Equality at the Intersection

Ed. note: This editorial by Equal Rights Washington board chair Monisha Harrell is excerpted from the Seattle Pride Guide 2015.

P ride weekend is one of my favorite of the year. For me it represents a time where the LGBTQ community comes together in celebration of all of our diversity and as our full authentic selves. It is the quintessential “come as you are” party. However, it is also during this time period that I am reminded that there are still many within our community who continue to be silenced, marginalized and discriminated against at crisis levels. The visibility that we share during Pride weekend isn’t shared by all equally throughout the rest of the year, and this is something that none of us should find acceptable.

If we believe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” we also have to believe that it is true for equality as well, with no exceptions. If we as a community value diversity, justice and equality, then we have to value those things for everybody, at all times, not just when it suits us personally or is convenient. Values can never be compromised.

Easier said than done, so where do we start? We start by looking at the people who have been fighting with us for years. Nobody solely identified by their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is not monolithic LGBTQ perspective because our identities as individuals are multidimensional, complex and varied. We are influenced by our ethnic backgrounds, educations, geographies, socio-economic status, interests and abilities. We must admit there is racism, sexism, transphobia, and classism within the LGBTQ community, and these illnesses help to keep our community divided and depressed. If we riot at Stonewall, but fall silent at Ferguson, how can we say we truly value equality and justice? We must continuously fight oppression based on identity-whether that is sexual orientation, gender, race or ethnicity.

The work for justice and equality is not just in our legal systems, it is in our open dialogues and conversations with one another.

Working at the intersections means we recognize our LGBTQ and allied people of color, women, low-income, or rural individuals, and that we are just as tied to their rights and protections as we are our own, regardless of how we self-identify. As they have stood with us, we must stand with them.

We need to not just show up at rallies and parades, but to speak out against all prejudice when and where we see it. The work for justice and equality is not just in our legal systems, it is in our open dialogues and conversations with one another. Working at the intersections ensures that all boats rise, and everybody has equal access to jobs, housing, healthcare and education. We must fight so that we all have the ability to live free from fear of violence and oppression. Working at the intersections invites all voices to the table (even those that don’t have the same perspective), and requires diligence and deliberateness in thought and action.

We have made great strides in LGBTQ rights in recent years, and we celebrate that progress. However, we have to recognize that our entire community hasn’t arrived yet, and this is not the time to take a break. We can’t stop until we live in a world where earning potential, life expectancy and poverty rates aren’t predicted by our race, ethnicity, gender identity, or geography.

We have momentum and the power to bring full equality home for everybody. Add your voice and resources to this work. When you see injustice, speak up — silence is complicity. Begin a dialogue, tell your story, and allow others to share theirs. There is a future ahead of us where our community can bring its whole self to the table, and we can be our complete and authentic selves all year long — where our entire community is visible, valued, respected and safe.

Monisha Harrell
Monisha Harrell
Monisha Harrell is the board chair of Equal Rights Washington.