Health Equity

Equity Matters: Pride Month is Here - Providing the LGBTQ+ Community Allyship is as Vital as Ever

By State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis, who represents the 7th Middlesex District. A version of this article recently appeared in the MetroWest Daily News.

June 06, 2023

June marks the beginning of Pride Month. Seemingly overnight, rainbows will be everywhere — municipalities will fly the Pride flag and corporations will slap rainbows on merchandise. It's a month of celebration, a celebration of being true to oneself, the powerful support of community and liberation from social constructs around human gender and sexuality.

But it is also a month to remember those who have long experienced harassment and violence, notably those whose actions on that June night 54 years ago at the Stonewall Inn in New York City sparked the modern LGBTQ+ movement. And it's a month to recommit ourselves to building a more just and equitable world.

We’ve come a long way since that pivotal event. Some of us are able to benefit from the fruits of that struggle, enjoying marriage equality, parental and adoption rights, life-changing HIV prevention and treatment medication, workplace anti-discrimination protections and loving support from friends and family. One could feel tempted, especially in places like suburban Boston, to declare that LGBTQ+ discrimination is no longer an issue.

But nothing could be further from reality.

Even with progress, many left behind

The dramatic progress of the last five decades has left many behind. Same-sex activities remain illegal in 68 countries — and punishable by death in eight of them. In the United States, LGBTQ+ teens are still six times more likely to commit suicide than their classmates, and transgender people of color are seven times more likely to be murdered than their peers. And while future marriage rights may provide some hope for LGBTQ+ teens, how can young people dream of a world in which they can thrive as an adult if they are worried about surviving adolescence?

Bullying has never ended for the LGBTQ+ community. Throughout the country, politicians work to harm transgender and gender nonbinary youth, making it difficult to play sports; receive doctor-prescribed, life-sustaining services; and seek unconditional support at school. These politicians seek to harm young people in their states while hurting youth everywhere, including in Massachusetts, by implying that there is something inherently wrong with being true to oneself.

With our children’s lives on the line, those who claim to be our allies must be moved from silence to support, inaction to activism.

Allyship is earned and comes at a price.

Corporations face backlash from LGBTQ+ opponents

Corporations who have long been happy to take money from the LGBTQ+ community — ranging from Anheuser-Busch to The Walt Disney Company — are now facing backlash from customers opposed to legal protections for LGBTQ+ people. Bud Light’s recent partnership with a transgender influencer did not sit well with some Anheuser-Busch patrons, giving the company the choice to truly be an ally to our community or submit to the demand of a loud minority. And Disney, locked in a legal battle with Florida Gov. and aspirational Homophobe-in-Chief Ron DeSantis, is at a similar impasse: Remain the ally of a community from whom you have been happy to profit or allow hate and concern for the bottom line to win.

Even here in Massachusetts, with anti-LGBTQ+ candidates running for elected office and school committees debating book bans, we are not immune to hate.

For those individuals who claim to be our allies, silence and inaction cannot be enough. Pride in many communities has become an opportunity to signal support. It's beautiful, but it's not enough. A tangential connection to members of our community does not make one an ally, nor is it the role of self-appointed allies to decide when those who have harmed our community deserve a "second chance." Having an LGBTQ+ child, posting Pride selfies, and simply not verbalizing homophobic and transphobic speech is insufficient.

The time for true allyship is as vital as ever.

Supporting our community and protecting the lives of our LGBTQ+ children may come at a cost. Refusing to tolerate hate speech among friends, family or anonymous cyber-trolls may cost you a friend; for elected officials, you may lose votes. With the lives of LGBTQ+ youth on the line, silence and inaction only feed the violence. There is a vital role for you in supporting our community and protecting the lives of LGBTQ+ children if you are willing to accept that allyship may come with a price.

Pride started as a protest, and Pride today — in addition to the rainbows and joy of community — cannot forget that there is still urgent work to be done.

Let’s get to work together.

 More Equity Matters in Foundation Publications

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