As Pride month comes to an end, it's been a month of reflection. With the anniversary of the tragic Pulse Nightclub shooting, to the 100+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in over half of the U.S. in 2017 alone, most in the community realize how much work there is left to do.
Two years ago, the landmark decision made by the Supreme Court to legalize marriage left everyone hopeful. Visibility and acceptance finally seemed like a possibility, rather than a pipe dream. At the very least, the public would have to see our humanity, and hate crimes, discrimination, and suicide rates would drop. Right?
Wrong. As ironic and sad as it is, the risk of LGBTQ+ related violence has increased. In 2016, NCAVP found that there had been 77 total bias-based homicides. This number includes the 49 lives that were taken in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub. However, even without those victims, there has been a 17% increase in these crimes since 2015.
Facts and events like these have caused a change, where everyone must learn to play both offense and defense. The progress that has been made so far is in danger of being reversed, as LGBTQ+ individuals become more comfortable in their own skin. We've discovered that visibility comes with a price, and the radical opposition to equality has more than come to collect. More people are out and proud than ever before, causing violent thoughts and opinions to heat up and bubble to the surface in forms that cost lives.
So who is at the most risk? Evidence shows that people of color, transgender, and gender non-conforming people are frequently targeted. While this is no surprise, it is still a matter of concern. Of the homicides that occurred in 2016 (not including the Pulse tragedy), 79% of the victims were people of color. Further more, 68% of the victims were transgender or gender non-conforming, and 61% were transgender women of color.
The LGBTQ+ community and our allies need to understand that the fight is nowhere near over. This is a battle that will continue for decades to come. It will be long, grueling, and even more tiring than it already is. And we all have work to do.
The community needs to work through and recognize its own internalized issues, like white, cisgender, homonormativity. Transgender women of color are at the most risk for hate crimes, and that needs to be recognized. In fact, as I wrote this, I found out about another transgender woman of color that was just murdered. Her name was Ava Le'Ray Barrin. We need to say the names of these women, and we can't forget them.
Allies, your support needs to go past Pride month. The LGBTQ+ community is much more than an excuse to go to the parades, festivals, and parties. Write to your local legislators, educate yourself and others, and find ways to be a voice for change. Being an ally is more than a bumper sticker.
When it comes down to it, we all need each other to make things right, and to prevent the increasing violence and hate. Pride month is an important time in LGBTQ+ history, but July 1st doesn't mean we stop fighting for another year. It means we step it up, so that the Stonewall Rights that happened 48 years ago didn't happen in vain. It means that names like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are honored by carrying the torch that they lit for us year round.