50 Years After Stonewall

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

50 Years After Stonewall, We Are Still Fighting for Inclusion

by Kiki Tapiero and Iván Espinoza-Madrigal

This month, many public spaces and storefronts are adorned with Pride banners and rainbow flags. It is tempting to believe that there is widespread support for the LGBTQ+ community and that queer people are now fully embraced by mainstream society. Yet it is not uncommon to find a rainbow flag proudly displayed alongside gender-segregated bathrooms. The basic needs of trans and nonbinary folks may not have come to mind when putting up the flag. Far too often, feel-good decorations mask the reality that many identities remain marginalized within the LGBTQ+ movement and society at large.

Injustices in our legal system highlight how wide swaths of the LGBTQ+ community remain at risk. On the first day of Pride month this year, Johanna Medina, a trans asylum seeker who fled El Salvador, died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), raising troubling questions about the federal government’s treatment of trans detainees. Her death comes almost a year after that of Roxsana Hernandez, another trans asylum seeker who died under similar circumstances, brutally caged by ICE for five days in a cramped and freezing detention facility. Meanwhile, police throughout the country routinely fail to adequately investigate murders of trans women.

Our movement is at a crossroads, wrestling with difficult questions about relevant priorities after marriage equality. Marriage is an important institution and gaining access to it was a major accomplishment, but marriage rights do not help Johanna, Roxsana, and countless other queer immigrants fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Marriage does not help homeless and disowned queer youth. Marriage does not help solve the murders of countless trans women of color whose deaths remain unaddressed. To address these and many other injustices, the fight for equality must extend into all the spaces where inequality continues to exist.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, we must embrace the full diversity of our vibrant communities, and we must build on the legacy of Stonewall by dismantling all remaining manifestations of homophobia, transphobia, HIV-phobia, police violence, racism, and discrimination. There is no doubt that we have made considerable progress since Stonewall. There is vastly more representation of queer couples, celebrities, and politicians on television, in everything from Modern Family to Queer Eye, and even children’s cartoons like Steven Universe and Adventure Time. But even as we celebrate this mainstreaming, we must acknowledge that these representations often feature characters who are white, affluent, able-bodied and cis-gendered. Marginalized identities too rarely have the spotlight—and we must change that.

This Pride, let’s celebrate the progress we’ve made and commit to dismantling all forms of discrimination and oppression. We can start by demanding fair treatment for LGBTQ+ immigrants at the border and in federal detention facilities, and by demanding legal protections for trans women, including serious investigations for the unsolved murders of trans women of color. Let’s work towards the day when everyone in the LGBTQ+ community can see themselves reflected in the movement and its progress.

Read our op-ed in connection with World AIDS Day.