Kicking-off Pride Month as we Werk! (from home)

This month we celebrate Pride and the theme is a nod to the ballroom culture of the late 80s and early 90s. We caught up with Flip Clark, co-lead of Pridebox, our LGBTQ+ employee resource group on the theme, Werk! (from home) to learn more about what we can expect for this year’s virtual celebration and his thoughts on what celebrating Pride 2020 means in our current cultural climate.

June is the month when we kick off frothy, colorful celebrations of our identity and history as an LGBTQ+ community — a ritual I have enjoyed partaking in since joining Dropbox over three years ago. I remember being new to Dropbox in 2017 and marveling at how outspoken those Pridebox leaders were. It was almost intimidating at first, but the outward displays of inclusion and belonging in the workplace quickly taught me how important (and healing) it is for us to celebrate our identities in an authentic way; we are, after all, still human when we show up to work. This year is a little different due to the presence of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter protests — over the course of June hundreds of Dropboxers will come together through the various digital events we have planned to partake in queer media consumption, important fireside chats, and much more. The Pridebox planning committee knew earlier this year that Pride month would be unique given the digital-only constraints of WFH, hence our double entendre theme: Werk! (From Home), which plays on the linguistics of queer ballroom dancers in the late 20th century (Werk is a superlative that can be heard shouted by queer people when they observe an exceptional performance). However, we could not foresee how events this week in particular would be such a stark reminder of the history of how Pride began.

The modern event we have come to know as Pride started as a yearly celebration of the queer liberation movement that was birthed at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on June 28th, 1969, where street youth, sex workers, and queer and trans people of color rioted against police brutality and predatory overreach into queer safe spaces. Marsha P. Johnson, a gay liberation activist and drag queen, has been credited as one of founders of this movement. As I write this post from the comfort of my home, thoroughly enjoying the civil rights that queer activists have fought bitterly to afford me, I am reminded that the genesis of everything we have grown this month to be was started by a queer Black woman who protested and rioted against the police brutality that once inhibited our way of life.

In cities which are now well-known for their progressive embrace of queer culture, law enforcement officers once consistently raided gay bars. Police harassed and beat queer bar patrons and patrolled known gay neighborhoods, waiting to burst into the homes of queer couples to arrest them for engaging in consensual sex. It seems unfathomable now, but sodomy laws were not ruled unconstitutional until 2003. Entrapment by police was commonplace; they would pretend to cruise for gay partners, then arrest them. Laws against “crossdressing” targeted trans people.

Queer people of color have routinely fronted the struggles of queer people in modern American society, stretching from Marsha P. Johnson at the beginning of Pride to today, where Black trans people such as Iyanna Dior and Tony McDade are disproportionately subjected to violence relative to their LGBTQ+ peers. This week, the intersectionality of this truth and the ugly history behind it begs for the attention of privileged queer people and their allies. In 2020, my whiteness and cisgender identity allows me to escape this brutal history of racism and transphobia. But today, in ‘civilized’ America, George Floyd and so many Black people suffer far worse.

Queer leaders from the civil rights era might have imagined that one day, someone just like me would be afforded the privilege of a college education, the luxury of employment in a bourgeoning industry, and the joy of an inconceivable romance with the man I love, who I fall asleep with every night under the long, beautiful shadows of queer liberty that stretch from San Francisco across the globe. I live a charmed existence, in the face of a history of oppression of queer people all over the globe, as only a small fraction do. But we, as queer people and our allies, liberated to celebrate Pride in the halls (and Zoom conference rooms) of Dropbox, cannot let the doors of justice slam shut behind us. We, as a queer community, are called by our very nature as an underrepresented group to stand with our own queer Black community and partners in the movement for Black lives. May the protests against the police brutality that plagues and savages communities of color across this nation mark a decisive turning point in the fight for racial equity in America, and may Marsha’s voice bang like a gong as we blossom ferociously as a queer community during this month of Pride:

I GOT MY CIVIL RIGHTS!”

Want to join in on the celebration, and “Werk! (from home)? Click and save these custom zoom backgrounds.

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