The LGBTQ+ community and our allies have made incredible strides in equality, but there is still much further to go. Photo: gnepphoto

In the 53-plus years since the Stonewall Riots, the LGBTQ+ community has made tremendous strides. Progress came slowly at first; in the 1980s through the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic largely diverted our attention and efforts away from fighting for equality and focused us instead on just trying to stay alive and keep our friends alive. The pandemic stole thousands of lives from us.

But HIV/AIDS also brought our community together in ways we had never imagined before. Representatives of every letter of our rainbow alphabet came together for the fight. And by the mid-1990s, we began to turn the tide.

Then came the turn of the century, and our progress toward equality seemed to kick back into high gear. LGBTQ+ people were winning elections at every level of government — from Congress down to City Hall — and many LGBTQ+ people who had once stayed carefully hidden in their closets for protection began to step into the light, claiming their own right to happiness and success while at the same time reaching a hand back to help those still struggling to find their own courage.

Publisher Leo Cusimano posing for the NOH8 campaign. Photo: Adam Bouska

We also began winning in the courts, too, as the new century began. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas overturned sodomy laws around the country. Then came United States v. Windsor in 2013, which overturned part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and set the stage for Obergefell v. Hodges two years later in 2015, which made marriage equality the law of the land.

And it was just three years ago, in 2019, when SCOTUS, ruling in three combined cases under the heading of Bostock v. Clayton County, declared that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is unconstitutional.

It has taken a long time and a whole lot of effort by a whole lot of people for our community to get to where we are today. And it is imperative that we acknowledge not all those striving on our behalf were themselves LGBTQ+. We must recognize that without the help of allies we would not have the freedoms we have.

It is even more imperative now, as we see the forces of oppression rising up to try and push us back into the darkness, that we recognize and honor those who have been our allies. Because we need them now more than ever.

And they need us.

The forces of white supremacy, religious intolerance and fascism are clawing their way out back of the pits of irrelevance to which they had been rightfully relegated, and LGBTQ+ people are not the only ones in danger. Racial minorities are also being targeted, along with immigrants, religious minorities and, of course, women of every age, color and religion.

“It is even more imperative now, as we see the forces of oppression rising up to try and push us back into the darkness, that we recognize and honor those who have been our allies.”

Leo Cusimano

The senseless hate and bigotry that was simmering just beneath the surface has, over the last eight years or so, come bursting out like acid, corroding and scarring everything it touches. It is used as a tool by liars and con artists to control and oppress and to separate. They want to turn the rest of us against each other because they know if we stand as a united front, hate and bigotry cannot win.

That is why LGBTQ +people of all colors must stand up for the Black men, women and children murdered because of the color of their skin. We must stand up for the children taken from their immigrant parents at the borders. We must stand up for the Muslim people running from the horrors of war in their home countries denied refuge in this country because of their religion. We must stand up for those fighting desperately to save their own country from invasion. And we must stand up for the women — all women — who are being denied autonomy over their own bodies.

We must stand up for them all because they are all part of us. Because we are all connected. Because it is the right thing to do.

Legend has it that the crossroads is where you go to sell your soul to the devil. Well, we are standing at a crossroads once again. Only this time, if we stand firm, hand-in-hand with our allies, we can take back our souls, take back the soul of this country and send those devils packing.

Leo Cusimano is the owner and publisher of Dallas Voice. News is Out is a pioneering national collaborative of the leading local queer news publishers. The collaborative includes six of the leading local and queer-owned LGBTQ+ publishers across the nation. Join the News Is Out newsletter here.

Leo Cusimano is the publisher of Dallas Voice.