pets, roller skating to Dua Lipa, and making gay little collages out of vintage Playboy magazines.