Strength and Resilience 50 Years After Stonewall - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Strength and Resilience 50 Years After Stonewall

June 27, 2019 Written By: Madison Hammett

June 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the so-called beginning of the LGBTQ Rights Movement. The truth is, of course, more complicated than a single raid on a single bar in 1969—similar resistance to police violence against the LGBTQ community had been taking place throughout the country for years—but it was Stonewall that sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Today, it is hard to believe that the same police who raided gay bars and arrested patrons are now decked out in rainbow patches and marching in Pride parades. While it is tempting to see the progress made since that first brick went flying through the windows at Stonewall as proof of the movement’s success, for many LGBTQ Americans, we still have far to go on the journey to equity.

The FBI has reported that hate crimes against LGBTQ Americans are on the rise, with a reported 17% increase in 2017. In 2019 alone, seven trans women have been murdered. Another—Johana Medina—died just days after being released from ICE custody. Medina, who was HIV+, was seeking asylum in the United States and was allegedly denied medical treatment while in custody.

Locally, Chicago accounts for 7% of all of the nation’s transgender homicides over the last four years. These numbers are thought to be drastically underestimated—a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report estimated 54% of hate crimes against LGBTQ victims went unreported between 2011 and 2015. The Chicago Department of Public Health reports that LGBTQ youth in the city are more likely to have experienced assault, been sexually assaulted, or attempted suicide than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. LGBTQ Chicagoans are also more likely to smoke, have decreased access to care, and have increased mental health needs than their heterosexual and cisgender neighbors.

However, though these numbers seem bleak on paper, I also know our community’s story is one of resilience. Pride may have started as a response to the inequities we face as LGBTQ, but it’s also a celebration and recognition of our ability to thrive. For me, it’s also an act of bravery in the face of those bleak numbers. Celebrating my identity, celebrating the identities of those around me, is a radical act. Take away the shop windows, the branded tweets, and even the parade, and you still have a month of individuals coming together and proudly wearing their identities. This month honors a community that continues to thrive, grow, and live openly, despite the incredible adversity we face. A month of radical resilience.

At its core, Pride answers Health & Medicine’s call for health equity by “recognizing and rectifying historical injustices.” Yes, through acknowledgement of historical and continued community hardship and trauma, but also through the joyous celebration of our continued resilience and presence. As we wind down the month of June, and the storefronts put away their rainbow flags, I hope that we continue to embody the strength and resilience of the generations of LGBTQ people who have come before us. I hope too that we continue to embody that resilience to thrive and work towards living equally and fearlessly.