By Raychel Sanner, Senior Digital Media Strategist, ACLU of New Mexico
Before coming out as transgender, I always saw Pride as an over-the-top and insanely fun celebration of humanity’s best quality: love.
Though in the years since being ‘out,’ my appreciation for everything Pride month represents has widened and deepened substantially. Pride is protest, yes. But, Pride is also a story about our interconnected struggle for liberation. It’s a story about how those who came before us struggled to live authentically and securely. Additionally, it’s the story about how, even today, we are still struggling to live free and equal in the United States.
In retelling the story of Pride, it has become more and more popular to reference the Stonewall riots as the major event of LGBTQ+ liberation. But Stonewall was not the beginning of the LGBTQ+ struggle in America. Far from it, in fact. It was simply one inflection point amongst many.
In 1924, Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights, the first recognized gay rights organization in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court gave the LGBTQ+ community their first win at the court in 1958, ruling that pro-LGBTQ+ writing could not be banned. The 60s saw countless riots across the country in protest of police harassment of LGBTQ+ people, the most notable of which happened after trans women of color led a six-day uprising in response to the police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.
In all of these moments, and countless others, the fight for equity and equality has never been about a singular moment or person. Throughout history, we’ve been here seeking to survive and thrive and, unfortunately, we’re still fighting many of the same battles today.
While the balance of power is shifting away from LGBTQ+ hate, there are still active groups both here in New Mexico and across the country who continue to reach to the past where hate against LGBTQ+ people was both normal and legal. Their goal is simple: to make it harder for us to live proudly while retaining the right to discriminate and deny accommodations, health care, and services to LGBTQ+ people.
The United States Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a Philadelphia Catholic foster care agency that refused to work with same-sex couples. Though the ruling was based on specific language in the contract and does not recognize a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs, the decision is nonetheless disappointing and disheartening. In states across the country, over the last year, there has been a tidal wave of anti-trans laws introduced — more than in the previous 10 years combined.
Unfortunately, New Mexico isn’t immune to attempts at undermining LGBTQ+ dignity and rights. This past legislative session, lawmakers introduced a bill aimed at banning trans girls from school sports. Another bill aimed to make it legal to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in healthcare. While both legislative efforts failed spectacularly, they underscore how we must remain on guard as those who desire to discriminate against queer people are continuing to launch political attacks here at home.
In April, we learned the Alamogordo Public Schools Board of Education was considering a resolution that would ban trans girls from participating in school sports. This week, we received news that this effort is moving forward. In response, the ACLU of New Mexico is marshalling every resource we have available to fight this transphobic attack on children.
Other horrendous incidents — including the repeated misgendering of a trans woman at a local store in Albuquerque and vandalism of a crosswalk meant to celebrate our community — highlight just how much work there is still left to be done to change hearts and minds.
Trans people in particular have a higher rate of joblessness as well as a higher likelihood to be unhoused. Despite advancements in New Mexico on trans people being able to obtain accurate IDs, we are still waiting on the Biden administration to act to make it easier to get accurate federal IDs.
We’ve seen a lot of major victories over the past decade, but New Mexico and the United States still have a long road ahead to ensure all of us are equal, safe, and free. The NM Entiende coalition, along with allied organizations like the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico and Equality New Mexico, are fighting everyday to ensure LGBTQ+ people can live safely without shame or stigma within our communities. Though our fight isn’t finished, I have a lot of optimism that together, we will continue the legacy of those who came before us advancing our rights, and ensuring the next generation can live even more authentically than we can.
I am confident that love will win, but I also know that the legacy of Pride means that it’s on all of us to ensure that this future becomes reality.