Post-Orlando, Post-Pride

August 18, 2016 in inQueery

These past months have marked a monumental combination of tragedy, community, history, and celebration. While June was the month of the horrific, explicit homophobia culminating in the shooting at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, it also marked a month of Pride marches around the country full of a community mourning for those lost and the journey still to come. Pride month has come to represent the LGBT movement and its history of struggle and success. This past June, in light of recent horrific acts, has been a poignant reminder of the strength and resilience of our community and the progressive support of allies across the country. Following tragedy and the return to reality following Pride month, where do we go from here?

As a community, we cannot afford to dismiss the violent homophobia still abounding in our culture, especially when it culminates in an event as tragic as the Orlando shooting. Although the majority of manifestations of societal homophobia are not nearly as horrific, homophobic acts anywhere along the spectrum of severity hold dire consequences. Homophobia in any form is an outgrowth of daily social hostility and oppression faced by the LGBT community. All acts of hatred are an attempt to silence and reverse the progress our community has made. New York Times writer Guy Branum underlined this silencing effect in light of the Orlando shooting: “When people kill us, pass laws against us, make cheap jokes about us, …they’re saying all L.G.B.T. people should know our place, live in silence, lie about who we are. Societal homophobia wants us to be ashamed, and finds ways to punish us if we refuse. The greatest gay rebellion is honest expression of our truth.” Nowhere is the truth of our community more authentic and celebrated than during the marches and organizations of Pride month. The honoring of our diverse truth in this past June’s Pride celebrations in light of such tragedy is a powerful reminder of the strength of our community.

In contrast with the violence of our recent history, themes of strength and support were central to Pride marches across the country. Signs and banners on display at Pride marches across the country proclaimed phrases of communal support, with “We are Orlando” being among the most popular. Truly, none in our community have remained unaffected by the violently homophobic act. We are all impacted by the silencing of homophobia, regardless of our varying privileges. Together, we face an uncertain future full of potential for hate and oppression. Freedom to express our truths in a society that continuously proves its phobias requires a rallying of support for others and the strengthening of support throughout our community. Pride after such a tragic event must adapt to support those among us who are most affected and made most vulnerable.

In its expression of communal strength, this past June’s Pride month has been transformed into a radical protest of violence, reminiscent of the stonewall riots that birthed the original LGBT movement. Our community and the allies that support it have focused on creating safe spaces, rallying behind those in greatest need, and organizing to continue progress in the future. Stonewall itself was declared a national monument, emphasizing the importance of the often erased impact and history of our community. In a statement about Stonewall, Obama praised the strength of community and diversity: “Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one.” In the shadow of tragedy and a future littered with phobia and oppression, it is more important than ever to work together as a community strengthened through the richness of our diversity.

As a movement full of diverse members facing ever-changing oppressions, it is vital that we continue forward. We must work to stand in solidarity with those of us who do not have the option of the comfort of platitude. Alliance with and support of the most vulnerable members of our community, those of us who are non-conforming, LGBT members of color, and those whose presentation makes them an unwitting target of this violence is essential. We must show support of our people and each person’s individual needs as we heal from tragedy and rally for the future. This is a time more than ever to show support and to lend whatever platform you have been privileged with to amplify the voices of those in need. Especially as the LGBT movement phases out of public focus as Pride celebrations end, this is a time to allow members of the LGBT community and communities of color to voice our fears, our needs, to come together in our safe spaces. The future of our movement depends on our continual, communal support. Spaces like the We Are Orlando website and other social media sites offer a place to review the harm of recent homophobic acts and focus our efforts on creating a safer future. Social media and support groups can create additional places to come together to mourn and plan for the future. Logistically, there are several gun control specific sites to contact local politicians and take immediate action in these areas as well. The tragedies we have experienced as a community highlight how far we have to go. Support seen during Pride month is a tangible reminder of the resilience of our community. Post-Orlando and Post-Pride, now is the time to continue fighting for a better future free of societal oppression.



Jess Maultsby is a Guest Contributor at InQueery.