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The Uprising of Pride

Stonewall Riot activist Martin Boyce on Pride’s history, our progress and how far we have left to go.

June is Pride Month—a time of celebration. Most cities across North America host parades and festivals, where the queer community and allies alike come together, embracing all unique identities. It remembers The Stonewall Riot of 1969, which sparked the first Pride, and champions the ongoing pursuit of justice and equal rights for queer people.

This is a pursuit Martin Boyce knows all too well—an activist who was at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village when police raided it in June of 1969. Martin saw it amplify voices that were once kept quiet, inspiring a strength that has echoed through the decades; “The Stonewall Riot showed gay valor, the sacred band of thieves, gay valor defeated Sparta. These are a war and army of lovers who needed to shine in each other's eyes. They won—they beat great Sparta.”

Martin Boyce, Stonewall and queer rights activist, deeply understands the fight for equality.

Raids weren’t unusual at the time—safe spaces for the queer community were frequently targeted by police in undeniable acts of homophobia, transphobia and violence. But that night, the queer community bravely fought back against police brutality and bigotry and ignited a week-long protest to end discrimination and demand equal rights. Momentum continued building as more activists emerged, organizations mobilized, and people came together to fight for basic equality. A fight that is, unfortunately, still ongoing.

With over 500 anti-trans bills so far in 2023, this year is the worst on record for hateful legislation. These bills seek to ban or reduce access to gender affirming health and medical care, ban trans youth from sports, and impose laws on using the bathroom. Let that reality sink in for a moment.

The sheer number of pieces of proposed legislation is staggering and the highest ever. But this does not track with public sentiment. 83 percent of Americans favor laws to protect gay and trans people from discrimination and people have mobilized in opposition to the proposed bills—preventing many from being passed into law.

And while a decades long struggle might feel exhausting at times, for Martin Boyce there is no other option than to keep going; “We can't be impatient. Patience is now what we need. We suffered for 2000 years, gay people... but we can fight this time. We have a platform. We have a history. We have a geography. We had nothing in 69. It’s a good fight.”

There is something powerful behind “We had nothing in 69” as it highlights just how much the queer community has accomplished, against extraordinary odds. Not only with legislation, but in the impact radical acceptance has for gay and Trans folk individually.

The uprising of Pride may have been sparked at Stonewall over five decades ago, but the fire is still fiercely burning. Queer people are a part of every family, every school, every community. It isn’t enough to be outraged by these attacks on LGBTQ+ rights, we must act. Martin urges, “It can't be just us. It has to be justice. This is for everybody… We've got to try to protect what we have, maintain what we have. Be vigilant and watch their every step, not your step, watch their steps. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. Know who they are, know who they can be, forgive them, but be ready for them. We have to be.”

The fight for equality and basic human rights for LGBTQ+ people is far from over, but we will continue to come together in the name of acceptance over oppression. Together, our valor will defeat Sparta once and for all!

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