This note first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Options Magazine.
Many people have worked so hard to bring you this June issue, the Pride Guide, a true labor of love. And many more still are working to bring you a fantastic 40th Anniversary PrideFest: you can read all about it in the pages to come. To prepare you for this milestone Pride season, here are my suggestions for the “Top Five Ways to Celebrate 40 Years of RI Pride.”
When Billy Mencer Ackerly, Belle Pellegrino, and 70 or so others first marched in 1976, they never imagined that the streets of downtown Providence would be filled with tens of thousands of people, celebrating that pride 40 years later. Can you imagine what it must have felt like to march in 1976? What risks would you have been willing to take? This Pride season, let’s remember to express our gratitude to early gay rights pioneers like the “76ers” – grand marshals of this year’s Pride Parade (p. 14) – whose courage back then allows us to enjoy so many things we may take for granted today.
Four decades and many civil rights triumphs later, we are celebrating our first RI PrideFest since the US Supreme Court instituted equal marriage rights for same-sex couples last June. The backlash after that tremendous civil rights victory has taken the form of renegade civil servants and discriminatory state legislation, while bigots desperately grasping for any legal way to keep us down have especially targeted the trans community. Let’s make sure the trans people in our lives know we have their backs, because the Federal Departments of Justice and Education sure did by recently declaring North Carolina’s HB-2 to be in violation of civil rights. (p. 23) Thankfully, the current administration has a favorable stance on civil rights.
Alongside that wave of backlash and hatred over the past year has come an utterly appalling Presidential campaign. Astonishingly, Donald Trump’s xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and trans- and homophobic rhetoric only earns him votes in the primaries. I would have preferred to not know that so many Americans agree with his values, but now that he’s risen to become the presumptive Republican nominee in November, we have to do everything in our power to stop Trump. We haven’t come this far to be sent back to the dark ages.
As long-time local activist Kate Monteiro would say, “Many hands make light work,” so pitch in this Pride season. Whether you’re volunteering, donating to Pride’s $40 for 40 Years campaign, or literally pitching your refuse where it is supposed to go during PrideFest, you can help ensure that our 40th Anniversary Pride celebration is safe and enjoyable for all.
In 1976, it was a radical act to attend community events (p. 18), to create or support LGBTQ organizations, to select an outfit or hair style that felt comfortable, or to be friends with or love whomever you chose. To enjoy those freedoms is a big part of what Pride is all about today.
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