Richard Swerdlow: Pride and Prejudice

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

With Pride festivities gearing up, Richard Swerdlow celebrates unquestioned progress amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ laws and sentiment.

It's June, Gay Pride Month. After two years of COVID cancellation, the San Francisco LGBTQ Pride parade and celebration are back.

I'm still pretty crowd-phobic, so I won't be attending. But I'm glad Pride is back. Pride, despite the glitter and disco music, is still, at heart, a political march protesting prejudice against LGBTQ people. And, in my sixties, I remember when there was more prejudice than pride.

Not so long ago, gay people were legally fired from jobs, rejected by families, harassed and even murdered with regularity. I remember when gay marriage was a comedy punch line, when the only gay people most Americans knew were laughingstocks like Liberace or Paul Lynde. When most countries had laws against consensual adult same sex relationships. Even now, around 22 transgender people are victims of fatal violence every year in the United States.

But times are changing and I'm amazed by the shifting attitude towards LGBTQ people. High schools now have programs for LGBTQ students, and gay people serve as members of Congress, governors, and elected leaders of nations including Ireland, Belgium, Serbia and New Zealand. The CEO of one of the world’s most valuable companies - Apple - is an out and proud gay man.

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So, Pride 2022, I'm feeling hopeful. Last month, Karine Jean-Pierre became the nation's first openly gay White House spokesperson. And what a symbol of the success of this movement that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, lives with his husband in Washington.

But rights can go just as quickly as they arrived. Recent events have shown the Supreme Court's willingness to revisit hard-won rights, such as reproductive choice and marriage equality. With anti-gay laws just passed in Florida, and legislation targeting transgender people introduced in 20 states, it’s clear prejudice can return in an instant.

So, enjoy Pride, but let's not take freedom for granted. We may be celebrating Pride this month, but there are those who celebrate prejudice all year round.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.