Pride Month 2020 Reveals the Progressive Leadership We Deserve
This Pride month has been unlike any other.
Extraordinary protests against racial and social injustices have sprung up across the country, stemming from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others lost to systemic racism all compounded by the current global pandemic. As protests continued last week, news broke of the murders of two Black transgender women – Riah Milton of Cinncinati and Dominique Rem’mie Fells of Philadelphia.
The killings of these two Black trans women occurred near the anniversary of the massacre of 49 LGBTQ+ people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a tragedy the Trump administration marked by eliminating vital healthcare protections for transgender people. This act of opportune cruelty will drastically impact communities whose lives and experiences are already harmed by systemic and interpersonal forms of violence, and will greatly affect the health, safety, and security of transgender and gender non-binary people of color who are particularly vulnerable when such protections are erased.
The signs are clear that we need to use the national anger, energy, and urgency as momentum to fuel further changes to support LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color, who have been vital to queer liberation. Fundamental shifts are within our reach. But we need new, progressive leadership that will not equivocate on LGBTQ+ issues, while pushing for long overdue racial and social justice reforms. These changes will be driven by progressive leaders, forged in the fire of activist-driven, social justice-oriented, and people-centered approaches. We need to elect Democrats who have the guts and grit to recognize the issues and advocate for substantial, structural changes.
The recent Supreme Court ruling that shields LGBTQ+ people from workplace discrimination signals an important sea change in public and judicial opinion, which must be used to drive and enhance additional protections. Congress must act immediately to support the Equality Act to protect all people, particularly members of the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, we need to deem trans murder and suicide a national emergency, end homophobic and transphobic “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, and eliminate youth homelessness, which disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ people. We also need to remove restrictions on name and ID changes, strengthen workplace protections for transgender and gender non-binary adults, and restore all protections erased under the Trump administration.
This moment and movement also make clear the need for an epochal shift in our healthcare system. The people of the United States need - and are ready for - Medicare for All. Additionally, any healthcare reform must include provisions to address biases within the existing system. For example, any Medicare for All bill must classify gender affirmation surgery as necessary care.
As we continue to reflect, protest, and celebrate policy victories this month, we must continue to affirm that Black Lives Matter, and remember with each call that this phrase encompasses Black LGBTQ+ people and lives. We also need to continue to address police brutality, healthcare inequities, and systemic and interpersonal forms of violence in LGBTQ+ communities and beyond.
In these unprecedented times, let’s work together to make unprecedented progress. If our current representatives continue to fail to implement policies that support the LGBTQ+ community, it is our job to vote them out and replace them with bold, progressive leaders who will act.
Russell “Russ” Cirincione is a government housing attorney and Progressive Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District who hopes to unseat the 32-year incumbent Frank Pallone, Jr. in the July 7 Democratic Primary. To learn more about Russ Cirincione, please visit https://www.russforus2020.com/.