This LGBTQ History Month, HRC is proud to honor the trailblazers who helped pave the way for LGBTQ rights and visibility in the ongoing fight for equality over the past five decades.
As HRC marked World Pride in New York City in June, we remembered that the first Pride was a riot a little more than 50 years ago. On June 28, 1969, the uprising at The Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York City, was a pivotal marker in the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement in the U.S. After experiencing police brutality simply for congregating, LGBTQ patrons decided to take a stand and fight back against the brutal intimidation they regularly faced.
Stonewall was the most visible incidence of police brutality against the community, but it was part of a pattern of law enforcement targeting LGBTQ people without cause. Three years earlier and 3,000 miles away, police in San Francisco were arresting drag queens, transgender women and other LGBTQ people at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria.
These trailblazers took a stand and made our resistance visible and concrete.
Our movement stands on the shoulders of these early heroes, and their bravery and visibility is inspiring leaders of today, including South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. Buttigieg is the first openly gay candidate to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. If elected, McBride, who is running for state senate in Delaware, will become the first openly LGBTQ candidate elected to the state legislature in Delaware and the first openly transgender state senator in the U.S. They join others who are ushering in a new era of representation.
Openly LGBTQ leaders and our allies are also helping us achieve tremendous victories. This year, the U.S. House passed the Equality Act, which would provide explicit federal non-protections for LGBTQ people nationwide. While this is a major milestone for equality, we will take our fight to the U.S. Senate and work to ensure that we elect a pro-equality president in 2020 who would sign the bill into law.
In the political and sports world, LGBTQ people are racking up wins and bringing visibility. The U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup, bringing pride to an international platform. LGBTQ players including Megan Rapinoe, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger and more are open, proud and outspoken about equality.
And while openly LGBTQ athletes are winning on the world stage, trailblazing actors, entertainers and programs are changing hearts and minds for our community.
This includes the groundbreaking series “Pose”, which showcases LGBTQ visibility and sheds light on important issues impacting the LGBTQ community such as the epidemic of violence against Black transgender women. The show serves as a somber reminder that in 2019 alone, 18 transgender people — primarily transgender women of color — have been murdered.
Awareness and visibility continue to expand as HRC Visibility Award honoree actor, producer and writer Ryan O’Connell brings intersectional identities to the screen with his hit Netflix show “Special.” As a gay man with cerebral palsy, O’Connell has been an outspoken advocate for both the LGBTQ community and people living with disabilities. His show is based on his 2015 memoir, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves,” where he writes about navigating his identities.
We need trailblazers and visibility more than ever. Despite the strides we’ve made, the Trump-Pence administration continues to implement hateful policies that hurt LGBTQ parents and kids, transgender military service members and more. The administration refuses to condemn anti-LGBTQ regimes and atrocities in Bangladesh, Chechnya, Egypt, Tanzania and elsewhere. Nationally and internationally, the administration continues failing LGBTQ people.
As we celebrate LGBTQ History Month, we acknowledge that we have a long way to go to achieve full equality. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we must honor them with action. It starts by centering the stories of our past as we deepen our connection to each other and our commitment to continuing to move equality forward.