Some of us, Audre Lorde asserts in her poem entitled “A Litany For Survival,” were never meant to survive. Survival, in this instance, might be considered a multifaceted action – perhaps one that moves beyond the tangible body. But what about the survival of queer and trans memories — that which is not tangible — from those who are not present with us (or who are no longer here)? I am curious to explore how can we, as a community this Pride Month, can recollect the memories of our community and community leaders to ensure their preservation and continuity. Not only for future queer and trans generations to come, but also to remember those memories that create our histories.
Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Grace, Raymond Castro, Stormé DeLarverie.
This past semester in my final class as a graduate student at California State University, Fullerton, I enrolled in an American Studies course entitled “Culture and Desire.” The course delineated the history of sexual movements and political revolutions, which included the initial commencement of queer and transgender liberation provoked by the Stonewall riots in late June 1969. Today, the Stonewall riots are recognized as a series of demonstrations that marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. Turning to the precise moment when the first brick or punch was thrown that night, it is important to understand that it launched the queer and transgender community onto a trajectory toward uprising and resistance. More importantly, I believe the memory of this action—the action of fighting back against normative forces—forever epitomized the Stonewall riots as an act of resistance and queer and trans solidarity.
We must continue to build upon the memory of the Stonewall riots, its leaders, and the energy from the memory, as a radical action of survival, allowing for the self-preservation of our community and its beautiful intersections. As academics Christopher Castiglia and Christopher Reed contend, “memories enable more than survival; they are imaginative ways to disrupt and transform conditions that make survival necessary.” Memories, in other words, can be used as “imaginative” and transformative devices that allow us to recall, to move, to push, to act, to cause a disruption, to resist, to interfere with, and/or dismantle. Specifically, I see the memory of the Stonewall riots as a magnificent example to resist conventional social and political structures that attempt to contain us, limit us, punish us, push violence against our bodies. We must remember and use memories from the past as a way to reconstruct the present, and to a greater extent, our future.
Pride Month marks the recognition and celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the United States. However, I notice common celebratory expressions of pride are more than ever pointed toward assimilation and respectability. Growing contingents of corporations, brands, and banks are profiting off “Pride” and eradicating the original message of the Stonewall riots and the leaders in the movement. I do not think that this was what Pride was intended for.
Instead of asking what has made the experience of “Pride Month” possible, we should ask what does Pride Month make possible for us?
Does it enhance or diminish our experiences and our memories as queer and transgender people?