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Showing Our Rainbow Stripes: What Pride Month is About

BY JESS CLAWSON


If you’re paying attention to social media at all, you’ll see a variety of pride flags all over the place this month, including the iconic rainbow flag. Some equestrians don’t think Pride belongs in equestrian spaces, and I obviously disagree. I’m excited to share more of my personal feelings about Pride with the Herd.


The first time I went to Pride as an out queer person, I went all out--I flew to New York City and spent several days with my brother and sister-in-law in the place where Pride started. I got to dance on the boardwalk, take in the parade, and cover myself in rainbows. It was one of the best weekends of my life.


The poet Allen Ginsberg was at the Stonewall rebellion that started Pride, where drag queens and trans women fought back against police brutality in 1968. Vanity Fair quoted him referring to the queer people standing up for themselves for the first time: “They were so beautiful that day. They’ve lost that wounded look.” 

His words echoed in my ears as I watched people celebrate the incredibly joyous, creative, brilliant spectacle that is both Pride and the queer community itself. No one was paying any real attention to the haters with their signs about sinning. People were dancing, cheering, wearing outrageous outfits (or wearing almost nothing). I felt like I was part of something, that I had finally opened the door to a community of people who were rooted in a jubilant fight for justice. It brought tears to my eyes.


We really, really need Pride month, especially these days. The queer community is under assault from the Supreme Court, local politicians, and bigots across the nation. I get frustrated when straight people think the fight is over because we have marriage equality now--which is not the most important thing queer folks need, while we’re fighting for access to housing, employment, health care, and public accommodations.


There are over 250 anti-queer and anti-trans laws circulating state legislatures, with a record-setting 17 signed into law already, making 2021 the worst year yet for trans people in the eyes of the law. The court system is also making things worse.


Let’s take a look at what’s going on:


The day before my writing of this piece, the US Supreme Court dealt a blow to the LGBT QIA population in a high profile case over whether the city of Philadelphia could refuse to contract with Catholic Social Services agency because they refuse to work with same-sex foster parents. This decision is harmful to foster care youth and the foster parents who want to work with them, and reinforces the idea, once again, that queer people have no place around children, even though lots of queer people are children.


And this isn’t an isolated incident. Buck v. Gordon deals with the state of Michigan allowing foster and adoption agencies to deny all LGBTQ people the ability to foster or adopt children under the premise of “religious exemption.” This denies children opportunities for loving homes, and sends the message to queer children in the foster system that there is something wrong with them. Oh, and it’s happening in South Carolina, too.


There are 440,000 children under government care in the United States. Finding loving homes for them all should be the top priority, not curtailing the options based on bigotry.


Trans peoples’ access to healthcare is continually a hot topic. Toomey v. State of Arizona is an effort to require the state of Arizona health care plan for state employees to lift its exclusion on transition-related surgery for trans people. These surgeries are life saving for trans people dealing with gender dysphoria, and the state denying these critical medical procedures is horrendous. Lots of proposed state laws are seeking to deny transition-related healthcare to trans people, and some, like Iowa, already deny this healthcare to Medicaid recipients.


Meanwhile, black trans women are being murdered at rates equivalent to genocide, which doesn’t include suicide or death from lack of shelter or medical care.


Trans kids playing sports--I should say, trans girls playing sports--is a particular bugbear for state legislatures at the moment. I could write a whole piece on this and likely will at some point, but just know that I’m never going to cave to arguments about anything not being fair to cis kids while trans kids are fighting for their lives every day and should be able to just play basketball in peace. 


I could keep going forever. I haven’t even talked about the attacks on protections in education, housing, employment, accurate identification, bathrooms, and other public spaces. I haven’t discussed in the gruesome detail I see every single day the murders of queer people in this country, especially trans women of color. Not in Syria--right here. Every day.


Herd of Zebras is about showing your stripes. That’s why we all love it. The queer community has a lot of stripes to show, and not just the beautiful rainbows you’re seeing everywhere. We’re angry, and rightfully so.


We’re also incredibly resilient. This atrocious wave of legislation can’t keep us from being who we are. No one can. We’ve fought back before, led by our most vulnerable members, and we will keep fighting. I’m proud of that.