This is America: 'If your Pride isn't intersectional, it's not Pride'

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A black, sparkly mesh shirt. A bright rainbow wristband. A speedo (my first).

All items I've slipped on recently as I've celebrated Pride Month.

Don't let the corporations fool you, though. Pride is about much more than glitter and garments and galas.

It's about community and paying homage to Black and Latina transgender women who started the movement. It's about fighting bigotry and educating people about LGBTQ issues – emphasis on the "t" – so they can understand harmful legislation when they see it. It's about love – for your family and/or chosen family, for your friends, for your neighbors and above all, yourself.

I’m David Oliver, an entertainment reporter focusing on diversity and equality at USA TODAY, and I’d like to welcome you to this week’s "This Is America," a newsletter about race, identity and how they shape our lives. Stay with me for the queerest news you'll read all day.

But first, race and justice news we're watching:

In conversation

Join us at 4 p.m. ET Thursday, June 24, on Twitter Spaces! We will be talking about Pride Month, rainbow capitalism, transgender rights and the importance of LGBTQ joy.

Pride is a protest — one we're still fighting

It can't be stated enough: Pride began as a protest against police at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. The LGBTQ community owes Black and Latina transgender women, well, everything. We would not enjoy the rights we have today without their tireless, trailblazing efforts.

Corporations corral around the community during Pride Month, plastering rainbows on their social media accounts and brick-and-mortar retail stores to claim they support equality. It's called rainbow capitalism, and again: Don't let it blind you. Find out what a company stands for and advocates for outside of Pride Month and what kind of organizations it supports before purchasing the cute, colorful top. Because much bigger issues lurk.

'It remains purely symbolic': Why rainbow capitalism can be harmful to LGBTQ people

The LGBTQ community owes Black and Latina transgender women, including Marsha P. Johnson, everything. We would not enjoy the rights we have today without their tireless, trailblazing efforts.
The LGBTQ community owes Black and Latina transgender women, including Marsha P. Johnson, everything. We would not enjoy the rights we have today without their tireless, trailblazing efforts.

The LGBTQ community – particular the transgender community – remains under attack. The U.S. hit a record for transgender killings, with Puerto Rico at the violent epicenter. In at least seven states, anti-trans laws have barred transgender girls and women from competing in high school sports. Marriage equality and protection from employment discrimination undoubtedly count as wins, but they were hurdles to jump. The true equality finish line remains a long way away.

Of course, still make room for joy this Pride Month.

In the face of trauma, trans people – and the LGBTQ community at large – often persevere and find joy. Experts recently told me the two are inextricably linked, and putting emphasis on LGBTQ joy this Pride Month is especially crucial given the wave of persecution against the community.

Joy will help the community thrive, but first they must survive – especially younger people. According to The Trevor Project, 42% of LGBTQ young people "seriously considered" suicide this past year. More than half of them were transgender and nonbinary.

At least 29 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Black and Latina transgender women are most at risk.

"Our survival depends on us finding ways to create joy for ourselves, ways to laugh together and sharing insights that can only come from truly knowing ourselves," Alex Schmider, GLAAD's associate director of transgender representation, told me.

More joy, please: We need to celebrate LGBTQ joy this Pride Month. Lives depend on it.

Will we ever achieve true LGBTQ acceptance?

I'm not sure. I want to be more optimistic; I have to be.

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active openly gay NFL player after coming out in an Instagram post Monday. Nassib alluded to a coming-out free world in a video accompanying the post: "I actually hope that one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are not necessary, but until then I will do my best and my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and compassionate."

Could the traditional "coming out" narrative someday be a thing of the past?

The answer, much like the coming out experience itself, is more nuanced than waving a rainbow Pride flag and riding off into the sunset on a unicorn parade float. A future in which LGBTQ members don't feel obligated to explain or qualify their sexuality will require sweeping societal change.

I know that as a cisgender white gay man, I am free to go outside as I please with little concern for my well-being. I can't say the same for my Black and brown queer and transgender siblings. Since they are not free, I am not free. Until sweeping societal change is more realized none of us will be free.

But we will still laugh and sing and march on anyway. For me, that means wearing a black, sparkly mesh shirt, screaming and writing my way through support for the most marginalized members of my big, beautiful queer family.

I read this somewhere and have adopted it: "If your Pride isn't intersectional, it's not Pride." Let this be your year-round guiding light.

This is America is a weekly take on current events from a rotating panel of USA TODAY Network journalists with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. If you're seeing this newsletter online or someone forwarded it to you, you can subscribe here. If you have feedback for us, we'd love for you to drop it here.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why if your LGBTQ Pride Month isn't intersectional, it's not pride

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