D.C.'s Capital Pride Shook the LGBTQ Establishment to Its Core

The radial display of resistance recalled the Stonewall Riots.

Jun 12 2017, 10:33pm

Photo via WIkimedia Commons

"There are many days when being a proud Afro-Latina transgender girl seems like too much," said Grace Dolan Sandrino, a trans teenage activist from Washington DC. She stood on a stage in front of a little over a hundred or so people, all united in solidarity for transgender rights.

The crowd had gathered at the end of Transgender Lobby Day, an event sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality, to appeal to representatives on issues facing gender minorities. Sandrino's words encapsulated the frustration of fighting for your right to exist, a burden that shouldn't be placed on anyone, but she ended her speech with an inspiring message of hope: "We are beautiful and we are on our way to freedom."

Trans Lobby Day was one of the first events from last weekend to usher in Pride festivities in DC, but this year the vibe was more urgent than in the past. The Trump administration has rescinded federal protections for trans students in schools, encouraged religious liberty laws that overtly discriminate against LGBTQ people, and have emboldened anti-LGBT violence across the country. Even internationally, LGBTQ people are subject to state-sanctioned violence as places like Chechnya are indicative of the work that needs to be done to ensure equality.

On Saturday, following Friday's Trans Lobby day, tens of thousands came together to attend the Capital Pride Parade. But some weren't on-board. Certain protesters felt that the celebration was a disingenuous display from brands that pushed queer activists to the margins in favor of a mainstream agenda. A group from No Justice, No Pride blocked part of the parade route and forced coordinators to redirect the course. The demonstrators called for a more inclusive platform that embraced indigenous two-spirit communities and LGBTQ people of color.

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While some people bitched about the protesters killing the vibe of the parade, other attendees were more supportive. The entire demonstration, in which the protesters linked arms and sat in the street, drew strong parallels to the historic Stonewall Inn Riots. More than thirty years, ago the LGBTQ civil rights movement kicked off when patrons of Stonewall fought back against police harassment.

Even many of the people on the frontline of the resistance were trans women of color and LGBQ racial minorities. They are the unsung heroes of the LGBTQ rights movement, people like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. Their stories have been co-opted into a white cisgender narrative that erases their legacy. Also, the incorporation of corporate sponsors, while huge in terms of ally visibility, seems tone-deaf in light of the real issues facing LGBTQ people.

There have been notable victories in the fight for equal rights including marriage equality, an expansion of hate crime laws to protect LGBTQ victims, the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," and the inclusion of trans people openly serving in the military. Still, the most vulnerable members of the community have been pushed to the margins. Many queer people of color still face higher rates of incarceration, violence and economic challenges than their white counterparts, especially transgender women.

This year also marks the one year anniversary of the homophobic terror attack on Pulse nightclub when a gunman fueled by hate took the lives of 49 innocent LGBTQ people. It's worth mentioning that the tragedy happened on the club's Latino night, which was an intentional act against queer people of color, and to date the deadliest shooting in US history. The incident proves it's still risky to be out in America, regardless of the progress that the community at large has made LGBTQ people are still in danger even in safe spaces.

These issues and more came to a head at the Equality March for Unity and Pride on Sunday. It was the time to demand dignity for all while showing off witty signs and wearing in-your-face drag looks. Thousands chanted "This is what democracy looks like," as marched past the White House, almost daring the President to come outside or even better issue a tweet.

From Trans Lobby Day and No Justice, No Pride to the Equality March, the entire weekend was a middle finger to oppression from both the government and the LGBTQ establishment. It was a showing of activism and fierceness that proved the spirit of resistance is alive and well.