LGBTQ Community and Allies Urged to Stay ‘Visible and Vigilant’ as Stonewall Anniversary Approaches

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Photograph of a rainbow flag against a clear blue sky.

Friday, June 28 marks the 50thanniversary of the start of the Stonewall riots, a watershed moment in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights. As people around the world prepare to celebrate the progress of the last half century and the culmination of Pride month, many advocates urge the LGBTQ community and allies to remember that the struggle for equality is far from over.

Of particular concern is the recent regression of LGBTQ acceptance in the United States. On June 24, GLAAD released survey results showing that young adults are actually becoming less accepting of LGBTQ people when it comes to certain scenarios, such as finding out that their child’s teacher or their personal doctor is gay. While the annual survey revealed an overall drop in LGBTQ acceptance in 2018, adults aged 18 to 34 were the only group to show a decline in 2019.

The results are an “urgent reminder that LGBTQ people and their allies should continue to remain visible and vigilant on the fight for 100% acceptance of LGBTQ people,” a GLAAD press release states.

The 2019 survey is especially worrisome as young Americans are generally assumed to be more supportive of the LGBTQ community than older generations, according to a report in Time magazine. Though 8 out of 10 survey takers said they believe in equal rights regardless of gender or sexual orientation, support for “legal equality is not the same as acceptance,” a GLAAD spokesperson told Time.

The Public Religion Research Institute released a similar poll this week showing that the number of Americans who believe small business owners have the right to refuse service to LGBTQ customers is increasing. Nearly half of Republicans supported this idea in 2019 compared to 21 percent in 2014. Just under 20 percent of Democrats now share this belief, up from 11 percent in 2014.

While fewer respondents said they believe business owners should be allowed to refuse service to people who are Muslim, Jewish, or African American, their numbers are also growing. Some point to the Trump administration’s racist and homophobic rhetoric and policies as contributing to this rise in intolerance.

The administration’s regressive treatment of transgender Americans is seen as a particular threat to the progress of the last 50 years. While the president has pledged support for decriminalizing homosexuality worldwide, policies against transgender military service, health, and housing have left LGBTQ populations in the U.S. more vulnerable. The longstanding harassment, violence, and murder of transgender women, especially those of color, shows that this community continues to be the target of widespread prejudice despite the efforts of the Pride movement.

In the face of such inequity, some LGBTQ activists have denounced Pride celebrations, while others have created alternative activities to the mainstream festivals and parades that are set to take place in cities across the world this weekend. Approximately 4 million tourists are expected to visit New York City, home of the Stonewall Inn and the 2019 host city for WorldPride, this week alone.

Transgender activist Karleigh Chardonnay Merlot told USA Today it’s important to celebrate the visibility of LGBTQ people during Pride festivities while still remembering the struggles of the past and the work that needs to be done.

“I’m one of those who believe that Pride is a protest, but I’m not saying take the party away,” she told the paper. “I’m saying make sure we don’t forget the real reason for the season, as well.”