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It’s just after 6pm on Wednesday. The date is June 26, 2024, and I am sitting in a Korean barbecue restaurant. It’s the 9th anniversary of the legalization of same sex marriage in the United States.

It’s also a date night.

My partner and I have decided to patron one of our favorite Korean places in town. We opt not to eat in, but instead to get takeout and watch TV. Dinner and a movie, if you will. It’s just after 6pm. The restaurant is packed. The host just called for order number 85. Mine is order 88. I have time to waste, and nothing wastes time better than Facebook and Twitter.

The first post that floats to the top of my Facebook feed when I tap the blue “F” icon is an article from the New Mexico news station KOAT. I see a rainbow flags over an iron fence and shrubbery for the post’s image preview. “Long-vacant storefront that once housed part of the Stonewall Inn reclaims place in LGBTQ+ history” the article title reads. I don’t tap on the article.

I tap on the comments instead.

None of the comments are particularly violent, especially compared to what I have seen in the past, but the threads of homophobia and bigotry are still prominent. Slurs are less common, but still exist. I see a comment calling queer people “mentally ill f@gs”.

Commenters, generally conservative, generally Republican, continue to feel emboldened to publicly post their vitriol against the LGBTQ community. Inevitably others see this kind of hatred as acceptable, and like cancer, it spreads.

It’s Wednesday, June 26, 2024, and I am reading hateful comments on a news article about the Stonewall Inn. I think about whether it will still be legal for me to marry a man in the next 10 years.

Every June, I see the same arguments against my existence.

Every June, I see a new crop of bigots emboldened by their predecessors.

But we don’t need pride. Right?

It’s mid November, 2022. A domestic terrorist, fueled by far-right anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and hate enters a gay club in Colorado Springs and begins shooting. After mere minutes, five people were murdered and 25 people were injured.

Later in his trial, the perpetrator and his attorneys attempted to co-opt LGBTQ language to garner sympathy, claiming that the shooter used gender neutral pronouns. Nobody in his family could corroborate this, and his neighbors said that he had a long history of making homophobic and transphobic remarks in person and online.

The shooter owned, operated, and moderated Nazi and neo-Nazi websites promoting eugenicist beliefs and fascist ideologies. He both consumed and promoted hateful content and materials specifically targeted towards Jewish people and LGBTQ people. And he had the audacity to try and hijack the culture of his victims to pursue a legal defense against his hate crimes.

He was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences, plus two thousand years without the possibility of parole. He will die in prison for his crimes, and his victims and their families will relive the trauma of the day every November until the end of their days.

But we don’t need pride. Right?

It’s June 12, 2016. Yet another domestic terrorist walks into a gay bar and begins shooting. News organizations across the country took the perpetrators words at face value when he claimed that his targeted attack was a direct retaliation for the US’s involvement in the middle east, but testimony from family, friends, and his community disagree on this assertion.

His father testified that the perpetrator had always been angered by LGBTQ visibility, becoming physically violent when he would see men kissing in public or on television. His coworkers said he was regularly and openly homophobic, racist, and sexist towards other people.

Classmates and coworkers testify that the shooter expressed extreme disgust towards gay men because of his own fears of being perceived as gay. Homophobia, whether it came through bullying as a child, through extreme religious teachings, or through online radicalization, was the motivation for targeting the Pulse nightclub.

After the shooter was taken into custody, when all had settled, 49 people were dead and over 50 were injured either as a direct result of the shooting or from the panic and stampede from trying to escape.

This would become the largest and deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11.

But we don’t need pride. Right?

It’s June 26th, 2015. The Supreme Court issues a verdict on the Obergefell v. Hodges case, a landmark case which lead to the codifying of same sex marriage as a constitutional right for all Americans. The dissenting opinions of the court argue that the legality of same sex marriages robs people of “the freedom to govern themselves”.

Chief Justice Roberts argued that there is an inherent interest in the government to uphold traditional Christian values of marriage. He argued this in spite of the establishment clause, commonly referred to as the “separation of Church and State”.

While the ruling effectively legalized same sex marriage in the entire country, many conservative and Republican politicians argued that the ruling was a fundamental violation of the liberties and rights of heterosexual people. County officials in eleven counties in the state of Alabama were so personally offended by my right to marry a man that they stopped issuing marriage licenses in their entirety.

County clerks across the country who opposed the Court’s decision participated in the blatantly illegal obstruction of same sex couples attempting to gain marriage licenses. Many of these county clerks cited deeply held religious beliefs or convictions as their justification. However, these same clerks did not hold reservations for permitting licenses to non-religious couples, or couples of a different faith than their own.

The ruling, while considered a landmark and precedent setting case for my generation, is still contested. Justice Clarence Thomas has argued publicly that the courts should “reconsider” past rulings, especially that of Griswold (medical right to privacy), Lawrence (legalized private homosexual activity), and especially Obergefell.

One of the most powerful Justices in the entire country is actively advocating for the stripping of rights from an already targeted minority.

But we don’t need pride. Right?

Every year, I see arguments about the existence of Pride on television, in radio shows, amongst Facebook comments and Twitter threads.

Every year, for the month of June, the existence and visibility of the LGBTQ community is targeted.

Every year, during Pride Month, our community fights to be seen, fights to remain heard, and fights to uphold our rights and dignity, while extremists, reactionaries, and homophobes actively campaign against our existence.

Every year, I watch as the people in my community struggle with locking themselves back in the closet for their own safety, or fighting against bigots for the safety of future LGBTQ people.

Every year, bigotry and hatred spreads like a cancer. And every year, I am reminded that, like a cancer left unchecked and untreated, hatred and bigotry will kill. Hatred and bigotry has killed. It will continue to kill.

Like cancer, hatred against the LGBTQ people will cost lives until it is rooted out at the core. Pride is not here to flaunt. Pride is not here for amusement. Pride is here to fight.

And Pride is here to stay.

WE are here to stay.