As we celebrate PRIDE Month 2020, the LGBT+ community’s resilience in the fight for equality and acceptance for all has never been more significant. The LGBT+ community stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement—and in doing so, honors its own roots as an uprising against bigotry, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. At its core, PRIDE is a celebration of intersectionality, and the movement shares a foundational principle with Black Lives Matter: that all persons are entitled to a life of dignity, safety, and freedom regardless of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. In recognition of this intersectionality, of this moment of time, and of the work that remains to be done in the LGBT+ community to combat racism, we have added black and brown lines to Reed Smith’s PRIDE logo above. The placement of these lines is quite purposeful: the LGBT+ PRIDE Movement rests on the shoulders of the giants of the civil rights movement, and the very beginnings of Pride is anchored in the brave acts of Black and Brown Trans and Queer persons of color.
Last month, the senseless murder of George Floyd once again reminded us of the systemic racism that continues to plague our society. Yet we know that George Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident: the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade— a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by police in Florida on May 27th—and so many others demonstrates that the long history of oppression of Black and Brown people in America continues to result in discrimination, injustice, police brutality, and murder. And, in particular, the epidemic of violence facing Trans women of color continues unabated in this country: of the 26 reported murders of Trans persons in 2019, 91% were Black Trans women. For these, and many other reasons, the PRIDE and Black Lives Matter movements, necessarily and inextricably, are intertwined.
The LGBT+ community—and especially LGBT+ persons of color—understands what it means to rise up and push back against police brutality and violence, along with a culture that tells us we are less than. Indeed, we celebrate June as PRIDE Month to commemorate the resistance of police harassment and brutality at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in NYC, and across the nation. We remember the Stonewall Riots as a watershed moment in which we refused to accept humiliation and fear as the price of living fully, freely, and authentically. The Stonewall Riots largely were led by Trans and gender non-conforming Black and Latinx persons: Marsha ‘Pay It No Mind’ Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLarverie.
Besides sharing a history of protest, struggle, and a long battle for equality, the Black Lives Matter and LGBT+ PRIDE movements both focus on bringing about change through activism. Early gay rights organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front also fought for the end of racism and equal treatment, and James Baldwin, Angela Davis, and Audre Lorde—leading figures of the civil rights movement—were also members of the LGBT+ community. Decades later, these movements remain more connected than ever.
In recognition of the work that remains to be done within the LGBT+ community and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement— founded in part by two queer Black women—PRISM wants to amplify and lift up the voices of Black LGBT+ people. Today, we recognize the work and impact of Kylar W. Broadus, Esquire, an attorney and founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition whose advocacy work spans decades. Kylar was the first Trans person to testify in front of the United States Senate when, in 2010, he spoke in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Kylar’s own experiences serve as a clarion call for change: in 1995, after seven years as an employee at a major financial institution, Broadus told his boss of his decision to transition from female to male, resulting in a hostile work environment where he was told there would be no opportunity to advance in the company unless he changed his appearance. In response to Kylar’s complaints, his employer’s HR department scolded him like a child and told him that “women don’t do this.” He eventually left on a constructive discharge notice and filed suit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The case was dismissed because Broadus resided in Missouri—one of 38 states where it remains legal to discriminate based on gender identity or expression. Since then, Kylar has helped develop federal, state and local protections for people regardless of their gender identity or gender expression, and his academic articles on transgender advocacy in family and employment law fundamentally shaped academic and legal discussions of gender.
As we anticipate the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens, a case argued during the fall 2019 term brought to determine whether discrimination against transgender employees is covered by Title VII, and in the midst of PRIDE month and the fight to ensure that Black lives matter, Kylar’s words are especially poignant:
“I’ve never been hidden, because I refuse to live in fear and hide who I am, because I have just as much right on this planet as anybody else. I was willing to die and am willing to die for who I am, because I would rather die than not be me.”
This PRIDE, may we take Kylar’s words to heart, uplift all those who strive to lead lives as their authentic selves and, in tandem, support all persons of color while affirming that every single Black life—queer, straight, or trans— matters.
Jason D. Angelo
Associate Chair, PRISM