For undeclared freshman Angelica Stebbins, Pride Month is a time for individuals to show the world who they are without fear and to be empowered by seeing others take pride in their identity.
Although it can be easy to get wrapped up in celebration and rainbow-themed collections, it's important to reexamine historical events, challenge yourself to learn something new and recognize that people are still fighting injustice today, said Jessica Sanchez, director of Student Advocacy Services.
Paving the way
In 1924, German immigrant Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization in the United States. They published the country’s first gay-interest newsletter but were disbanded in 1925.
In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental disorder.
And in 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis became the first lesbian rights organization in the United States.
Events like the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in 1966 and the Stonewall Inn uprising in 1969 changed the movement's trajectory and increased awareness. These events highlighted the rights, or lack thereof, for a “sexual minority” in America, Sanchez said.
Marginalized people were tired of being mistreated, verbally and physically assaulted and harassed, and there were enough allies who cared, she said.
The influence of transwomen of color like self-proclaimed drag performers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson is still felt today. History has taught the authentic story of the Black and brown trans voices who were leading the Gay Liberation Movement, Sanchez said.
Targeted discrimination and violation of people’s bodies occurred in response to the identities that people held and the spaces they occupied, she said.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in New York in 2011 with the Marriage Equality Act, she said. Since the Trump administration stripped non-discrimination protections and denied resources to the LGBTQ+, the fight continues today.
Nursing junior Carolina Tripp said as a UTA Pride Peer, she repeatedly publicly outs herself at tabling and panel events, something she still sometimes struggles with.
“Coming out never ends,” she said.
Gender and sexuality identification happen at an individual pace, Tripp said. Some people know they’re gay from early childhood, while others realize it in their teenage years.
This is her first Pride Month as “out” to her family, Tripp said. Queerness isn’t widely accepted in Hispanic families, and she said her own family wasn’t accepting of her despite being “white-passing.”
Sanchez said Pride has been whitewashed, and it’s the gay white man’s world everyone else just lives in. When you see Pride displays and rainbow-themed merchandise, challenge yourself to learn something new and expand your lens on the fluidity of gender and sexual identities, she said.
It is important to make sure there is equal representation across the board. It’s about elevating all voices, not just cisgender or gay white people. It’s crucial to have multiple lived experiences present when discussing diversity initiatives, Sanchez said.
As soon as June hits, Stebbins said corporations use rainbow capitalism to monetize from the movement by releasing merchandise “for the gays.” There is no meaning without intention or the meaning can be easily skewed, and nonchalantly celebrating Pride blurs its societal significance, they said.
“It leaves a sour taste in our mouths because it does not seem genuine,” Stebbins said.
How to celebrate
People can celebrate Pride Month by using it as an opportunity to reintroduce themselves, what they stand for and who they advocate for, Sanchez said. As an ally, be intentional and make it known to others. Meet people where they are and take suggestions from those within the community on how to celebrate.
Individuals can attend pride marches, sign petitions or donate to LGBTQ+ organizations, specifically those led by Black and brown trans folks. Share or purchase art and products from LGBTQ+ artists, Sanchez said.
For some, celebrating is listening to their favorite song or wearing rainbow pants, something anyone can do at any time of the year, she said.
Educate yourself on the community, Stebbins said, because it’s unrealistic to expect queer people to educate everyone else on personal and sensitive aspects of their lives.
“It’s people, so if we don’t put time and care into it, then at the end of the day we are harming them,” they said.
Stebbins celebrates Pride Month by empowering and validating their own existence every day despite being different. Allies can celebrate Pride Month by providing protection, love and care toward queer individuals.
During Pride Month, it is important to remember that it’s OK to be different from what is considered the standard. Being different is more normal than “ being normal,” they said.
“Love. It’s always about love and caring for each other,” Stebbins said. “Showing love within the community even as an ally.”