June 1 2017

What does Pride month look like in a community with no Pride events? It takes shape in an idea that organizers and freedom fighters have known about for decades. Each day before I walk out my front door, the internal revolution, an inner pride parade, is happening inside my head. For queer and trans people, the celebration of self is a must just to simply make it through the day. It is especially important for rural queers who will see no visible celebration of them and their community.

This last weekend in June, some of us may travel two hours away to the nearest communities that do hold Pride events. But in my home of Del Norte County, there will be no rainbow flags in store windows, no parades, no same sex couples exchanging meaningful looks in travel and banking commercials, and my small, beautiful, queer community will go on with business as usual.

What is business as usual for LGBTQ+ folks in Del Norte County and adjacent tribal lands? Geographic isolation affects our entire population, with the nearest urban area located approximately six hours away. Bullying and street harassment pushes many of our queer and trans students into charter schools, where resources are less than that of the single mainstream high school for our district, and students become isolated further from their peers. Drug abuse, mental health stability, school pushout, harassment, invisibility; the available data and the narratives that have been crafted speak to all of this for LGBTQ+ youth in rural communities.

But there is more than this. There is resistance. There is love. There is history. Sylvia Rivera said, “…In the Civil Rights movement, in the war movement, in the women’s movement, we were still outcasts. The only reason they tolerated the transgender community in some of these movements was because we were gung-ho, we were front liners. We didn’t take no shit from nobody. We had nothing to lose…I’ll be the first one to step on any organization, any politician’s toes if I have to, to get the rights for my community.”

Sylvia was a revolutionary, and Pride month to me is about honoring her work, the work of Marsha, of STAR, of ACT UP, the generation we lost to HIV/AIDS, of Gavin Grimm, Pulse nightclub, and ceaselessly educating, advocating for, and loving my community.

I will reject feelings of defeat and isolation, because I know the strength that can be found in my queer lineage. The political climate we are seeing, the rollback of trans student protections, abuse within the prison industrial complex, these things are a collective drop in the bucket of the hurdles our community has faced. Sylvia was subjected to this and more; nevertheless, she persisted.

The internal revolution is strong in the minds of queer youth and this Pride we will mindfully remember the legacy of social justice we’ve inherited and remain staunch in our belief that the youth can and will resist these injustices and shape a more equitable future.