Being Black. Being a Lesbian.

The celebration of Pride Month, which honors the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, has come to a close. 

Earlier in June, the Supreme Court confirmed that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to protect gay and transgender employees from being fired or experiencing overt workplace discrimination. While I am excited about such huge wins for the LGBTQ+ community, I am also disappointed that we are still fighting such pivotal battles.

In 2020, LGBTQ+ folx are still fighting for equitable treatment and rights. And in 2020, Black people are still fighting for equitable treatment and rights.

Being Black. Being a Lesbian.
A Black Lives Matter memorial in Davis, Calif. (sdttds / Creative Commons)

The never-before-seen global awareness of the condition of Black lives in the United States makes it difficult to celebrate the enormity of the Supreme Court Ruling, and the entire month of gay pride in the LGBTQ+ community.

To know our country’s history is to know that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was only signed after a long, hard and brutal battle for the equitable treatment of Black people. They fought to extend the use of public spaces to people of color and to prevent businesses from discriminating against Black people and other minorities due to race, religion or national origin.

To know our country’s history is to know Pride Month is celebrated in June each year to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which paved the way for many of the LGBTQ+ rights we have today.

This history is a celebration of a Black, transgender woman activist, Marsha P. Johnson, who, on June 28, 1969, was a part of a group of gay folx who refused to accept the status quo of regular police raids on a gay bar in New York.

To know our country’s history is to know that Black people, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous People and those on the margins of society are still forced to demand fair and equitable treatment today.

So at this time in our country’s history—with worldwide protests now spanning over 30 days after George Floyd’s murder, President Trump pushing forth policy that allows for the denial of healthcare to transgender individuals and flaccid federal policies to fix policing across the country—to be Black and to be a lesbian feels like a moment of restrained optimism.

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The cruelty towards Black people in this country is altogether different, yet somehow similar, to the hate for those in my LGBTQ+ family.

There is a sadness to feeling not completely celebrated in the fullness of who I am; winning in some areas of Blackness, yet losing in some areas of gayness and vice versa. The damaging impact of oppressive systems and the fight for equitable treatment feels like a never-ending challenge, a continuous assault on all fronts of who I am.

Celebration of the victory of the Supreme Court win for my LGBTQ+ community is quieted by the deep pain of my Black community in continuing to mourn the killing of our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, fathers and mothers at the hands of police; by receiving less equitable healthcare as we fight a global pandemic; by demanding clean water in Flint, Michigan; by continued discrimination in housing and employment; by the refusal of some to even allow us to birdwatch, jog, barbecue or simply exist without having the police called on us.

Knowing that Black transgender women are not grieved in the same way, whether from the Black community or the LGBTQ+ community, is perhaps the most evident confirmation that my restrained optimism is warranted.

Equitable protection and celebration of such landmark rulings continue to leave out a portion of our community and our families. They still aren’t getting equitable treatment, protection and love.

As we celebrate the Supreme Court ruling, as we celebrate Pride Month and as we celebrate the long-fought battle for Black people to be seen and heard and understood, I know there are still more battles to be won for the fair and equitable treatment of all people: for our undocumented families, for our families still in cages at the border, for our often forgotten missing and murdered Indigenous women and for all of those who still struggle to survive and thrive in this country.

So while I continue to celebrate the moments and the victories, I understand that until all of us are able to enjoy such celebrations, we must continue to speak up, to demand policies and protections and to take care of the most marginalized of us.

I am excited for what our future holds and am ready to openly and proudly celebrate when all can receive the goodness that our nation has to give.


Joli Angel Robinson is the Manager of Community Engagement at the Dallas Police Department and Co-Chair for Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation efforts in Dallas. She is working on her Doctorate from University of Southern California in Organizational Change and Leadership and is a Public Voices Fellow through The OpEd Project.