Last year on Pride morning, Los Angeles woke up to the horrific news that a madman, using semi-automatic weapons, had opened fire inside an Orlando LGBT nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.
Our shock turned to momentary paralysis when that news was accompanied by a Santa Monica Police announcement that they had disrupted an attack on LA Pride, arresting a man carrying a large cache of semi-automatic weapons and explosives. We could have stayed home, but few did.
Instead, we resisted.
Angelenos poured into the streets of WeHo, turning their grief into defiance and refusing to cower. We turned our celebration of LGBT Pride into a show of force and a jubilant and loving tribute to the lives lost in Orlando.
At essence, that’s who we are.
Over the centuries LGBT people have been deeply persecuted, brutalized, burned at the stake and even buried alive for daring to love. More than a few times there have been efforts to eradicate us from society. Even within the span of the past 75 years there have been several roundup and torture detentions in Germany, Spain, Argentina, China, Chile, Peru, Nicaragua, Uganda, Italy, Eastern Europe, Russia and Cuba, to name a few. Even today Chechen gay men face the brutality of concentration camps. Today, in Iran, Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim nations, the death penalty is routinely imposed for anyone suspected of having engaged in gay sex.
The past 100-year arc of LGBT rights in America and in much of the Western world has included periods of extreme persecution and loss of basic dignity. There are conservative forces in power, like US Vice President Mike Pence, who advocates for the right of parents to torture their children for being gay.
But modern notions of civil rights evolved and more thorough democratic governing principles have given rise to our ability to demand and effect social change.
Along the way our liberation was thwarted and our energies sapped by a devastating plague that killed hundreds of thousands of us. If you are like me you lost dozens of friends, spent hundreds of nights in hospitals caring for loved ones, you marched in the streets demanding care, demanding government funding for research and admonishing your friends and families to do the same. We lost careers, jobs, homes, families, fortunes and even our pride. But we fought. We kept fighting. We resisted complacency and were unrelenting, unyielding in our pursuit of equality and dignity.
And we achieved results too numerous to list. From progress on HIV and AIDS to marriage equality, our progress has been breathtaking. But equally breathtaking has been the realization that none of it is permanent, that powerful and very vocal political forces are determined to push us back.
What they fail to note is that it has never been possible to defeat us.
Resistance simply means refusing to be left behind, to be shoved aside. It is not a dirty word. To criticize use of the word Resistance and to denounce equating it with Pride is to deny the essence of our history.
Resistance is the essence of pride.
In this issue you will meet people who have refused to give up in the pursuit of justice and equality.
You will meet Alexei Romanoff, 2017’s LA Pride grand marshal, who battled a 1966 wave of police brutality against gay people, organizing one of the earliest large-scale gay rights protests in America. You will meet Rev. Troy Perry, who has been at the heart of just about every LGBT battle of the past 50 years and who created LA Pride, America’s first celebratory gay rights event, in 1970. You will meet Bamby Salcedo, a Latina trans activist who is passionate about immigration rights. You will meet Jonathan, an undocumented gay man who fears for his life if he is deported to his violently homophobic country of origin. You will meet immigrants who have achieved financial success and who share their harvest to further equality. You will meet Brian Pendleton, a Los Angeles success story who has poured his heart and soul into creating #ResistMarch and who has an extraordinary appreciation of our intersectional allies. You will meet many other uncompromising people who have dared to make a difference.
What all of them have in common is a love of their community and a deeply abiding commitment that we will never go backwards.
Achieving liberation and equality is not easy and cannot be achieved without a sustained effort to change things and confront challenges. It also cannot be preserved without resistance or without pride.