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No Pride for Some of Us, Without Liberation for All of Us

What is Pride? It’s a question that seems especially poignant these last few years, with major victories and setbacks alike for LGBTQ+ people. At its core, Pride is a way to recognize, self affirm, and create greater visibility, and in turn, acceptance, for those within the queer community. While queer activism dates back to the mid-19th century, it was the Stonewall Riots in 1969 that helped propel queer history forward and create the modern Gay Pride Movement, recognized the world over. Stonewall, like Boston Harbor or Harpers Ferry before it, was merely the beginning of what would become a movement to fundamentally upend the status quo and propel the rights and equality of people forward. These changes were hard-fought and took years, decades, and even centuries to actualize, but change did come. However, despite best intentions to provide equality to all, these changes often missed the mark in providing equity for all. 

Photo courtesy of Gaze at the National Parks

Trans activist Marsha P. Johnson sums this up best with the quote, “No pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us.” Thinking about the major events that shaped our national history and changed the course for its people, one can’t help but notice that promised equality rarely means equity. In the Revolutionary War, despite the aid of women, indigenous people, and enslaved people, equity wasn’t granted; in fact, for indigenous people, this battle never ended.

In the Civil War, despite the commitment of the North to end slavery and the regiments of Black soldiers who fought for this freedom, the dehumanizing and marginalizing of Black Americans never ended and continues to this day. With the Stonewall Riots and the Queer Liberation Movement, despite the important role of trans people, this group continues to be the most vulnerable, and is constantly the target of violence, hateful public rhetoric, and laws that prevent their most basic freedoms. 

While Marsha P. Johnson may have only been talking about the LGBTQ+ community in the above quote, it is clear that pride, freedom, and rights—while often fought for on a grander scale—are not granted to everyone in the same way. The more one looks at our shared history, the more one sees that despite our revolutions and our calls for social change, we as a nation are consistently guilty of not following through with our commitments, not tying up loose ends, and leaving people out in favor of others. This harsh truth undoubtedly cheapens the freedoms, liberties, and ideals this nation was “founded upon.” Our pride, be it for our community, our shared struggles, or our resilience, can not truly be celebrated and touted until liberation and equity is available for all. Therefore, the time has come for our Pride to evolve. 

Photo courtesy of Gaze at the National Parks

In order to change the status quo yet again, we as a nation must do some uncomfortable unlearning and reckoning. We must continue to advocate, support, and fight for the rights of those who can not. We have to ensure that no one is left out of the narrative any longer. The revolutionary spirit of this country once again beckons. We are waking up to experiences beyond our own, we are petitioning our leaders, and we are protesting in the streets, not only for the rights of the marginalized, but in order to repair deep-seated injustices. Systemic racism, the rights of indigenous people, climate change, trans rights, income inequality, sexism, and police brutality; we as a nation must show up, we must fight for our very souls, and we must stand side by side with those of us who have been and are historically disadvantaged, and recognize that we are all deserving of what this country promises. Things will not change overnight; in fact, in many revolutions, the fight takes decades, if not centuries. What is right and just can only persevere through hard-fought actions, dedicated motives, and ironclad resilience—cll things that past Civil Rights Movements have shown us, all things that we have learned as members of the LGBTQ+ community, all things that we can carry forward in the fight for social justice. 

There are plenty of NPS sites that underscore the importance of our national discourse when it comes to people advocating for their rights. From Independence Hall to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail to The Stonewall Inn, each site brings with it the stories of people who are, as it says on the Statue of Liberty, “yearning to breathe free.” While the Revolutionary War may have granted us our nationhood, the fight for a fairer, more equitable, and more just country continues. Revolutions rarely end, they evolve, intentionally or not. The challenge we face now, as this revolution and our Pride evolves, is to ensure that the changes it brings benefit all of us and not just some of us. 

Take responsibility. Do your part. Show up. Listen. Get involved. Read. Educate yourself and others. Share resources. Donate money. Volunteer time. March. Vote.

Header photo: Statue of Liberty National Monument/Photo courtesy of NPS

Dustin Ballard and Michael Ryan are the co-hosts and co-creators of Gaze at the National Parks, the Podcast, a show that features one hiking trail in one national park, one park at a time.

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