The event we now call Pride Month began on June 28, 1969 in New York City. Police stormed the Stonewall Inn, a club in Greenwich Village, known as a safe haven for drag queens and others in the local LGBTQIA+ community. Most of them were People of Color, marginalized both for their races and sexual orientations.
During this time, it was criminalized to “masquerade” as the gender a person was not assigned at birth. But in response to the law enforcement raid, LGBTQIA+ residents across NYC rallied together in a series of demonstrations, which came to be called the Stonewall Uprising. From this movement of queer solidarity and the pursuit of equal justice that ensued, the origins of Pride Month were born.
Pride Month Gains Traction, But the Work Isn’t Over
President Obama named the Stonewall Inn a historic landmark in 2015, the same year he signed the Marriage Equality Act into federal law. But as monumental as this nationwide celebration has since become, it’s more than just rainbow flags and chants of, “Love Is Love.” The continued fight for LGBTQIA+ equity intersects with the urgent need to dismantle systemic racism in the United States.
According to data from the Human Rights Watch, at least 12 transgender or nonbinary people have been killed so far in 2023. The majority of them were Black women, and the most recent murder took place just two days into Pride Month. It’s beautiful and courageous to live one’s truth as a member of the queer community. But we must not overlook how dangerous it can be as well. Then, we must boldly resist to keep our fellow humans safe.
Pride Month Is a Call to Action for Radical Inclusion
This unjust and traumatic reality has forced countless human beings to keep their full selves closeted away. However, there is room at the table for all expressions of gender, sexuality, and relationships to thrive if we choose inclusion and confront the heteronormative status quo. While this might sound simplistic, it’s also why Pride Month exists—to celebrate the vibrant, colorful spectrum of humanity.
So on that note, here are 10 quotes from some of the most influential LGBTQIA+ voices in our culture right now. Their words serve as calls to action for both community members and allies, throughout this month and beyond.
On Radical Truth and Justice
“Being honest, being upfront, being direct, and being really clear about what it is we want is nothing short of transformation. [But it] is a challenge because we are oftentimes met with reforms that actually don’t shift our conditions into the types of conditions that we truly want to live in […] What we have to really do is ask ourselves the question of what it is that we’re trying to build here? Are we ready to win? Are we ready to live in this world where we’re all able to live in our full dignity, where we govern ourselves? And if we’re not ready for that, what are we doing to get there?”Charlene Carruthers (she/her), author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements
On Nuances of Human Expression
“No one goes around asking, ‘But are you really more blue or more green? Teal is not blue-green, it’s teal” […] We want a world where boys can feel, girls can lead, and the rest of us can not only exist, but thrive. This is not about erasing men and women, but rather acknowledging that man and woman are two of many stars in a constellation that do not compete but amplify one another’s shine.Alok Vaid-Menon (they/them), mixed-media performance artist and author of Beyond the Gender Binary
On Self-Love and Acceptance
“Consult the ancestors while counting stars in the galaxy. Hold wisdom under tongue until it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Do not be afraid. Do not doubt yourself. Do not hide. Be proud of your inhaler, your cane, your back brace, your acne. Be proud of [what] the world uses to make you feel different […] Love the body that you have or the one you create for yourself […] Trust your lungs. Trust the universe. Trust your damn self. Love hard, deep, without restraint or doubt. Love everything that brushes past your skin and lives inside your soul. Love yourself.”Gabby Rivera (she/her), author of Juliet Takes a Breath and creator of America, the first graphic novel with a queer Latinx superhero
On the Power of Collective Unity
“This country needs to get over its obsession with identity politics. [This] is how the ruling class continues to separate us, so issues that affect marginalized communities continue to affect only those marginalized communities and not other people who could share political concerns. I think it’s important to destabilize the idea that gay rights only matter to gay people. It’s not true. It’s important to f**k with that binary.”Hamed Sinno (he/him), musician and lead vocalist of the Lebanese indie alternative rock band Mashrou’ Leila
On Equal Rights and Protection
“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist […] We must lift the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class. I have hoped over the past few years that the incredible love I received from the public can translate to the lives of all trans folks of all races, gender expressions, abilities, sexual orientations, classes, immigration status, employment status, transition status [or] genital status […] By embracing transgender equality, I believe we can all begin to define what it means to be a man or a woman on our own terms and liberate ourselves from the gender oppression we impose on ourselves and each other.”Laverne Cox (she/her), transgender activist, Orange Is the New Black actress, and Emmy-winning television producer
On Hope for Future Generations
“For too many generations, young people had to figure out in secret what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. As adolescents, many of us had to search for proof that we weren’t crazy, we had to find our gay histories by reading between the lines, and we had to locate one another in a world that required us to be practically invisible. My own journey was not exceptional in this regard […] Only in the last decade have [LGBTQIA+] youth been able to be more than just beginners at being queer. In fact, in many respects, they are showing us how it’s done in this brave new world […They are] proving to me that it’s never too late to become yourself.”Celeste Lecesne (he/they), playwright of The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey and co-founder of The Trevor Project
On Failures and Bold Stances
“I feel like it’s everyone’s responsibility to use whatever platform they have to do good in the world and try to make our society better, whether you’re an accountant or an activist or an athlete or whatever it is. This is my charge to everyone: Do what you can. Do what you have to do. Step outside yourself. Be more. Be better […] Be honest about how you approach failure. Don’t just be critical of yourself because that can be self-serving. Approach it honestly, assess your performance and the areas where you have fallen short. Correct them and move on. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t hold onto it.”Megan Rapinoe (she/her), professional athlete and co-captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
On the Continuum of Self-Identity
“Throughout my life, I felt ‘othered.’ I have felt othered through my disability. I was deaf, but I could also hear. I felt othered through my sexuality. I didn’t like boys or girls or just nonbinary people. I couldn’t figure out who I liked. I felt othered through my race. I wasn’t completely Chinese. I wasn’t completely Jewish […] Another revelation I had when realizing I always felt othered was that all my identities are on a continuum. […] If I had grown up with this realization, I would have given myself the means to be my own representation […] I want to remind anyone they don’t have to wait for a specific community to open for them. They can just look in the mirror and feel it is enough, and understand that all of them and all their experiences are worthwhile.”Chella Man (he/him), genderqueer YouTube influencer, television actor, documentary producer and author of Continuum
On Resisting Silence and Inaction
“All too often, when we see injustices—both great and small—we think, ‘That’s terrible,’ but we do nothing. We say nothing. We let other people fight their own battles. We remain silent because silence is easier. ‘Qui tacet consentire videtur’ is Latin for, ‘Silence gives consent.’ When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are consenting to these tresspasses against us.”Roxane Gay (she/her), prolific New York Times best-selling author, intersectional feminist, and Yale University professor
On Persistence to Claim Space
“In our country, being from immigrant parents, growing up Black in the South, coming out at 16 years old, being a teen parent, you would assume that my life would amount to nothing. And here I stand today […] If my gay Black ass from the South can do it, your ass can do it. So just believe in yourself.”Karamo Brown (he/him), co-host of Queer Eye and the first openly LGBTQIA+ Black man to be cast on a reality television show
Who are some of your favorite LGBTQIA+ influencers, activists, or thought leaders to follow and learn from? Drop their names, social media handles, book titles, podcast episodes, YouTube channels, or other resources they offer in the comment section below. Together, let’s spread the equal love this Pride Month (and beyond)!