On Sunday afternoon, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio tweeted out one of several nods to the weekend's Pride celebrations, shouting out "the Black, trans activists who built the movement and continue to lead today." Meanwhile, near Washington Square Park, many of those very same activists were being tear-gassed, beaten and arrested by the NYPD at the Queer Liberation March.
As the Empire State Building lit up in rainbow to celebrate Pride on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ+ protestors—many of them queer and trans people of color—were running from police batons on the streets of New York, dabbing tear gas from their eyes and frantically texting friends to make sure they were safe. The irony was painful, as was the fundamental message: if you are the "right kind" of queer in New York, you will be protected and uplifted (to the extent that your identity remains commodifiable.) If you deviate from that norm, you will be hunted.
This gets to the heart of the fundamentally unequal queer experience in America: if you are white, cis and socioeconomically privileged, you will be celebrated even as your more marginalized queer siblings are brutalized, and you will be asked to turn a blind eye to their suffering in exchange for the rosy glow of rainbow-hued acceptance. If you are Black, brown, trans, nonbinary, poor, or exist outside of straight-passing, white, cis culture in any way, you will be forced to see your own history put up for sale even as your present struggle—to work, to seek medical treatment, to simply walk down the street—is criminalized.
This is how things have been—and how they still often are—but this year, queer and trans activists of color provided an alternative vision of Pride in which LGBTQ+ identity was a source of shared outrage and activism, not a branding opportunity for corporations. From a rally for Black trans lives that drew over 15,000 to the Brooklyn Museum to a Dyke March event that reorganized itself as a Juneteenth march, this year's Pride centered space for the voices that are so often drowned out of the LGBTQ+ movement despite having literally built it.
Before the NYPD began its assault, the Queer Liberation March was another in a series of peaceful protests in which LGBTQ+ New Yorkers asserted their simple and inalienable right to exist. Soon after officers discharged their batons and arrested protestors, the skies opened and rain began to pour: in a near-uncanny moment of cosmic timing, a double rainbow then unfurled across New York, a thousand times brighter and more powerful than any lit-up symbol of corporate pride could ever hope to be.