Pride Month: Reflecting, celebrating and forward action
Post filed in: Equity
During Pride Month, millions of Americans honor how far the community has come in advancing key rights even as we also consider how much further we have to go. Members of the LGBTQI+ community--and allies–have demonstrated and celebrated during the month of June for more than 50 years.
In the 1960s, homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense and LGBTQI+ communities were under persistent threat of social isolation and violence. Harnessing the momentum of the national Civil Rights movement, demonstrations erupted in 1969 in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood where police raided one of the city’s popular gay bars, the Stonewall Inn, where the bar’s majority Black and brown employees and patrons were brutalized.
For six days after that raid, demonstrators - led by transwomen like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy - and police clashed in what became known as the Stonewall Uprising. According to the Library of Congress, the uprising was the tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the United States. Pride marches commemorating the first anniversary of that uprising were held in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. And, since 1970, the marches have grown across the country.
In 1999, the federal government first proclaimed June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Another milestone came shortly thereafter with the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. In 2009, presidential Pride Month proclamations grew to be more inclusive by recognizing bisexual and transgender individuals.
June also marks the anniversary of key Supreme Court rulings impacting the community, including a 2013 decision (United States v. Windsor) striking down most of the Defense of Marriage Act, and a 2015 decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) that established same-sex marriage as a fundamental right. (In December 2022, the Respect for Marriage Act fully repealed DOMA.)
GSA remains committed to doing its part to make the federal government a model employer by building inclusive cultures for LGBTQI+ employees. For example, in 2016, GSA issued a bulletin clarifying that federal agencies using space under GSA jurisdiction must allow employees to use restroom facilities and related areas consistent with their gender identity.
To show a broader picture, we asked employees who are part of GSA’s LGBT & Allies Employee Association for their thoughts about what Pride Month means to them and how others can celebrate and support.
Q: What does Pride mean to you, how are you celebrating, and how has it changed?
“I typically spend it chatting with old and new friends, reminiscing on our former activism days, discussing the challenges facing us in these times.” – Ky Nguyen-Zubroski, a senior contract specialist with GSA’s Public Buildings Service
“I was delighted when in recent years younger people started pushing back against the corporatization of Pride. And I still hang the rainbow flag through June.” – Robert Riddle, Public Buildings Service client planning manager
“For me, Pride month means going to a parade and to performing arts events where I can see the diversity celebrated throughout the LGBTQ+ community. It’s great to see and support efforts that make Pride more and more inclusive each year.” – Nate Osburn, Deputy Associate Administrator for Public Affairs
Q: What do you think is important for your colleagues and the public to know about Pride?
Nguyen-Zubroski: “We have goals, careers, families, we pay taxes, support businesses. We went from public support of less than 30% in the ‘80s to more than 70% today. While we have made massive inroads in securing our equality through legal channels, there’s seemingly increasing backlash of sentiment against LGBTQIA+.”
Riddle: “Congress has never passed an anti discrimination law for LGBTQIA people. What protections we have are through state and local laws, federal policies, and judicial interpretation – all of which can be reversed.”
Q: How can others celebrate and support the community?
“As the mother of a lesbian daughter within a same-sex marriage, it is important for me to advocate on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community. Through listening and learning the history, struggles, and accomplishments, I spread knowledge to others to dispel myths, rumors, and stereotypes that impact the LGBTQIA+ community.” – Niki McFarlin, GSA PBS Building Services contracting specialist
Nguyen-Zubroski: “Speak up in challenging conversations, especially if no one who is LGBTQIA+ is nearby.”
Riddle: “Be an ally. An ally is the person who’s vocal, advocating for you not only when you’re in the room but more importantly, when you’re not. It’s the person who demonstrates ‘I may not be LGBTQ myself, but I support you, and I both recognize and honor your humanity.’”
The Pride flag is flying at GSA headquarters in Washington in June. Also, GSA will grant all agencies’ requests to raise Pride flags at GSA-managed buildings.
(Answers edited for brevity.)