Pride Month is over, but the work isn't. 5 ways you can be an ally to the Black LGBTQ+ community

David Oliver, USA TODAY

I wasn't sure how I was going to acknowledge LGBTQ Pride this year.

Between the global coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, I thought about whether and how Pride belonged in the national conversation. 

My conclusion: It very much does, especially with an emphasis on supporting the Black LGBTQ+ community.

"We have to examine our own community and the racism that lurks in the LGBTQ community,"  Earl Fowlkes, president of the Center for Black Equity, previously told USA TODAY. One example: Queer sex and dating app Grindr recently announced it would be removing its ethnicity filter based on feedback and as part of its commitment to fighting racism.

Pride this year looked dramatically different. The usual corporate-sponsored parades and festivals were replaced with socially distanced celebrations, virtual ceremonies and Black Lives Matter protests. But perhaps Pride should have looked like this all along: Coming together in person and in spirit for some of the most marginalized members of our community.

And now, even with Pride Month ending, the work of being an ally and making a difference does not.

Pride: 5 ways to honor the Black LGBTQ+ community

1. Participate in the Black Lives Matter movement. If you want to support LGBTQ organizations right now, direct your efforts to ones that intersect the Black community. Donate to Black queer organizations, or attend protests with this intersection in mind. Thirty-nine percent of LGBTQ adults in the U.S. identify as people of color, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA.

On June 14, thousands stood outside the Brooklyn Museum in New York, largely wearing white and spreading the message Black Trans Lives Matter

Did you know black transgender women led the first Pride, a protest outside the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969? Transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson may have thrown the first brick at Stonewall (at least, that's the consensus of most of the community; Johnson said she didn’t get to the bar until the rioting had already started). Activists rioted after a police raid at the bar; New York had refused to give licenses to bars that served gay people. Police entered Stonewall with a warrant and arrested 13 people. If it weren't for Black transgender women and others protesting outside Stonewall, we wouldn't have the parades we look forward to every year.

If you choose to attend an online Pride event, keep all this in mind and make sure whichever event you're attending is just as inclusive.

2. Read, read, read. Support Black queer authors (I recently finished "How We Fight for Our Lives" by Saeed Jones, and can't recommend it enough) and buy from Black-owned bookstores. It's also worth reflecting on your own media consumption. How many articles have you read about Black transgender women? Do you know how many transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed this year alone? (The answer is 14, per the Human Rights Campaign, including Riah Milton and Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, both discovered dead this month. Last year, it was 26 killed, most of whom were Black and transgender.)

“I’m afraid that one day there could be a victim and that victim could be me," Karleigh Chardonnay Webb, a transgender activist and operator at the suicide prevention organization, Trans Lifeline, told USA TODAY last year.

3. Be an ally  and mean it. This means listening to and reading voices unlike your own, but also means thinking about who you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Black drag queen Jo Mama told me this month something I will remember forever about examining your social media presence: "If you can’t find a single person of color in the first five photos, then you have a problem. That looks like it could be a symptom of racism. You need to examine why that is," Jo Mama said. Don't get defensive — do the work.

4. Watch, watch, watch. Educate yourself about Pride and the Black queer community through documentaries, film and television. Documentary "Disclosure," on Netflix now and executive produced by Laverne Cox, looks at the history of transgender representation in film and TV. The first two seasons of FX's drama "Pose," featuring many Black transgender women as they compete in ballroom competitions and support each other through the HIV/AIDS crisis, are also available on Netflix. "Paris Is Burning" offers a real-life glimpse into ballroom culture, and the beautiful, Black and queer film "Moonlight" won best picture at the Oscars in 2017. Be careful to read up on what you watch first, however: Films that propagate stereotypes or otherwise receive criticism from the communities they portray might not be worth your time.

5. Talk to the queer people in your life. If you're a white, straight and/or cisgender person, don't let the onus just be on your Black, brown, queer and/or transgender friends to talk about Pride. Make a donation or engage in a discussion about the origins of Pride, or maybe offer thoughts on the recent Supreme Court decision that guaranteed LGBTQ people couldn't be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I'm not sure what the world will look like in a few months, let alone tomorrow. But trust that I'm doing everything in my power and encouraging those in my life —  and you —  to step up for the Black LGBTQ+ community. We haven't achieved equality unless everyone gets a seat at the table.

Contributing: Elinor Aspegren and Cara Kelly

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pride Month is over; work isn't. Be an ally to Black LGBTQ+ community

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