Orchard’s DEI Blog | “Pride Month: Liberation, Celebration, and Education”

Welcome to Orchard's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Blog. Below is the most recent blog, “Pride Month: Liberation, Celebration, and Education” by Lisa Pryor.

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This ruling came as a surprise to many due to the conservative makeup of the sitting Supreme Court Justices; the vote was 6-3. 

As I sit here and reflect, I am taken aback that this decision falls in line with the current climate in our country. Individuals are counting on elected officials to protect the very rights one should have as a human being in the United States: the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Who is granted permission to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness?” Who gets to decide?

I took my job at The Orchard School in the summer of 2005. I was in my very early twenties and wasn’t sure of my own identity at the time. I thought I knew who I wanted to be, but I wasn’t sure if I was safe. I questioned my safety because, up to that point, I had learned from my religion, and society confirmed on many occasions, that I was considered “less than.” I was “wrong” and actually, an “abomination” for wanting to be in a romantic relationship with someone of the same gender, also know as being gay. Let that sink in… someone told a young kid, indirectly, that they were disgusting and hated. Wait, a young kid? Yes, if you are a straight person, please think back on when you “realized” you were straight and had to “come out.” For some, there is no “realization”; there is only reality. This was and is my reality. 

Back to Orchard… I did not openly share my sexual identity for a very long time at Orchard. There were some who knew, but only those whom I knew I could trust. Why? Because even though Orchard is an inclusive and welcoming community, my rights as a gay individual in the state of Indiana were different than my straight counterparts. Although Orchard is a safe space and I officially came out to the entire faculty and staff at Orchard through my favorite form of expression, a written piece which was used for DEI work in 2012, we have still seen this in the last few years as schools across the country dealt with the backlash that comes from firing beloved teachers due to their sexual orientation. I am grateful for our community and the love and support I’ve gotten from my Orchard family over the years. 

The month of June has been dedicated to the display of Pride for all those who fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. But, how did June become Pride month and what exactly is it for? Sure, the Supreme Court’s ruling occurred during the month of June, but the history of Pride dates back to 1969. So, let’s go back in time. Did you know that, during this time, by law, individuals could be jailed, or worse, for their sexual orientation and gender identity? Did you know that, by law, individuals could be jailed for not wearing at least three pieces of clothing that went with their biological sex? Did you know that 1969 was only 51 years ago? As a result of these blatantly discriminatory laws, many gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals lived in secrecy (stealth in the transgender community). While the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights had been an ongoing battle for quite some time, things finally came to a head in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village had become a refuge for members of New York City’s LGBTQ community. The Inn had its fair share of police raids, but on this particular morning, the individuals at Stonewall had had enough. They decided to fight back and stand up for their rights as citizens, as humans. Many protests and “riots” followed, resulting in a breakthrough in the fight for the rights of LGBTQ individuals. 

To commemorate what is now referred to as the Stonewall Inn Uprising, a group of activists assembled to create Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970. On this day, the first Pride march took place from Christopher Street to Central Park, some 15 blocks. There was also a week-long series of events, resulting in the first Gay Pride Week. It was only a matter of time before other cities all over the globe started their own Pride celebrations. While Pride looked a little bit different this year due to COVID-19, it still serves as a celebration of LGBTQIA+ social acceptance, self-acceptance, legal rights, and love. 

As I put the fight for civil rights for all people into context, I am reminded that we are not fighting for one group of people, we are fighting for all people. However, there are some groups in need of more attention than others at the moment. The group of individuals on my mind and heart right now is the transgender community, more specifically, Black trans women, who are murdered at a disproportional rate. Many cases are never addressed...let alone solved. As the fight for justice for other members of the Black community continues, we must be sure to include the names of those who are, at times, invisible or forgotten.  

How can you become more educated about the fight for equality for the LGBTQIA+ community? Again, have an experience. Do you have friends who identify under this umbrella? Do you know anyone who identifies as transgender? Check in with them, tell them Happy Pride, and ask them if they would be willing to have a conversation about their experiences. Be sure to listen from your heart and practice empathy, not sympathy. If you are unable to have a conversation, there are resources available in all forms; here are some places to start. The extremely eye-opening documentary on Netflix called Disclosure examines how the media has created the narrative around transgender, gender-fluid, gender-queer, and gender noncomforming people since the beginning of television and film. The Netflix series Queer Eye: More Than A Makeover is wonderful and includes insightful, important conversations covering various topics. The 2013 TEDx talk by Ash Beckham, Coming Out of Your Closet, is still amazing 7 years later. The FX show Pose has been incredibly powerful and has won GLAAD, Peabody, and Dorian awards. And, for the readers, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More by Janet Mock is an amazing story. These are just a few! 

This is a month for liberation. For celebration. But, also for forging on so that we ALL may pursue the very life and happiness that is promised to us. 

Choose LOVE. Happy Pride!
Lisa L Pryor

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