Before being taken down, a video on “Old Row Auburn” of local drag queen Colana Bleu pushing a man off stage that was visibly harassing her had gone viral.
To many, it was a funny video of a random man getting what he deserved.
For many members of the LGBT community, this was a harsh reality: constantly fighting oppression, discrimination and often physical violence for the sheer act of existing.
“With that SkyBar incident, that happens all the time. Drunk guys are constantly harassing me like he did, telling me I’m not a real woman, I’m sick, I need mental help,” Colana said. “We’re characters; we dress up to entertain. I just have more fun when I put a wig on.”
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For members of the LGBT community, this struggle is a part of everyday life, and the timing of the incident sheds light on the importance of Pride Month.
Randi Michelle, a local trans woman, can recall being verbally insulted in Auburn and called names, such as “it” or “tranny.”
“I always expect a lot worse backlash from the public, and I’m thankful that I’ve not experienced worse incidents with discrimination,” Michelle said.
Oppression and discrimination against the LGBT community is not something new, and it persists today.
In February, The Plainsman reported on an incident of a man shouting Nazi and white supremacist slogans and brandishing a gun at Mama Mocha’s, a coffee shop known to be inclusive to the LGBT community.
A little over 70 years ago, LGBT people were seen as governmental risks. Between 1947 and 1950, 1,700 job applications were denied, 4,380 people were discharged from the military and 420 people were fired from their government jobs for being suspected homosexuals.
Seventy years later, President Donald Trump brought this notion back by claiming that transgender people will no longer be able to serve in the United States military. He tweeted, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Not even two months ago, the 15-year-old Nigel Shelby died by suicide in Huntsville, Alabama, after being bullied about his sexuality.
Earlier this month, Mark Chambers, mayor of Carbon Hill, Alabama, said that the best way to solve the issue of “homosexuals and transvesties” would be to just “kill the problem out.”
At the beginning of this year, Dana Martin, a black Alabamian became the first trans person killed in 2019 – not even 50 miles from Auburn. She was found in a car that had crashed in a ditch with a gunshot wound to her head.
Since then, 10 black trans women have been killed in the U.S.
Alabama’s existing hate crime law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
One argument is that since Pride Month is all about love, why is there no “straight pride?”
“Those that believe this must be uneducated as to why there is a pride month to begin with,” Colana said. “Pride month didn’t use to be these wonderful celebrations of life. They started out as riots where trans people of color were literally fighting for freedom against police officers in the street. It’s not pie — just because I get some, doesn’t mean you get less. We just want to be equal.”
Members of the Auburn LGBT community experience anxiety, depression, family exile and suicidal thoughts simply because of their identity.
Pride month is not about celebrating queerness, but to advocate for those who are harmed or oppressed for being queer.
Pride is about Anthony Avalos, a 10-year-old boy that was killed by his father after coming out.
Pride is about Gabriel Fernandez, an 8-year-old boy that was tortured by his father who thought he was gay.
Pride is about Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student who was abducted, tied to a fence and beaten.
Pride is about Shade Schuler, a transgender black woman shot and left in a vacant field.
Pride is about reminding people that no matter who they love or how they identify, their life is valuable and precious.
Pride is important because it is a reminder that hate will not be tolerated, and love will always be celebrated.
Pride Month is important nationally, in Alabama and in Auburn.
Progress has been made, but instances of violence and hatred against the LGBT community are seen all too often. They don’t just happen in far off places. They happen in our own backyard, which is why Pride Month is important even in a small college town like Auburn, Alabama.
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