Pride and Juneteenth both celebrate and honor marginalized communities’ resistance while underscoring a troubling truth: the historical perpetuation and ongoing exacerbation of racism and queerphobia in the United States.
The history of the Pride movement tells us about LGBTQ people who resisted and protested oppression. Through the late 1960s, law enforcement consistently raided queer establishments simply to destroy LGBTQ-friendly spaces. On June 28, 1969, hundreds of LGBTQ people of color, especially Black and Brown transgender women, led a major action against the NYPD in Greenwich Village at the Stonewall Inn. In many ways, Stonewall is an invitation to reflect on the struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities. But Stonewall wasn’t the first instance of resistance.
Even before the Stonewall Uprisings, which occurred over several days in June 1969, we witnessed LGBTQ people, including Black and Brown people, actively resisting government interference, state violence and interpersonal harm. Ten years before Stonewall, in 1959, Cooper Donuts Riot was a relatively small uprising in Los Angeles in response to law enforcement harassment. In 1966, at Compton Cafeteria, transgender and nonbinary individuals resisted police violence after vehement anti-trans harassment. And in 1967—two years before the Stonewall Uprisings—the LAPD entered the Black Cat Tavern, intruding upon an LGBTQ safe space and arresting patrons, which led to an organized protest.
Like Pride, Juneteenth for me as a Black queer person is also an invitation to reflect on the systemic ills of white supremacy and cultural hegemony. With its origins in Texas, Juneteenth is one of the oldest commemorations of the end of slavery in the U.S. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, it could not be implemented in places still under Confederate control, nor did it apply to border states. The 13th Amendment officially ended slavery in the U.S. on January 31, 1865, and for Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, freedom finally came on June 19, 1865. However, it is important to note that Black Americans were enslaved in Delaware until December 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was finally ratified.
Pride and Juneteenth both remind us of how government control over the lives, health and autonomy of LGBTQ, Black and other marginalized populations is deeply rooted in the history of this nation. It’s no secret that the Black LGBTQ community is overpoliced, and not just in terms of police and state violence, which we know is a persistent and deadly issue—but in terms of policing our autonomy, our lives and our identities.
On June 24, 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and held that the right to an abortion is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. Despite the legal right to safe abortion being the law of the land since 1973, this court decided to restrict, not expand, rights. In many ways, this is deeply connected to recent anti-transgender legislation that prevents access to medical care. These legislations disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous and other people of color; LGBTQ people; and poor people—communities whose lives and bodies have been, and continue to be, heavily policed. That’s why understanding the Black LGBTQ experience means we cannot silo our identities.
LGBTQ people are not political wedge issues, but real people with real experiences. Our stories intersect not only across struggles, but across the landscape of American history and our united future.
Despite that, Black LGBTQ people are often told we must separate parts of ourselves to be accepted, or at the very least decide which identity holds more weight. This is a dangerous and false dichotomy. But until I learned about, and fully grappled with, intersectionality, I once fell victim to that narrative. I now enter all spaces as both Black and queer, and it’s the only way I’m interested in showing up. It’s also now what I mean when I say I need my Pride to be Black and my Juneteenth to be queer.
As a Black queer person, I am thankful that I can now say I see the importance of Juneteenth as much as I have seen the importance of Pride Month. It isn’t that I didn’t believe Juneteenth was a necessary day to remember—it’s that I didn’t hear of it until 2018. Amid protests against anti-Black police violence in 2020 and 2021 and the recognition of a very public discussion about Juneteenth, I pretended I knew all about this day for several years before I did. Black people who believe in freedom and liberation are often expected—or believe that we are expected—to know everything about the Black diaspora, and moments of embarrassment start to reverberate when we realize the world is bigger than the totality of what our brains may hold. Then, I had to give myself grace for why I didn’t hear of this now federally recognized holiday.
The truth is that white supremacy has worked overtime to hide information from Black people and other marginalized communities. Many Black people only learning about Juneteenth within the last couple of years is hardly different from the delayed information communicated to formerly enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. Lack of access to information is not accidental, and this year we are seeing deliberate attempts of silencing play out in real time in ways that harm LGBTQ youth of color.
At the same time laws like “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” were being proposed, we were also witnessing bans on LGBTQ stories and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Challenges to books about sex and sexuality and racial identity are nothing new in American schools, but the tactics and intense politicization are. In 2021, books about Black and LGBTQ people were among those most challenged, which we know can doubly impact Black LGBTQ people who want nothing more than to have their stories heard. It’s important for us to see ourselves represented.
In 2022, The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth, has tracked the filing of more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills, most of which impact transgender and nonbinary young people. LGBTQ youth are listening and watching as these politically unpopular and misguided policies are being debated in state legislatures across the country. And these political attacks are taking a toll on their mental health.
According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth—and nearly two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth—say recent debates about anti-trans laws have negatively impacted their mental health. Additionally, our 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide, and LGBTQ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers. These mental health disparities are explained by the Minority Stress Model, which suggests that LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide, but placed at higher risk because experiences of LGBTQ-based victimization—and the internalization of these experiences and anti-LGBTQ messages—can compound and produce negative mental health outcomes. This makes discussion of systemic oppression crucial for suicide prevention among marginalized communities.
Support goes a long way to saving LGBTQ youth lives, especially support from parents and caregivers. Supportive actions taken by parents and caregivers were associated with lower suicide risk among LGBTQ youth. Talking with youth respectfully about their LGBTQ identity was associated with over 40% lower odds of a suicide attempt in the past year among all LGBTQ youth. It is especially important to have supportive parents or caregivers at a time lawmakers are trying to pretend LGBTQ people don’t exist.
Even if one isn’t a parent or caregiver, it’s still on all of us to provide space for Black LGBTQ youth. This is not just important during June, but every day of the year. LGBTQ people are not political wedge issues, but real people with real experiences. Our stories intersect not only across struggles, but across the landscape of American history and our united future.
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ young people. The Trevor Project offers a suite of 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace.
Trevor also operates an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, an advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQ legislation and against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric/policy positions, and a research team to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide.
If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678-678.