As Pride Month begins, we slowly start to see the rainbow cover logos, collections, and maybe even your neighbor's front door. Although, this year it seems that Pride Month might be taking an unfortunate turn as more close-minded groups are becoming rather courageous in their hatred. It really is hard to believe that we've barely entered Pride Month, and we are already seeing negative reactions that are not only causing disturbances within companies, but could also deeply affect how Pride Month is set to lay out this year.
Last week, Target announced the removal of some items from their Pride Collection after facing backlash and experiencing confrontational encounters between employees and angry customers. While the safety of employees is extremely important and should be a top priority, Target may have failed to properly identify what is actually causing harm to the employees. The problem lies within the hatred, misunderstanding, and close-mindedness that lives with homophobia, transphobia, and pretty much all of the other hate filled 'phobias' out there.
The History of Pride
Before we dive into all the nonsense going on, I think a brief history about Pride month and the LGBTQ+ community in general might be in good taste. For starters, Pride month is not to rub gay sex in the faces of straight people. Pride month is about the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. It's about solidarity and advocacy. It's about recognition, acknowledgment, and activism. It is NOT about converting straight to gay or cisgender to trans.
The Stonewall Inn of Greenwich Village, New York City, was a gay bar registered as a private "bottle bar," meaning the customers were supposed to bring their own liquor. Because it wasn't registered with a liquor license, the Mafia, who were the owners of the bar, were able to bribe New York's Sixth Police Precinct to turn a blind eye on the 'illegal' activities occurring within the bar. At the time, homosexual activity (holding hands, kissing, or even dancing with someone of the same sex) was illegal in every state except for Illinois. Not only that, but even so much as dressing as the opposite gender that you were assigned with at birth was something that you could get arrested for.
On the morning of June 28th, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn with a warrant in hand. They entered the bar, physically assaulting patrons, uncovering hidden alcohol, and even arrested 13 people. Because of the state's gender-appropriate clothing statute, Police officers would take people suspected of cross-dressing into the bathroom and would check their sex to see if they were breaking the law or not.
Rather than fleeing the scene, many of the disturbed patrons waited outside of the bar, becoming more infuriated by the minute as they watched the blatant harassment and violence inflicted on innocent people by the police. As an officer was forcing a woman into a police van, he hit her over the head, causing the crowd to begin throwing stones, bottles, and other objects towards the police, setting off a riot. Hundreds of people joined in trying to breakdown the barricade that the police built to protect themselves from inside the bar. After failing to break it down, the mob attempted to burn down the barricade. The fire department came and eventually calmed the fire and the crowd, but protests, some of which involved thousands of people, continued over the next five days.
The Stonewall riots weren't the beginning of the gay rights movement, but they made a huge impact on LGBTQ+ political activism. The Gay Liberation Front, GLAAD, The Human Rights Campaign, and PFLAG are all organizations that may not have ever been created without the Stonewall Riots.
So What's This Target Mess?
It's extremely disheartening to see companies, like Target, backtrack on their activism, and regardless of the viewpoint, that's what's happening here. Many items were pulled from Target's pride collection, and at a handful of stores, the section has been moved to the back of the store, rather than the front where they had been originally placed.
On top of this, a great deal of false news has been spread as well. The biggest piece of misinformation has been surrounding a swim suit labeled "tuck-friendly," offering extra coverage for transgender women that haven't had gender-affirming operations. The false information came into play when extreme conservatives began to spread the lie that the bathing suit was intended for children. While the pride section did offer children's bathing suits, none were labeled "tuck friendly."
Target is not the first company to pull back on their Pride, as last month, BudLight was under fire from extreme conservatives after their sponsorship deal with transgender activist, Dylan Mulvaney. Following the backlash, the company's CEO apologized in a press release, saying, "We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people."
It makes sense for companies to want to avoid conflict and controversy, but we have to draw the line at performative activism. Now is not the time for companies to pick and choose when they want to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights. Only sticking up for queer rights during the month of June just isn't going to cut it anymore, because the LGBTQ+ community needs support all throughout the year.
Being Queer Today and Everyday
"The ability to live authentically is mistaken for a right, when in fact, it is a privilege."
In today's society, it's extremely difficult for a lot of queer people to live as their true selves without fear of judgement or ridicule, or even the fear that their life may be in danger. The ability to live authentically is mistaken for a right by many people, when in fact, it is a privilege. Going to school or work as a queer person can be exhausting, especially if they feel that their true identity might not be fully accepted or taken seriously. Even in the homes of many queer people, they find themselves needing to "mask" in order to maintain their own safety and comfortability.
A large misconception in anti-LGBTQ+ individuals is the misinterpretation of advocacy and acceptance for conversion and uniformity. In reality, queer people just want respect, love, and acceptance for everyone, no matter what their sexuality or gender identity may be. Whether someone is gay or straight, cisgender or trans, pansexual or asexual, it doesn't matter. Pride stands for the right to love whoever you love, and be whoever you were born to be, without fear of persecution or judgement.
"We don't choose who we love, nor do we choose if we feel comfortable in the bodies we were born in."
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is NOT a choice. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and any other form of queerness is not and simply has not ever been a choice, much like how being heterosexual or cisgender is not and simply has not ever been a choice. We don't choose who we love, nor do we choose if we feel comfortable in the bodies we were born in. Anyone who tells you otherwise is dealing with their own internal battles of confusion, and that's just the plain truth.
Pride is so important because there's still so much work to be done in the fight for equality within the LGBTQ+ community, and as hate-spreaders become far too brave, we need love, empathy, and compassion now more than ever.