Today is the 52nd anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Rebellion, and it seems imperative to remember that the first Pride was a riot. In response to the brutal over-policing of Stonewall Inn, a haven for LGBTQIA+ communities, a group of community members, led primarily by transgender women of color who were being systematically targeted by the police. Police raids on gay bars were common and disproportionately affected transgender people who were targeted based on contemporary laws that levied criminal charges against people for how they dressed.
On that hot summer day in NYC in June of 1969, the Stonewall resistors used whatever they could (including bricks and bottles) to protect themselves, their communities, and their spaces from the violence of the police; for many present, including homeless queer youth, the Stonewall served as their one safe space in a world that was otherwise hostile and violent.
The Stonewall Riots are a reminder that what are often called “riots” are righteous expressions of rage at dehumanizing systems and practices that punish difference, target communities, and kill people.
This Pride, we celebrate the rage and radical self-defense demonstrated at Stonewall. This same rage was evident in the protests (peaceful or otherwise) in response to George Floyd’s murder, marking the addition of his name to a long list of people whose lives were violently ended at the hands of the state. In response, N.C. policymakers are introducing legislation (HB 805) that will stifle free speech and punish those who resist their dehumanization and advocate for a more just society for us all. This Pride, we center Black and Brown transgender and non-binary people in our work to protect the right to speak truth, clearly and loudly, to white supremacist power.
This Pride, we reject and challenge the brutality of the carceral state, and its disproportionate violence against Black and Brown transgender people. Nowhere is this brutality more evident than in Kanautica Zayre-Brown’s experiences while detained by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Kanautica continues to advocate for herself, and all other transgender and nonbinary people in the custody of the state. Kanautica is supported in her self-advocacy by House of Kanautica, a collective organizing campaign to free Kanautica Zayre-Brown. House of Kanautica also amplifies opportunities to support and protect Black and Brown transgender people.
This Pride, we are guided in our daily work that Pride is, and has always been, about resisting the authoritarian impulses of the state in policing and punishing difference.
Learn more about local and regional organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals and communities: