Pride 2016: Fight On

For the last five years, June has been a month of such victories that even long-time activists were caught off-guard. In 2011, New York became the most populous state to allow same-sex marriage — legislatively, and with one chamber of the state government under Republican control. The Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop. 8 in 2013, and 2015 saw nationwide marriage equality. (You could sense Ruth Bader Ginsburg chuckling to herself as she triumphantly adjusted her neck doily.) For a second there last Pride, it felt like the worst problem facing LGBTQ San Franciscans was a plague of rainbow tutus at UN Plaza.

In the aftermath of Pulse, of course, things have turned darker. The murder of 49 mostly LGBTQ, mostly Latin people in a gay-friendly city most closely associated with The Happiest Place on Earth, the grotesque erasure of their queerness from the tragedy in Orlando, and the instrumentalist use of their dead queer bodies to further an Islamophobic political program — by contrast, 2016 is a year marked by death.

Even though trans visibility has never been more prominent in the popular consciousness, and even though same-sex unions are coming to conservative Catholic countries like Italy and Colombia, much heavy lifting remains. Under Florida law, survivors of the Pulse shooting could be fired from their jobs for their sexual orientation or gender identity at any point. While San Francisco Pride has chosen airily anodyne themes in the past (“Shakin' It Up!” “Commemorate, Educate, Liberate — Celebrate!”) this year's message, “For Racial and Economic Justice,” was timely and poignant even before Orlando. There is no freedom if it isn't evenly distributed, and there will never be justice if the have-nots continue to go wanting. In a city torn apart by the consequences of unprecedented affluence for some, connecting gender and sexuality with race, ethnicity, and class has never been more critical.

However much the stars may have aligned in the 2010s, the LGBTQ movement and its allies were never destined for a linear trajectory toward universal equality. Less than two weeks after the worst mass shooting in modern American history, it can feel disrespectful to stumble out of a bar and walk past the memorial at 18th and Castro streets — but in a way, that is the fight. Experiencing unabashed pleasure, and the joys of living as a sexual being, are only possible when people live their lives without fear, and it's incumbent upon every queer individual to be as queer as we want to be.

So happy Pride, San Francisco. Raise a glass, raise a fist, and raise your head high, because love will win in the end. You can feel it in our pulse.

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