LGBTQ+ Youth Must Protest for Pride Like Their Lives Depend On It

As we celebrate Pride Month, we must not forget the struggles and resistance of our elders before us when being LGBTQ+ was dangerous – because it is becoming dangerous again.
lgbtq pride
Image by Scout Hudson, via Mel Magazine.

A crucial way to celebrate and demonstrate Pride is through protest. In fact,  protests, often led by youth throughout our nation’s history, helped pave the way for there even to be a Pride Month to celebrate the hard fought LGBTQ+ rights we have today. However, a resurgent right-wing bigoted backlash to this progress has left young queer people extremely vulnerable in America right now, as multiple states have ruled to erase their identities in schools, strip them of medical care, and even take them from their parents. Yet, these LGBTQ+ youth are also the ones who are shouting the loudest in defense of their rights.

READ: Today, Tomorrow, And Yesterday As A Transgender Youth – In Bucks County And Across The Country

Arguably the most famous protest for queer rights in history are the Stonewall Riots. In 1969, after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, patrons of the bar and nearby neighbors began protesting against the police. The police aggressively arrested 13 people, including people suspected of cross-dressing, which was illegal at the time. Outraged at the treatment of those arrested at the bar and the general mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people, those gathered outside began to throw objects at the police. They attempted to set the inn on fire after police barricaded themselves inside. For the next five days, protesters gathered on the streets in the area, fiercely demanding improved treatment for queer folks.

Many young community members have spoken out against the treatment of LGBTQ+ students in the Central Bucks School District and beyond. Recently, the school district has banned books with LGBTQ+ content from libraries, instructed teachers to deadname students unless they had parental approval otherwise, and banned pride flags from classrooms. 

Students will not stand for this mistreatment. 

READ: Anti-LGBTQ Hate, Threats, And Violence Are On The Rise This Pride Month

In June of 2022, I staged a walkout to protest the prejudice-filled book ban. My aim was to create a disruption that would make others aware of the unfair policy. Similar to the Stonewall riots, I rebelled against authority. The next school year, myself and other students participated in protests against the policy that banned pride flags. We staged protests outside of schools where the superintendent held “town halls” to “discuss” the new policy with staff members. Students and adults joined to hold signs and perform chants that emphasized rights for LGBTQ+ students. These protests were a way for the community to express their outrage, an echo of Stonewall.

Two years prior to Stonewall, protesters staged a “sip-in” at Julius’ bar, in which they declared that they were gay and asked to be served alcohol. When denied service, the protesters took the case to court, which ruled that patrons could not be denied service based on their sexuality.

Board meetings for CBSD often see dozens of adults fuming about one topic or the other and a handful of students pleading for the rights of queer students. These students want policy change. They want something concrete that will protect their rights in schools and stop slurs from being thrown at them. If their cisgender and straight classmates are educated about LGBTQ+ topics, they will be less likely to have and act on bias against queer students. If pride flags are allowed in classrooms, students will feel safer knowing that they have teachers who are on their side. Just like at the “sip-in,” they seek rulings that will protect them. 

Recently, CBSD students helped organize and perform in a concert that supported a group of candidates for the school board. These board members will fight for the rights of queer students and make CBSD schools more welcoming environments. They will create the policies that queer students need and roll back the ones that harm them.

READ: It Takes A Village: Expelling Right-Wing Extremism From Bucks County School Districts

As we celebrate Pride Month, we cannot forget the efforts of those who fought when being LGBTQ+ was dangerous and those who fight now when LGBTQ+ rights are under attack. This month, celebrate your joy and your love. You have the right to be yourself. Many have fought for that right for themselves and the ones they love. Look to the youth that are screaming out for rights, and follow their lead in demanding equality and justice.

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Picture of Leo Burchell

Leo Burchell

Leo Burchell is a student at Central Bucks High School West with a passion for activism and writing. Leo leads the Sexuality and Gender Alliance at West and also contributes to the school newspaper.

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