As Pride Month comes to a close, The Gavel would like to reflect upon three facets of this time of queer celebration: the origins of Pride Month, the erasure of bisexual people, and the power and importance of safety and acceptance. The liberation of LGBTQ+ people is essential to the liberation of all of us, and we are committed to celebrating and fighting with queer people every month of the year.
The Origins of Pride and The Stonewall Riots by Gabby Levitt
The history of Pride Month has become watered down and whitewashed, and we need to talk about it. Pride may remind some people of silly parade outfits and rainbow flags waving on every corner, but for others, it is reminiscent of the intersectional origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, and the systemic and interpersonal marginalization of queer people of color. Let us not forget who made the sacrifices from generations prior for us to be where we are today.
Although the first official Pride Month didn’t take place until 1999, the month-long tradition originated in the commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. On the night of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay club and safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community in Greenwich Village, NY. Led by patrons and employees, the people in Stonewall Inn fought back against the police, inciting six days of protesting. What is often left out of this legendary story is that the resistance in Stonewall Inn and the resulting protests was largely led and organized by queer people of color.
The Stonewall Riots credited with starting the celebratory tradition that we now know as Pride Month were a direct response to police brutality, specifically targeting Black and brown folks. Stonewall was not an isolated incident. There were many other demonstrations protesting police harassment and brutality against the LGBTQ+ community. Two notable and revolutionary activists for LGBTQ+ Pride were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riviera, both of whom were transgender women involved in the Stonewall Riots and advocated for a more inclusionary and intersectional Gay Liberation Movement.
To this day, Black trans women disproportionately face police brutality and harassment; Black Americans, especially queer folk, are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS; many other instances of systemic oppression continue to disproportionately impact queer people of color. Evidently, there is much more work to be done, and we must acknowledge the significant contributions made by queer people of color to the Pride Movement because collective liberation starts with recognizing that all of our struggles are intimately connected. So, as Pride Month comes to an end, rather than whitewashing, co-opting, and neglecting the transformative work done by queer folks of color, we should celebrate, listen to, and amplify their voices.
“Bi-erasure”: It Goes Both Ways by Amabelle François
Within the last decade, the number of people in the United States that identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community has almost doubled. At the same time, more young adults are starting to branch off from the umbrella term “gay” and label themselves as bisexual. With the identity of being attracted to more than one gender comes a new form of discrimination: “bi-erasure.” Bi-erasure, while still very damaging, is a different form of prejudice that often ostracizes bisexual people from their own community due to stereotypes and identity politics.
Many bisexual people feel that they constantly have their sexuality scrutinized by both straight and LGBTQ+ people, as if they are too straight for one group and too queer for the other. Bisexual women are often accused of faking their sexuality for attention and bisexual men are viewed as gay men in denial; either way, it comes back to the assumption that they are attracted to men and only men. Our society strives to put men at the center of our attention so much that bisexual people feel guilted out of their sexuality, as if they have to “pick a side.”
Sexism can also go hand-in-hand with bi-erasure as the LGBTQ+ community sometimes upholds gender roles regarding bisexual relationships. Many bisexual women in relationships with men will joke about how they hate their boyfriend and wish they were with a woman. They will enforce the stereotype of men being “harsh” and “disgusting” while placing women on a pedestal of being “dainty” and “precious.” This ideal is just as sexist as putting men at the forefront of attraction; it implies that women (usually white women) are too pure to do wrong and need to be protected. It also makes it so that in any relationship, whether straight or not, there always has to be a masculine figure and a feminine figure, forcing same-gender couples to fit into a mold.
Having to fit into a certain category is exactly why issues of bi-erasure arise. Bisexual people do not have to prove their sexuality or water it down in any way in order for their identity to be valid. Within the community and beyond it, we attempt to put labels on others to make ourselves more comfortable, but in order to be more accepting, we must disregard those labels and let sexuality be more fluid.
I Should Be Feeling Safe At Pride by Ana Ibarra
The very nature of the term "pride" connotes celebrations, freedom, and expression, yet our contemporary lack of acceptance and consistent invalidating tends to leave most members of the LGBTQ+ community with feelings of fear and shame unless in a clearly queer-friendly space. The notion that being queer is "just a phase" for most young children and teens, or the idea that one is bound to end up in the most fiery pits of hell for electing to live this lifestyle, continue to fuel the countermovement against celebrating our pride. The looming threat of hate and violence have become integral parts of the process to decide whether to attend a pride event each June. Although the celebration of pride originated decades ago, the social progress clock seems to have gotten stuck at the acceptance piece.
For individuals that prefer to not label their sexuality, yet understand that they identify as queer in some respect, the festive nature of pride parades may be enticing. A space dedicated solely to understanding and unconditional acceptance, where one can feel connected to others that share common ground, can serve as a rather empowering experience for many individuals who may be ostracized or closeted in other parts of their lives. However, access to these spaces is prevented by the growing possibility of being met with angry counter-protesters, police violence, or hate crimes. Pride exists in order to celebrate our inherent humanity and equality in love, but how are we supposed to feel safe while doing so, when there are groups of people determined to sabotage the movement, and harm their supporters?
I should not have to make a decision between maintaining my safety and attending a pride event. These two options should be mutually exclusive for any member or ally of the LGBTQ+ community. However, when we open our news apps to find that a far-right plan to riot by a pride parade was foiled before execution, it is no coincidence that before I decide if I want to attend my own local event, I have to ask myself: is celebrating my queerness and that of those around me worth being afraid for my life? The mere existence of such a thought should beg you to reconsider our treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in this country. Sure, every June companies may be co-opting the rainbow logo left and right, but how close to acceptance are we when mere colors can result in irreversible violence?
Here at Boston College, we undeniably have a lot of work to do in order to create dialogue and shed light on these continuing and integral conversations about acceptance and liberation for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Gavel unequivocally supports queer students and the creation of an LGBTQ+-specific resource center here on Boston College’s campus. For the time being, listed below are some LGBTQ+ resources at Boston College and in the surrounding area: