*Editor’s Note: The “Views from NAU” blog series highlights the thoughts of different people affiliated with NAU, including faculty members sharing opinions or research in their areas of expertise. The views expressed reflect the authors’ own personal perspectives.
By M. Lee Griffin
Assistant Director, LGBTQIA+ Student Services
Every June, the LGBTQIA+ community and our allies across the globe come together to celebrate Pride. You might hear of Pride festivals like Flagstaff’s very own Pride in the Pines and see more rainbow flags and gear at the store—but the sentiment and importance of pride runs deep, especially when grounded in the context of history, intersectionality, oppression and strife. After all, we celebrate Pride in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots where the LGBTQIA+ community fought back against prolonged, egregious harassment at the hands of the police during a time when “cross-dressing” was illegal and punishable under the law. Although Stonewall is largely credited as the catalyst of the early Gay Liberation Movement, this was not the first uprising or call for justice. Prior to Stonewall, there was the Cooper Do-nuts Riot (Los Angeles 1959), Dewey’s Lunch Counter Sit-In (Philadelphia 1965), the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot (San Francisco 1966) and dozens more in just looking at recent history. An important piece of the story which must be told is how the intersections of race and gender affected members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Impassioned trans women of color such as Marsha P Johnson and Silvia Rivera who began the Stonewall Riots would be literally booed off the stage during gay rights rallies and never given the credit that they deserved due to stigma and bias rooted in racism and transphobia.
Fast-forward to June 2022. We have seen landmark legislation and progress to protect the civil rights of LGBTQIA+ people in the United States and in some areas abroad. However, we have also witnessed an unprecedented amount of anti-transgender legislation introduced statewide and nationally, largely centered on transgender youth. With 375 known deaths, 2021 was the deadliest year for the transgender community since records began. In my work with LGBTQIA+ Lumberjacks, I continue to see students shamed, harassed and questioned by their families, friends, educators and places of work. Racism and xenophobia continue to present themselves in our families, local, state and national levels of discourse and headlines.
My question is this: Is “pride” a reality for the LGBTQIA+ community today? How can it be if, as Laverne Cox said, “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”
This June, and every day here after, I urge you to be a messenger of pride for the LGBTQIA+ community. Fundamentally, this includes seemingly small acts of dignity such as respecting someone’s chosen pronouns and name, standing up against hateful rhetoric, advocating for restroom access and education in our schools and institutions and showing compassion to all—no matter how they identify. You cannot have pride without dignity.
If you would like to learn more about LGBTQIA+ history, terminology and inclusive language, please consider attending the Safe Zone and Transparency Zone trainings offered through the Office of Inclusion. You may view available sessions and register through LOUIE under Self Service.