June: More Than A Month
As many of you know by now, June is a very important and bittersweet month for me. My birthday is June 2 and my late Dad’s birthday is June 27. June is also usually that month where we usually go from dabbling into warmer temperatures to a fully pre-heated oven by June 30 which, for a person who sweats, can be the effective end of going outside until the post-Labor crisp breeze of Fall returns. Given more significance this year due to a breaking point in racial injustice, we also celebrated Juneteenth on June 19 with the full vibrancy and remembrance nationally it deserved the prior 154 years. But, this year, seemingly lost in the sound and fury of June 2020 is the annual celebration of PRIDE month, which recognizes the success and struggles for LGBTQIA+ rights.
I would be foolish to have let this month go by and not recognize PRIDE through my writings as it would have been a disservice to our forebears who lived at the intersectionality of race and sexuality. Forebears, past and present, like James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Josephine Baker, Bayard Rustin, Queen Latifah, Jonathan Capehart, Janet Mock, & Jericho Brown. This year, despite the necessary national focus on racial injustice, PRIDE has seen victories like on June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision to recognize that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQIA+ employees from workplace discrimination. The case, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, strikes at the very same intersectionality of race and sexuality in the universal soundness of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (and other race-based civil rights legislation) which was intended to allow non-discrimination of Black Americans is applicable to a larger subset of people including LGBTQIA+ rights, women’s rights, Native American rights, Latinx rights, AAPI rights, religious rights, and others. In addition, we’ve seen greater design integration and linkages between the PRIDE rainbow logo and the all-black Black Lives Matter typeface or pan-African symbology.
However, we’ve also seen failures of the needed intersectionality between race and sexuality. First, the lack of national coverage and inclusion of Tony McDade in the racial justice messaging that included Ahmad Arbery, George Floyd, & Breonna Taylor. Mr. McDade was a Black trans man killed by the Tallahassee, Florida Police in May. I have tried to be conscious of my inclusion of Tony McDade in these listings because it is important that we push the need for intersectional thinking just as much, if not more than, the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Mr. McDade’s exclusion from the national coverage and conversation is sadly familiar and perceived to be necessary for the overall momentum and traction of the current iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement, because recognizing the intersectionality of race and sexuality could jeopardize the cross-sector (read: Republicans and White America) appeal of advocating for racial equity and justice. Even segments of older, rural, or religious black communities would push back to the inclusion of Tony McDade in the national conversation about racial equity and justice. This is not right; but, it is a sad fact of our current reality when bargaining with white hegemony for civil rights still requires sacrifice of parts or all of ourselves — look at the late Bayard Rustin and the compromises he made with leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, a movement in which he was a chief architect, when being excluded from the spotlight for being Black and gay.
Also, there was the death of Oluwatoyin Salau, who was Black, 19-years old, homeless Black Lives Matter & LGBTQIA+ rights advocate who was sexually assaulted and murdered in Florida on June 6. Her death also got little national coverage, and her case follows another trend of black women and their death being excluded from the national racial justice conversation. We saw that happen to Sandra Bland, Renisha McBride, and Breonna Taylor. Ms. Taylor’s case only became nationally pertinent after petitions, celebrities, and activists in Louisville pushed and promoted the issue enough. But that shouldn’t be necessary for any life, or death in this case, to matter and to be wroth fighting for. The intersectionality between race and sexuality also includes gender and the role of women in both.
June has always been about birthdays — mine and my Dad’s. It was in late high school when the historical significance and personal relevance of PRIDE & Juneteenth hit me. I was always Black and I had known of Juneteenth as early as late elementary school but, like Kwanzaa, it was discarded as an extreme leftist (read: Hotep) thing to do. I am so glad the narrative for both of those holidays have changed significantly for the better. Likewise, I knew of PRIDE since middle school and went to school, church, and interacted with LGBTQIA+ people of color my entire life. However, PRIDE was always appeared, to me, like a members-only thing to participate in. I am also glad that the narrative has changed around PRIDE being a diverse, inclusive, and multicultural celebration for those who are LGBTQIA+ and those who are allies, relatives, friends, or communities that support LGBTQIA+ rights. I say this as someone who’s always known themself to be different and sees themself in the movement.
June has always been about birthdays, to me, but it is also about so much more — it’s about Juneteenth and the fight for racial equity and justice. It’s about PRIDE and the celebration and remembrance of leaders and ordinary people living at the intersections of race and sexuality seeking hope and freedom. It’s about the future and the work we all have to do to make life free, hopeful, and progressive for all including those striving or living at the intersections. June is more than a month it is an intersection — a hope and a future.