OPINION: Pride is most powerful when it is intersectional

by David Mattingly | Fund for Global Human Rights
Friday, 12 June 2020 10:00 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A 1970 photo of Marsha P. Johnson handing out flyers in support of Gay Students at NYU is seen here courtesy of the New York Public Library's "1969: The Year of Gay Liberation" exhibit. Photos, documents, clippings from the gay media and other artefacts illustrate what was a shocking development at the time: gays and lesbians coming out of the closet to demonstrate for their civil rights, often at great risk. The free exhibit will run at the main branch all of June. REUTERS/Diana Davies-NYPL/Handout

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

LGBT+ rights movements are strongest when they support other progressive causes and are supported in return

David Mattingly is vice president for programs at the Fund for Global Human Rights, which makes grants to human rights movements around the world

This year, Pride began as it first did—not with parades, but with protests.

As the world roils from historic crises and instability—including a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting minority communities, governments that are exploiting a public health crisis to stifle human rights, and a global economy on the precipice—outrage over police killings of black Americans has fueled widespread demonstrations calling for racial justice across the United States and around the world.

As we observe and celebrate Pride this year, it is important not to turn the page from that struggle. Instead, this is a moment to reflect on how allies from across progressive movements have contributed to LGBT+ rights around the world—and how we, as LGBT+ activists, must stand in solidarity with others.

Although history is dominated by white, cisgender voices, LGBT+ liberation has never been the purview of a single perspective. Black, brown, transgender, and gender non-conforming activists, like Marsha P. Johnson, were integral figures in the 1969 Stonewall uprising. And they were vital voices for inclusion as the movement grew.

Since then, LGBT+ equality has often been a bastion of intersectional activism—and proof of the power of collective action. Feminist, racial justice, and economic rights organizations and movements—to name just a few—have stood in solidarity with LGBT+ activists in the United States.

Globally, too, the LGBT+ movement has been strengthened by the support of allies from the broader human rights community.

In 2009, the Ugandan government introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a venomous piece of homophobic legislation that effectively criminalized homosexuality. Initial drafts of the bill included clauses that proposed the death penalty for people convicted of same-sex relations, which was later changed to life imprisonment.

In a campaign of terror, photos of gay, lesbian, and trans Ugandans were publicized in national newspapers, forcing the LGBT+ community underground. The Ugandan Parliament passed the bill in December 2013 and President Yoweri Museveni signed it into law in 2014.

When the draft legislation was first introduced, activists from across the spectrum of the human rights community—including women’s rights and refugee and migrant’s rights organizations — formed the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, or the Coalition.

This outpouring of support and action from all corners of Ugandan civil society helped bring widespread attention to the plight facing LGBT+ Ugandans and spurred international outrage and condemnation. When the Ugandan Constitutional Court overturned the new law on procedural grounds, President Museveni declined to appeal.

Around the world, the LGBT+ movement has been strengthened by the support and solidarity of cross-sectoral alliances like the Coalition. As part of this wider progressive community, LGBT+ activists have helped center and amplify other vulnerable or marginalized voices, as well.

In the Philippines, lesbian advocates Galang are a cornerstone of the Filipino LGBT+ movement. But as an organization that works at the intersection of sexuality and poverty, the group also been an important voice for workers’ rights and the class struggle. Operating in poor, urban environments, they’ve used their platform as a high-profile LGBT+ organization to highlight sources of economic injustice and disempowerment in the communities they serve.

Indian LGBT+ groups also have a long history of allyship with other human rights causes, including indigenous Adivasi rights and labor movements. India’s LGBT+ community was well represented at the recent nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which is widely considered to be codified anti-Muslim discrimination. LGBT+ feminist groups have also spoken out against the Indian government’s human rights abuses in Kashmir.

The power of collective action has been a unifying force for progressive causes around the world. Movements are most effective when they work in partnership with others.

Faced with the challenge of celebrating Pride in a context of global turmoil and during a moment of reckoning around white supremacist violence, these powerful stories of intersectional collaboration are a testament to the impact of solidarity—and a reminder of our responsibility to pursue all liberation with the same passion that was on display at the Stonewall Inn in 1969.


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