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#Love Is Not Enough: Why Pride Must Include a Fight 

Wednesday, Jun 22 2016

Last June, the United States Supreme Court chose the day before the 46th anniversary of New York's Stonewall riots — widely seen as the start of the modern LGBT rights movement — to announce that gay Americans had the freedom to marry.

It was still early in the morning on the West Coast, but the party started immediately after the 5-4 decision was announced. Politicians gave speeches, Facebook was awash with rainbow-filtered profile photos, and thousands descended on to the streets of the world's most famous gayborhood — Harvey Milk's own Castro — to celebrate the milestone victory, more than a decade after San Francisco first started marrying same-sex couples at City Hall. #LoveWon.

But for many gay, queer, and trans people, #Love has not been enough.

For years, gay marriage and military inclusion had been the two issues monopolizing the "homosexual agenda."

But in a city where economic inequality is famously worse than Rwanda's, and where tens of thousands of people of color and working people — queer or not — have fled the city in the past few decades, the struggle for equal rights — and in many cases, existence — continues to be way too real.

The original Pride parades of the 1970s were protest rallies rather than the drunkfests sponsored by liquor companies and banks they have been in recent years. This year marks a public move back toward the struggle at Pride, the theme of which is "Racial and Economic Justice."

Gay and bisexual men do not enjoy the economic power wielded by straight white men, earning up to 32 percent less than straight counterparts in similar jobs, according to a UCLA study. And within the LGBT community, there is no shortage of racism: according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, four out of five Asian LGBTs say they've experienced racism from white LGBTs.

And society — even "LGBT-friendly" San Francisco — has particular trouble with trans people, who are imprisoned at a rate seven times the national average. Once behind bars, the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 40 percent of transgender people are sexually abused by prison staff or other prisoners.

Miss Major, the beloved trans icon who was grand marshal of 2014's parade, was close to declining the honor because of SF Pride's shady past with respect to the transgender community.

"They needed a token black trans woman," Major says, explaining that she only accepted the award to show other trans women of color that "you can live past 30 and be successful," she tells SF Weekly. "To make the statement that 'I'm still fucking here.'"

Because that itself is an accomplishment.

In 2012, Dafahlia Mosley moved to San Francisco from Stockton with great expectations: acceptance as a young, black, trans woman.

San Francisco, the gayest city in the country, wasn't up to the task.

Mosley lives at Larkin Street Youth Services, a queer and trans homeless youth shelter in the Tenderloin. Queer kids are overrepresented on the streets: Almost one-third of homeless youth in San Francisco identify as LGBT, according to a 2013 city study.

Now a queer educator at the LYRIC Center for LGBTQQ Youth in the Castro, Mosley runs workshops about subjects most people never need to know about, like safety for sex workers and police brutality against queer and trans people.

Among trans women, there's often a cost for surviving violent situations.

Eighty percent of LGBT victims of hate crimes said police were "indifferent or hostile" to them, according to the 2015 National Report on Hate Violence Against LGBTQ and HIV-Affected Communities. And that was just among the victims who went to police. In the last National Transgender Discrimination Survey from 2011, half of trans people reported that they would not go to the police for help because they were afraid they'd take the blame for a violent situation, even if they were the victim.

"People immediately blame the trans woman," she says, citing the recent news about Alisha Walker, a trans sex worker who was charged with first-degree murder for what many view as self-defense against an aggressive john.

So young she can't legally buy cigarettes, Mosley speaks eloquently about "intersectionality," or overlapping oppressions. Put another way: Although both fall under the umbrella of "LGBT," a black, trans woman and a gay cis male may have vastly different life experiences.

In and out of the LGBT spaces, queers experience ableism, poverty, sexism, and racism just as non-queer people do.

LGBT people of color say the rainbow flag has a lily-white streak.

At a Castro vigil for the 49 victims of the June 12 mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub frequented by Latino and trans patrons, Lito Sandoval, the president of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, was angry. Latinos had to ask to be included in the event's organizing.

Headliners for the vigil included politicos like Mayor Ed Lee and white, openly gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, who justified the exclusion to The Examiner: "We had 12 hours to plan that vigil ... this goes into the 'no good deed goes unpunished' category."

Storm Miguel Florez, a Latinx singer-songwriter, summed it up differently. "We were an afterthought," he says, noting he would've skipped the vigil except for Sandoval's last-minute inclusion, because he expected people "to use this tragedy as an excuse to perpetuate Islamophobia" within the gay community. (The shooter, American-born Omar Mateen, a security guard whose parents emigrated from Afghanistan, pledged allegiance to ISIS during the massacre.)

Florez channeled some of that frustration into creating an image, since shared hundreds of times on social media: a photo of Supervisor Wiener bearing the tongue-in-cheek message: "White privilege ... means never having to say you're sorry."

Calle 24, a Latino heritage group in the Mission District, held a separate ceremony a week later, on June 17.

While trans people of color are the hardest-hit by criminalization, poverty, and violence, middle-class gays have their own set of problems that go beyond the question of where to register for wedding gifts.

On June 15, Republicans in Congress blocked a defense spending bill that would have prohibited the federal government from contracting with companies that discriminate against LGBT workers.

Nationally speaking, full employment rights do not exist for LGBT people. One in 10 LGBT people said they'd been fired for being gay, according to the Center for American Progress. (That number rose steeply to one in four for trans people.) LGBT business owners are also "unfairly denied loans," according to The Opportunity Fund, an organization that gives microloans to small businesses like the LGBT-owned Brenda's French Soul Food in the Tenderloin.

But for the most marginalized — trans people and particularly trans people of color — extreme poverty and violence are problems that won't unstick.

Trans people may be more visible in American society than ever, with celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, one of the stars of Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, appearing as fixtures in US Weekly and on the talk show circuit. But they are outliers.

"More trans people on TV is wonderful," Miss Major says, "but that doesn't help the poor trans girl selling her body on the street so she can get something to eat."

And if full "gay liberation" — the aim of all those early Pride celebrations and this year's theme's — is ever going to be more than a cute fantasy, the people who are most down-and-out is where the movement needs to focus the most attention.


About The Author

Toshio Meronek


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