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A Different Tone to Pride This Year

By Ellyn Ruthstrom

As Executive Director of SpeakOUT, my custom over the last three years has been to publish a blog post to celebrate Pride Month with high energy and enthusiasm for the beauty, glitter, and joy of our high holiday. Outrageous fabulousness is a trademark of our celebrations and you won’t take that away from us! However, two crucial occurrences have shaped our realities this year that provide another layer of significance to our community’s Pride events. I hope, dear reader, that you don’t mind me getting a bit more serious this year.

One year ago on June 12th, I stood in Copley Square with several hundred others as we mourned the loss of 49 people that had been killed the night before in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. We were in shock and sought comfort within the same community that we had been marching through the streets of Boston with just the day before. From floats and rainbow flags to tears and grief within 24 hours.

Hundreds of people came out to Trinity Church in Copley Square on June 12th, 2016 for a vigil to mourn the victims of the Orlando Massacre.

Once we realized that the shooter had been motivated by ISIL terrorism and that the majority of victims were Latinx and LGBTQ, it only heightened the fear of violence against queer people and people of color in particular. Having the violence within our own queer space sent reverberations throughout the community. Some of us felt unsafe going to queer spaces; others of us defiantly set out to reclaim the spaces as our own. Vigils around the country similar to the one at Copley allowed us to vent our pain and seek out a place to feel safer together.

Secondly, since November 8th when the Electoral College produced a political outcome no one imagined could ever happen, our whole sense of safety has taken on a new dimension. Not only do we feel more targeted as LGBTQ people, but people of color, women, Muslims and Jews, immigrants and refugees, working class and people who live in poverty are all made more vulnerable by the policies and the hatemongering atmosphere this Administration perpetuates. We saw hate crimes increase by 20% in 2016, and indicators show these rising still in 2017. Almost every day we hear of instances of people being harassed and assaulted in public just for who they are.

For the last eight years, there has been an LGBT Pride celebration at the White House (one I’ve been honored to attend twice); and now, instead the current president curries favor with anti-LGBT organizations. On the positive side, this change of direction and general level of disregard for our community has prompted a renewed sense of urgency to vocally and visibly resist the actions of this Administration. SpeakOUT has definitely seen more interest in our community outreach programs and I’ve heard many other organizations report this upsurge.

As we near the first anniversary of the Orlando massacre, let’s double down on our commitment to uprooting hatred and working to end anti-LGBTQ bigotry throughout the country. Equality Florida, the key organization that responded to the Orlando tragedy, is asking folks to participate in a social media campaign, starting on Friday, to connect with others and to #HonorThemWithAction. Ways you can participate:

* Tweet using #HonorThemWithAction at 1:00pm ET on Friday, June 9th.

* Join the Thunderclap campaign and schedule Facebook posts, Tweets, and Tumblr posts to automatically launch at 1:00pm ET on Friday, June 9th.

* Use the graphic with #HonorThemWithAction in posts starting on Friday at 1:00pm ET.

And as we mark this somber anniversary, let us also choose to celebrate the fabulousness that runs within our queer spaces. SpeakOUT will be at Boston Pride on Saturday, June 10th and we will be absorbing the joy that sparks when we bring our full selves OUT!

Ellyn Ruthstrom has been the Executive Director of SpeakOUT Boston since 2014 and an active speaker for the organization since 2008.