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“It’s not all feather boas and leather boots”: Communal Grief and Loss During Pride Month

Today is June 28, 2024. It has been 55 years since the Stonewall Riots in New York City sparked a revolution. What began as a reaction to police raids, discriminatory actions, and structural violence against LGBTQ2+ individuals in New York City became a three-day-long riotous launch to the LGBTQ+ movement. CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg wrote a phenomenal editorial on the connections between the Stonewall Riots and what would become LGBTQ Pride Month here in the United States (How the Stonewall Riots Led to Pride Month). As a scholar of death and dying, primarily from a rhetorical and sociocultural lens, it is important to take a moment to look at the connections between this pivotal moment from riot to Pride parade, and highlight the ways in which grief and loss are underlying affective motifs and emotions that are ever-present during the conversations of Pride during this celebratory month for LGBTQ2+ individuals. We often think of Pride as parades and festivals and living out one’s truth in the most fervent way possible. However, this month has a long-standing history with grief and loss, rooted in the history of the LGBTQ movement prior to Stonewall. 


Marsha P. Johnson, trans woman of color activist and Stonewall Riot participant; depicted with fellow activists, 1969-70
Marsha P. Johnson, trans woman of color activist and Stonewall Riot participant; depicted with fellow activists, 1969-70

In the United States, there were strategic moves made by the U.S. government, political officials, and religious groups, aimed at rooting LGBTQ individuals up and out of their professional lives on the basis of their sexual and/or gender identity minority status. Stonewall signified a breaking point for the LGBTQ2+ community, where grievances had accumulated to the point that the community said “Enough is enough” and demanded recognition and acceptance, then and there, as they were. Moving forward to Pride month as we see it now, with rainbow capitalism and the ever-present rainbow glitter across anything that will stand still; however, the grief and loss have not, in fact, left. Pride, instead, reminds us that there have been lives lost, cut short by structural violence, fear, ignorance, and a relentless feeling that there was no other way to survive in this world. We, as a community, collectively grieve those losses, during this month and throughout the year, as we celebrate who we are and the freedoms we have gained, often at the cost of those lives, from the generations who came before us. In recent years, activists and scholars have taken a stance to collectively memorialize loss and grief in relation to Pride, especially in light of events like Pulse (Orlando), the anniversary of which is June 12th. The loss of queer life, queer love, and queer potentiality are at the forefront of the collective memorialization that comes with events like Pulse and Stonewall. We grieve, we lost, and we survived. That is the truth of queer reality in the United States. 


Heritage of Pride: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender banner and float, New York City Pride, 2023
Heritage of Pride: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender banner and float, New York City Pride, 2023

You can explore some of the ways in which grief and loss now interweave with Pride collectively through the following blog, created by activists and scholars alike, to remember that Pride is rooted in a daring to live and thrive, authentically and freely, but not without acknowledging the risks that had to be taken and the costs that often go under-emphasized in the greater conversation of LGBTQ liberation: Loss, Love, and Pride. As Pride month comes to an end, remember that these events are often rooted in the lived experiences of the most marginalized in society, and those lives deserve a chance in the spotlight. As a Southerner, it is customary to share a greeting of solidarity during Pride month, so I will simply close with this: Roll Pride! 


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Author: JJ Jones


JJ Jones was elected as the DEI Chair of End-of-Life and Death Scholars, as well as the National Communication Association's Death and Dying Division, in 2024.


Find out more about JJ here: Bio

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