Yesterday marked the beginning of Pride Month, and while our work is year-long, we value this opportunity to honor and highlight Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) individuals and their impact on the world. We are grateful to the many folks who fought for LGBTQ rights and gave us the language to describe our experiences, while recognizing that the struggle for full inclusion and equality is far from over. At End Rape On Campus, we use this heightened visibility that comes with Pride to celebrate the LGBTQ community, and to remind ourselves that these conversations about equality and inclusion should be happening on a daily basis.
Too many folks in our communities face daily oppression and violence for simply being who they are or loving whom they do. At EROC, we envision a world where each person has the opportunity to pursue an educational experience free from violence. Until then, EROC will work to ensure all survivors are believed and supported. Just as we cannot talk about ending sexual violence, without talking about – and centering – race, ethnicity, and immigration status, we cannot end violence without discussing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. As an anti-violence organization, it is our responsibility to actively and consistently engage in anti-racism, anti-homophobia, and anti-transphobia work. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” We at EROC refuse to remain silent, and therefore neutral, on these issues, as doing so will further the violence done onto already vulnerable populations.
This year, members of our team will be celebrating Pride and using this time as an opportunity for education and reflection. We know that members of the LGBTQ community can be perpetrators and victims of sexual violence, yet educational programming does not often include their experiences. The LGBTQ community faces additional barriers to reporting and seeking help after sexual violence, yet when re-writing harmful polices, LGBTQ persons are rarely offered a seat at the table.
We aim to disrupt the harmful narrative that survivors are white, cisgender, heterosexual women. Such a narrative perpetuates the idea that certain forms of violence against others who do not fit into this mold are less important. We know, for example, that trans women of color experience some of the highest rates of violence, yet their experiences are routinely erased in media coverage and in Hollywood portrayals of sexual assault. As allies, anti-violence professionals, and as community members, we must center the voices of the most marginalized as a rule, not an exception, if we truly want culture change.
Finally, it should not be on the backs of the LGBTQ community to fight discrimination and violence on their own. Members of the LGBTQ community need allies to listen, to stand in solidarity, and to lift up LGBTQ voices. As an organization that wants to end violence, we see this as our moral duty. We at EROC hope that you join us this Pride Month, and every day, as we celebrate LGBTQ individuals, actively resist violence and work towards equality for all people.
Annie E. Clark