June is Over – The Struggle Continues
As the international LGBTQI+ Pride Month, June is without a doubt the gayest month. Pride Month started in the United States in memory of the Stonewall riots, but eventually went global. During June, major companies modify their logos to include rainbow colors, thousands of rainbow flags are displayed all across the world in public institutions, and hundreds of thousands of people (including non-LGBTQI+ people) take to the streets in an attempt to demand equality, rights recognition, and political action.
However, when June is over, most non-LGBTQI+ people and (especially) companies just turn a blind eye to these issues and get back to business as usual. For them, this means being indifferent to a reality that is far away from their daily life. For us LGBTQI+ community members, it means the constant possibility of being threatened in the streets, harassed in schools, marginalized in our families, unemployed in the formal economic sector, and forgotten by public policies. The public support that comes with June vanishes with the end of the month.
When Pride Month ends, the struggle is still far from over. This is not to deny that for many LGBTQ+ folks (including myself), Pride Month is an important month. Rather, it’s to assert the necessity of fostering discussions of LGBTQI+ issues beyond June – we need a pride day every month. Actually, what we need is that every single day becomes Pride Day. Let me describe what I mean by using the case of Latin America.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the life expectancy of trans and travesti women in the region is roughly 35 years old. According to the most recent report of the Marielle Franco Hate Crime Monitor published by Mundo Sur, between January 2018 and September 2021 658 LGBTQI+ people were killed in the region due to their gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexuality. In 2016, the Pan-American Health Organization estimated that the prevalence of HIV among trans and travesti Latin American women oscillated between 10% and 32%, whereas UNAIDS stipulated in 2014 that the prevalence level among general adults in Latin America was 0.4%. Data on mental health among LGBTQ+ members remains scarce, yet one study found that 51.5% of the LGBTQI+ people sampled within Latin America had experienced suicidal thoughts. Twenty-five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still lack marriage equality, with the Guatemalan Congress voting to ban same-sex marriage just last March. Only Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Uruguay and certain states in Mexico recognize a person’s right to change their legal gender to match their gender identity. Non-binary gender identities are only legally recognized in Argentina. Multiple Caribbean countries – such as Jamaica, Barbados, or Santa Lucia – prohibit sexual diversity, with it being punishable by the death penalty in some.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned list is not exhaustive. I could go on and on, numbering different socioeconomic indicators that portray a familiar picture: human rights continue to be rights for some, but not all, humans. Dignity is still a privilege that is largely absent for most of my LGBTQ+ peers: violence, illnesses, unemployment, mental health problems, legal condemnation of our sexual activities and encounters, and exclusion of our identities are only a few features of our lives. Even worse, the situation is much of the same – albeit with certain nuances – in other regions of the world outside of Latin America.
Many people (especially cisgender and heterosexual men) complain about the idea of Pride Day. They refuse to accept that there is one day out of the 365 days of the year that is specifically allocated to highlight the existence of LGBTQ+ people. They cannot help but hate the fact that there is one day per year when it is okay for us to walk holding hands in the street and kissing the people we like and love. To be honest, I agree with them. I refuse to accept that there is only one day a year where we should get the chance to walk freely in the streets, get public media attention, and see the pride flag everywhere. I believe that it should be at least once a month. I even strongly support the idea of celebrating Pride Day every single day of the year, because change is not going to happen otherwise.
Latin America is one of the most dangerous regions in the world for LGBTQI+ people. If we want to change that, if we wish to expand human rights so that they can actually become universal, if we want to master equality and dignity, if we aim to improve the situation of those who are the most in need, then one Pride Day is simply not enough. It is an endeavor that requires daily actions, public policies, and politics. Thus, yes – a Pride Day just falls short.