Sarah Kate Ellis is the president and CEO of GLAAD.
My first Pride parade was in 1996 in New York City. I was there with my best friend and I had recently come out to my family as LGBTQ but was not out professionally. It was electric – standing on Fifth Avenue with thousands of my LGBTQ family. I felt this unbelievable excitement that I was finally at Pride, but also incredibly nervous that I would see someone from my job and that I would be outed.
Pride has always been an important time to me. Growing up in a less accepting time, I know the power of LGBTQ people from all walks of life coming together is inspiring and refreshing. But most importantly, it is a time to be visible. For the LGBTQ community to stand up and be counted, because all too often we are ignored, erased, and vilified.
The first Pride parades were held in 1970, the year following the famous Stonewall Riots. 1970 was a very different time for LGBTQ people and Pride served as part protest and part celebration. When I started going to Pride parades in 1996, things were better, but there was still much to fight for. And as time went on, the LGBTQ community saw improvements – like marriage equality and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In recent years, Pride felt more like a celebration of our big wins (and it felt like there were more on the horizon) and a bit less like a protest.
We’ve come a long way since the first Pride parade and that is reason to celebrate. But something is different this time around. The past few years, the leadership of this country helped advance LGBTQ acceptance and equality by leaps and bounds. But the wind is no longer at our back.
We are facing the most anti-LGBTQ administration in history, and this year Pride must take on the essence of years past. Make no mistake; the LGBTQ community in this country is under attack. There is no mention of us on the White House website, we will not be in the upcoming census, and guidance surrounding trans student protections have been reversed – and this has all happened less than 100 days into this administration.
But nobody is just one thing – I’m gay, I’m a woman, I’m a mom, and I’m wife. We all live at different intersections of our identities and when one identity is under attack, they all are. Which is why this Pride season, GLAAD is urging everyone to join the Together movement. Together is about locking arms with all groups who are under attack from the current administration – to fight for everyone to be accepted and free to be exactly who they are. This rallying point is symbolized by an “&,” because all of us are those multiple identities, and every single one of us has the right to be treated with dignity and equality in all of our communities. The “&” means that our differences don’t divide us; they unite us and make us stronger.
It is vital that we don’t allow ourselves to be divided and that all marginalized groups lock arms and stand together. Because together, we will resist, persist, and prevail.