On June 28, 1969, a very brave woman found herself outside a bar in New York City, confronting people who could not possibly understand her. It’s likely that she stood facing them, wondering how she ended up in that very spot, at that very time. It’s likely that they looked at her, much like she was some type of alien or creature. It was an interesting encounter – an encounter that would change history. An encounter that would ultimately create a community.
That brave woman was Marsha P. Johnson. As she shared her authenticity as a trans woman of color outside the Stonewall Inn that night as the riot began, little did she know that she was declaring pride for each of us. It never ceases to amaze me how declarations of authenticity can change our lives, thus sending the course of history in directions many of us could have never imagined.
As members of the Democratic Party, we find ourselves during a time much like Marsha did – knowing that in many ways we are ahead of our antiquated times, naturally confronting broken systems of power that simply must go. We cannot deny this, and each new day that passes, filled with confrontations of our truth, we struggle with the next step.
As a member of the LGBTIQ community in New Mexico, I understand the importance of the struggle. As my jazz band stepped out into its first major public performance 13 years ago, I debated whether to wear a necktie: a small piece of clothing that would define my own authenticity. If I wore it, would I be heckled and laughed at? If I wore it, would I be seen as some sort of creature and never asked to perform there again? If I wore it, could I somehow be arrested? Some may not see this as a struggle – to me, it defined my life.
I would later adopt the courage of people like Marsha P. Johnson to push myself from struggle into unabashed pride. How many times do we forfeit authenticity due to fear? At what point do we declare that this fear simply must go and anything less than our truth is unacceptable? Thanks to those who have created our community before us, the answer is clear and the pursuit is unabridged.