We recognize Pride Month in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising against police brutality against gay and trans people in New York City. That fateful night — an inflection point for the LGBTQIA+ movement — was spurred primarily by the actions of transgender sex workers of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who purportedly threw the first shot glasses as police officers raided the Stonewall bar in Greenwich Village.
There have been great strides in the fight for equal rights since then, but more than a half-century later, police brutality, mass incarceration, and the quest for racial justice remain ever salient in our nation’s struggle to embody its stated principles of liberty and equality.
In a 1973 Supreme Court opinion, Justice William Brennan wrote, “If the constitutional conception of ‘equal protection of the laws’ means anything, it must, at the very least, mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest.”
That same year, Rivera’s speech to a hostile, largely white crowd at a rally commemorating Christopher Street Liberation Day rings just as true today as it did then. Within moments of taking the stage, she launched into an impassioned plea for those incarcerated: “I’ve been trying to get up here all day, for your gay brothers and your gay sisters in jail, they write me every motherf—–g week…