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The first Pride was a riot. Many LGBT folks – especially BIPOC people of trans experience – were forced to defend themselves from the harassment and brutality of the police and partook in a days-long rebellion in the streets of New York City.  

Those brave souls started a worldwide movement. Nowadays Pride is nothing more than a remnant of a remnant – a party without a purpose.

What does the LGBT community have to celebrate in Florida?

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his cronies have declared war on our community. They’re targeting every aspect of the LGBT alphabet from gender-affirming care for transgender youth to drag shows, and any gay men and allies who object - are branded as “groomers” – even high school students.

DeSantis is winning.

There is no appeasing our hate-filled governor or today’s far-right conservatives. DeSantis won by 19 points in November – a landslide in Florida politics. It’s no wonder he feels so emboldened to push his bigotry down our throats.

We all know he’s not trying to protect children or champion parental rights. As other stories have pointed out, he’s not targeting rated R movies or establishments like Hooters.

There’s no working with someone who isn’t operating in good faith. Give him an inch and he’ll take a thousand miles or more. His actions have stopped the progress of the LGBT community in Florida dead in its tracks.

He objected to a Black studies class because it included queer theory. He’s targeting books with LGBT characters and themes.

DeSantis’ tactics are scaring our allies into submission. He’s using his executive powers to silence and erase us while his allies in the legislature do his bidding.

DeSantis is winning.

Getting anything done on a statewide level in Florida was always an uphill battle, but we could at least count on our local leaders to champion our causes.

No more.

In 2021 the school board in Miami-Dade voted 7-1 to recognize LGBT history month. In 2022, they voted 8-1 against it. In Broward we have a school board member speaking at anti-LGBT rallies and calling on the Proud Boys to “protect the children.”

Even our local LGBT leaders are negotiating with known homophobes.

In 2021 conservatives were outraged over a school field trip to a local gay-owned restaurant - despite the fact the trip took place before opening hours and the “racy” menu had been swapped out for a kid-friendly version. The community, and our allies, rallied behind the establishment. In 2022 the annual field trip did not take place. Wonder why?

DeSantis is winning.

For years we counted on the courts to protect us, but that’s no longer guaranteed. Recently a court overturned our local bans against practicing conversion therapy on minors. The Supreme Court may very well allow certain businesses to discriminate against gay weddings. If that happens, right-wing conservatives will not stop there. They will most surely find new ways to discriminate against us.

But it can get worse.

  • In Tennessee the state rejected millions in federal funds to combat HIV because some funds went to places like Planned Parenthood. The governor pledged to replace the money with state funds, but not target groups at substantial risk of the virus, including gay men and people who inject drugs.
  • In Arkansas they’re attempting to ban drag from all public places. But the vaguely worded legislation could easily prevent any non-binary or trans person from performing. 
  • In Oklahoma the legislature is considering banning gender-affirming care for anyone under the age of 26.

Remember when conservatives told us they were just “protecting the children”? Don’t believe their talking points. These extremists are not operating in good faith.

I have no doubt DeSantis will look at these states for inspiration in order to find new ways to target our community.

DeSantis is winning.

We’re too busy planning parties, galas and more. But what do those things all mean when the government is stripping us of our rights?

Where are the LGBT-friendly businesses DeSantis has targeted? They’re silently negotiating a way to stay in business.

Now is the time to be loud and proud and bold. Instead we’re cowering in fear. Our leaders are looking for ways to appease DeSantis - to avoid his wrath. No one wants to be his next target.

DeSantis is winning.

How much will we give up before we decide as a community DeSantis has gone too far? What will it take?

DeSantis has already attempted to curtail our right to assemble and protest through an anti-riot law he championed after the Black Lives Matter protests. The ACLU called it the anti-peaceful protest law blasting it for being broad, and vague, and warned it would have a chilling effect. Luckily a federal judge has blocked parts of the law from taking effect – for now.

DeSantis is winning. And we’re letting him.

I am reminded of the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr. who once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

That proclamation wasn’t a call to non-action, to do nothing. The universe may indeed bend towards justice, but only if we push it along.

King also said in that speech: “The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”

So when we “celebrate” this weekend just remember what the LGBT folks at the Stonewall Inn risked when they fought back against harassment, discrimination and bigotry – their lives and livelihoods.

Now ask yourself this: what are you willing to risk to protect future generations of LGBT people?