I love Pride Month.
Ever since my very first Pride event many years ago (in NYC, because go big or go home, right?) I have lived to witness the special vibrance of the queer community every June. Drag shows, artists, performers, musicians, rainbows everywhere—it’s like a month-long Christmas for me.
Not this year.
Obviously, Prides went virtual this year if they happened at all, because this whole global pandemic thing means that crowding hundreds or thousands of people into a few city blocks or hosting a dance party just isn’t going to happen right now.
But the bigger shift for me in this Pride Month is that, as a queer community and as humans in the world, we have been reminded of what Pride is all about: standing up against the police when they unfairly crack down on our communities. People (including me) like to say “the first Pride was a riot!” which it was—read about the protest at Stonewall in 1969. But while you’re up, read about the 1966 protest at Compton’s Cafeteria too. In both of these instances, Black trans women lead the charge for queer rights.
Through the late 1960s, police regularly raided popular hangout spots for queer and trans people nationwide. In fact, while these raids slowed down somewhat in the 70s, they haven’t really gone away, and have happened as recently as a few weeks ago.
All of this is to say that in many ways, Pride has returned to its roots this year, with queer and trans people taking to the streets to protest the unjustified police killings of Black people—including queer Black people. Black trans people face extraordinary threat of violence from law enforcement and other sources.
I have been watching closely as the horse world reacts to the Black Lives Matter movement this month. Calls for white equestrians to acknowledge that racism exists in the equestrian community have been met with shocking levels of denial, victim-blaming, deflection, and racist actions. In some cases, though, people are listening and learning.
To me, this is the most significant Pride Month of my life so far, because I have seen so many white equestrians wake up and realize that we live in an unjust society built on white supremacy, that we compete in a sport that has a very long way to go if it wants to be as “diverse and inclusive” as it claims to be.
For years now, other equestrians have tried to gaslight those of us who point out that there is plenty of homophobia and transphobia in the horse world. “No there isn’t,” people will say. “I haven’t seen it. My trainer is gay and he says there isn’t a problem,” as though popular wealthy handsome cis white gay men can possibly represent the astonishing range of queer identities.
That is to say, I can empathize with the gaslighting that Black equestrians are experiencing when people waltz into comment threads to tell them that there isn’t a problem, that this isn’t an appropriate discussion to be having in a horse magazine, that their own experiences aren’t valid.
I am extremely proud of my friends who have spoken up, like Abriana Johnson, Caitlin Gooch, and Philesha Chandler. It takes a lot of courage to speak your truth when people desperately do not want to listen.
The horse world is facing the same reckoning the rest of the world is right now—that we can want things to be perfect and fine, to live in a utopia, but what people are realizing is that the privilege to look away from the bigotry endlessly perpetuated isn’t afforded to the targets of the bigotry. If you listen to the voices of the Black and queer riders telling you our truths, you’ll realize that we are giving you a path to change the course.
So Pride this year has had a different, and better, focus. Instead of waving rainbow flags at parades, we’re getting into the true spirit of the season, fighting against a life-threatening system of injustice and inhumanity, and for that I could not be more proud.