This Pride, Embody the True Spirit of Queer Liberation

As we enter another Pride Month overrun with corporate rainbows and empty overtures, it's important to remember that Pride started as a protest — a riot, to be more specific. On a hot June day in 1969 when the New York Police Department raided the popular Stonewall Inn, Queer folks fought back, sparking a days-long riotous rebellion against police repression, youth homelessness, discrimination, and more. This moment of resistance sparked what would become a global movement against repression, oppression, marginalization, and violence.

Since long before the Stonewall Rebellion into the present, the spirit of Queer Pride has been about full liberation for all the weirdos, the deviants, and all those living on the margins of society. The entrance of the capital Q "Queer" into the social-political lexicon encapsulates this perfectly: it came from young gay and lesbian activists in the 1990s who sought to embody a politics of disruption in line with the way their gender and sexuality were inherently disruptive. In the seminal text "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?," Cathy Cohen describes Queer as "an acknowledgment that through our existence and everyday survival we embody sustained and multi-sited resistance to systems." To be Queer is to disrupt social norms, so it also contains infinite potential for radical disruption in the normalization of power indifference everywhere.

"This June, it's important to reflect on the responsibility of embodying Queer politics in your daily life."

This June, it's important to reflect on the responsibility of embodying Queer politics in your daily life. For me, organizing in and around the South has brought me closer to Queer community than I've ever felt before. We organize not just against big systems, but to actually take care of each other in the present. Whether it's fundraising to cover each other's rent, dropping off meals and medicine, checking in during the highs and the lows, or sharing the load of child bearing, my most loving and liberated relationships are those where we work to survive the world together. We study together, we cover each other for prayer, we actively build space in the world to hold all of us. The choice to leave apathy behind and instead engage in the fight for our lives is no small one, but I've learned the most about myself, my values, and the true meaning of liberation by being in loving, principled community.

Despite companies engaging in dubious rainbow marketing every year, safety continues to be precarious for Queer folks and especially Queer youth. According to The Trevor Project, "28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives — and those who did had two to four times the odds of reporting depression, anxiety, self-harm, considering suicide, and attempting suicide compared to those with stable housing."

Queer youth are under attack from all sides, as trans healthcare bans and curriculum bans continue to sweep the nation. Now more than ever, young Queer folks need their community's support. The need for disruption is palpable and urgent.

Building a world that is truly safe for all requires us to contribute to community building across identities. Anyone can start a neighborhood food distribution or mutual aid project, volunteer with a local youth project or start their own. Connect with abolitionist projects pushing back against the criminalization of Queer and trans survivors. Organize to provide stable housing, mental health services, and loving community to young Queer kids. Our Queer ancestors fought for us to retain our position in our communities as culture bearers, healers, artists and more. Community is built, not given — everyone holds a role in the web of world-building.

For those particularly frustrated with the treatment of Queer students in schools, consider joining your local school board. Queer students are harmed most when depictions of Queer sexuality are omitted from school libraries and curriculum and when teachers face threats of termination if they don't out students to their parents. Right-wing, homophobic organizations have packed school boards to promote the regressive changes they want to see. We can organize and fight for all young people to have access to quality sex education, Queer history, and Queer-affirming educational spaces, and joining your local school board is a direct way to do so. Talk to your teacher friends, too — despite threats to their careers, Queer and allied teachers have been fighting mercilessly to protect our young people in and out of the classroom. Schools are also often in need of volunteer reading partners, coaches, mentors, and more. Intergenerational community building is vital to the spirit of Pride. There are ways for everyone to plug in with local Queer youth and have a positive impact on their lives.

And as Israel continues its invasion of Rafah despite the ICJ issuing arrest warrants to halt the violence, it's important to recognize how the Zionist regime is pinkwashing their colonial project. Queer Palestinians have fought for years to push back against the narrative that Palestine is unsafe for Queer folks. As we continue to build a global movement in solidarity with Palestine and all people suffering under violent regimes, fight this narrative at home, at work, with your friends, and anywhere where Queer folks are propped up to elide other violence.

"I'm holding my community a little closer this month for all those we've lost and all the work it takes to survive in a world bent on squashing us."

The daily work of Queer liberation looks like care, resistance, and a commitment to liberation for all. Care can look like battling our own internalized homophobia and transphobia to create safer communities for all Queer folks. Resistance can look like rejecting corporate attempts to take over Pride, and encouraging your friends to take on a mutual aid or youth mentorship project that truly embodies the spirit of Pride. More than a party or protest, Pride is an invitation to be our fullest selves and fight for a world where everyone is free to do the same. A commitment to liberation for all means continuing to fight for everyone to live free of violence and injustice.

This June, honor Pride by picking up the torch of Queer activism in your workplace, school, or community. Every day is a chance to inch toward completing the project of Queer liberation, together. I'm holding my community a little closer this month for all those we've lost and all the work it takes to survive in a world bent on squashing us. Later this month, I'll have my closest homies over for a dinner party where we'll celebrate each other, mourn our martyrs, and plant seeds for the future.

Jasmine Butler is a Black, queer, Southern writer, cultural worker, and afrofuturist abolitionist, among other things. Their nonfiction has been featured in HoodCommunist, TransLash, and multiple nonprofit blogs. Their fiction has appeared on Inherited Podcast, Ebony Tomatoes Collective, and Torch Literary Arts. Jasmine is also an Outreach Editor at Apogee Journal where they publish incarcerated writers.