June is known as Pride Month.
It’s a month to celebrate and recognize members of LGBTQ communities and their right to identify and be with whomever they want.
Things are different this year – parades and celebrations have been cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus. Some groups have joined forces with Black Lives Matter protests.
“The center has been working alongside the local Black Lives Movement to work together in protest, and participating in marches and vigils and we support the purpose of the Black Lives Movement because we to incur violence," said John Waldron, executive director and CEO of The Center, "Our black, trans females are the most victimized in our community and often face much of the same oppression from law enforcement.”
Waldron told KNPR's State of Nevada that the LGBTQ community's fight for equality is similar to what the black community has gone through and continues to go through.
“The LGBTQ community is standing in solidarity and maybe tempering pride celebrations to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Andre Wade, state director for Silver State Equality.
Wade said Urban Pride and Las Vegas Pride are coming together for a silent march and vigil on Saturday night to show support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a black man who identifies as gay, Wade does not often see those communities coming together.
“But now, under these unfortunate circumstances, we actually have a time when these two communities are coming together and it’s beautiful, it’s under tragic circumstances but it warms me up to see that the LGBTQ community, as coded white that has to deal with its own racism, is actually saying, ‘Wait a second, we got to do something about black people being murdered on the daily and what can we do,’” he said.
Wade said people of color who also identify as LGBTQ have two fights on their hands. They have to combat trans and homophobia as well as systemic racism.
But they are part of the conversation and Wade said they refuse to be marginalized.
One of the biggest problems for both communities is the continued violence against transgender people - especially if they are also people of color.
“What we really need to do is continue to educate everyone about what it means to be transgender or gender diverse or gender non-conforming – however you might identify – because I think people are slowly able to wrap their minds around different sexual orientations,” Wade said.
He said everyone needs to see more positive images of transgender, gender diverse or gender non-conforming people and get more comfortable with the use of proper pronouns and why that's important.
Waldron agreed that more needs to be done to protect the trans and intersex people in the LGTBQ community.
“It’s really alarming what happens every day in our community with regards to bullying and violence that happens against our trans and intersex people. We need to have protections in place,” he said.
The Center recently worked with the Salvation Army to create a special section of the agency's homeless center just for LGBTQ people so they have a safe place to go.
Despite that progress, Waldron said the LGBTQ community needs to work with law enforcement to make sure it has a voice when it comes to social justice reforms.
Another important step towards equality for the LGBTQ community was handed down by the Supreme Court this month. The Court ruled that protections outlined in the Civil Rights Act apply to members of the LGBTQ community.
Sondra Cosgrove teaches Nevada history at the College of Southern Nevada. She said the decision came after a plain reading of the act.
“They said, ‘we’re just going to do a plain reading that word applies to everybody therefore our trans neighbors, our LGBTQ community members are protected as well,” she said.
Nevada already had some workplace protections in place for LGBTQ people, but it was up to the employee to file a complaint.
Cosgrove believes Nevada's progressive nature aligns with its capitalistic priorities.
"Behaving in discriminatory ways is not going to make you more money, telling people who have money not to come and spend their money, is not making you more money,” she said.
Cosgrove pointed out that Nevada's resorts and casinos want people to come here, spend money and have a good time, discriminating against someone for their sexual orientation or gender identification doesn't help that effort.
“I actually think that Las Vegas is a quintessential place when it comes to American individualism and the protection of civil rights because we think it would not make any sense at all to tell anyone that we don’t want you to come here and spend money or we don’t want you to come here and work because that ends up hurting all of us,” she said.
Like the rest of the country, Nevada has come a long way in supporting the LGBTQ community. Henderson just opened its first equality center. Chris Davin is the executive director.
“We’re hoping we’re going to be able to provide the needed resources for those in Henderson be it education, youth, social support, advocacy programs, basically just a safe space that any LGBTQ or non-LGBTQ can come and feel safe at,” he said.
Davin said the center in Henderson was important because so many services for the community were in Las Vegas often a lot further away than someone using public transportation or living without a car could actually reach.
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