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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Love Letter to our Queer Lineage

I don't know about you, but sometimes I just have to stop, stop, STOP and take a moment to reflect on the incredible timeline of our collective LGBTQIA+ community. Today, on the anniversary of the first night of the Stonewall riots, I want to give credit where it is unequivocally due…to those queer and trans trailblazers who paved the way for us.

To those brave hearts who stood tall at Stonewall, who faced brutality with defiance and courage - thank you. You kickstarted a revolution when the world tried to keep our community in the shadows. Your riot was a rallying cry that still echoes today.

To those who suffered, died, and cared for each other during the AIDS crisis - your love and compassion in the face of unspeakable loss humbles me. You showed the world what family really means when many of your own families turned their back on you. You created deep bonds of care and support when much of society looked away.

To those who never got to live in their full truth, who carried the weight of secrecy and shame - I hope you can see the impactful changes since your pain. I hope that your silent struggles won’t be in vain. Though we’ve still got a long way to go and we’re facing new challenges and levels of toxicity each day, a great many of us are able to live out loud because of the ground you held.

To everyone who endured physical harm, who internalized society's cruel messages long before we even had words like "homosexuality" - your pain carved out space for healing. We have resources and choices today that were realized as needed because of you.

To those treated badly (or worse) by religious figures, diagnosed as if your love was a disorder, or locked away in facilities for lack of understanding - your experiences expose the injustice we're still resisting.

To the fighters who insisted on being themselves anyway, who ran LGBT businesses and bars and stood up for our community when your lives were in danger - your courage is our blueprint for resilience.

To those who loved proudly and publicly, even when it meant being outcast - your visibility is the reason some of us can walk hand-in-hand today.

In my view, we owe our ancestors so much gratitude. There’s a lot of discussion in our community about who knows best about queer theory and language and gender and queer liberation. Sometimes, it can feel like a competition about who is the most radical. The truth is that we wouldn’t even be able to have discussions on these topics the way we do today if it weren’t for those who came before us. Let us not take for granted the reasons we're able to live and love more freely than they were. And as for our queer elders who are living alongside us today, love and respect are at the baseline of what they deserve from us.

Now, to those struggling today, in the US and all over the world - I see you. I love you. The panic attacks, wondering if those you love will continue loving you after you come out, fearing the very real risk of harm or death just for being your true self - it's extremely heavy, I know. For those caught up in addictions because checking out feels a hell of a lot safer than being embodied in presence - I get it. Reality continues to be brutal for LGBTQIA+ folx right now. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I struggle, myself, worrying what might happen to us, to our hard won rights and groundwork.

But please remember this: You carry within you the same fire that burned in our ancestors. Their strength flows in your veins. You are not alone in this fight. We've got a whole lineage of badass queer and trans folks supporting us. Tap into that power. Let it fuel you. 

Your truth is a gift to this world, even when it feels like a burden. 

Write that on your mirror to help you remember. It's not an affirmation. It's a fact.

And hey, let's not forget allies and advocates. To those who've stood beside us, who've amplified our voices when we were silenced, who've fought for our rights as if they were their own - thank you. You've been a shelter in the storm and have backed us up in the fight. Whether you're family who chose love over prejudice, friends who've educated themselves and others, or strangers who've become champions of equality - your support means the world. You prove that compassion can bridge any divide. Keep showing up, keep speaking out. Your allyship is a crucial part of our journey towards a more just and loving world.

And for those who don't understand, who don't know LGBTQIA+ folks personally, or who hate without knowledge - here's my hope for you: May you find the courage to open your hearts. May you move past bigotry, fear, and ignorance to see the humanity in everyone, even those different from you. You will grow your own humanity that way. You don't have to understand to have respect for difference. And who knows? Embracing those you don’t understand and expanding your view might just teach you something about yourself, helping you become more loving to yourself and to everyone else. It might set you free in ways you’d never even considered you were penned-in. 

Our history shows just how much our voices and actions matter. We need rest sometimes but we can’t afford apathy. May we honor the sacrifices of the past by continuing to imagine a future of true equality and acceptance. Let’s continue building that future. Let’s lean into the strength of our lineage and create a world where everyone can live and love authentically, without fear.

A neon sign in red that says Love & Resistance with Stonewall 50 underneath those words.

Photo: Jennifer Bonauer/Unsplash


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