Helton: Pride still matters

The spirit of Stonewall and the gay-rights movement isn't over with any one victory or landmark and must keep advancing.

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Helton: Pride still matters

Iowa City residents celebrate pride week on Saturday, June 16, 2018.  (Thomas A. Stewart/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa City residents celebrate pride week on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Thomas A. Stewart/The Daily Iowan)

Thomas A. Stewart

Iowa City residents celebrate pride week on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Thomas A. Stewart/The Daily Iowan)

Thomas A. Stewart

Thomas A. Stewart

Iowa City residents celebrate pride week on Saturday, June 16, 2018. (Thomas A. Stewart/The Daily Iowan)

Elijah Helton, Opinions Editor

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“I believe in the gay power. I believe in us getting our rights, or else I would not be out there fighting for our rights … I have been thrown in jail. I have lost my job. I have lost my apartment for gay liberation.”

Those are the words of Sylvia Rivera, a gay-liberation activist, at a rally in 1973. Four years earlier, Rivera was at the Stonewall Inn in New York during the riots that marked the beginning of the modern gay-rights movement. Belief in a better future for queer people and the willingness to fight for that future is at the foundation of Pride.

But that was all a long time ago. By the end of this month, it will have been 50 years since the Stonewall riots. One can be tempted to think that Pride is perhaps unnecessary or even outdated. I know that my life as a bi man is easier now than it was at the time of Stonewall.

But while progress has definitely been made — more than what many at Stonewall could have imagined — there are still so many more areas the gay-rights movement needs to reach.

At Pride, we celebrate how far we’ve come. Supreme Court victories such as Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges are great, but there are still many states in the country in which gay people can be fired and evicted for who they are and whom they love. Gay politicians such as Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago have entered their elected offices this year, but there are still no openly gender-queer governors or members of Congress. There is still work to be done.

Pride still matters. It still matters because we have made history that has made the world better for future generations of queer people. It still matters because we are still persecuted by law and governments designed to exclude us. It still matters because LGBTQ people are still harassed, attacked, and killed because of their identities.

We still believe in the gay power. We still believe in us getting our rights. Pride still matters, and we’re still proud as hell.

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