a row of small trans flags along a curb
Trans pride flags. (Photo/Flickr-Ted Eytan CC BY-SA 2.0)

Rainbow flags are not enough against deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ hate

This Pride season brings milestones large and small to celebrate.

The Respect for Marriage Act, signed by President Joe Biden in December, enshrined same-sex marriage into federal law. Karine Jean-Pierre has become the first openly LGBTQ+ White House press secretary. Amir Ohana serves as the first openly gay speaker of Israel’s Knesset. In February, Kim Petras became the first transgender artist to win a key Grammy Award. And Slovenia, Cuba and Switzerland have adopted same-sex marriage.

Despite such progress, we are witnessing a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ+ hate and gaslighting, the most potent forms of which target transgender Americans. We must be vigilant. The same grotesque accusations that have been leveled against gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans for decades are now being repurposed against transgender Americans.

Homosexuality was once defined as a mental illness and thought to be curable through conversion therapy and other horrific practices. Today, anti-LGBTQ+ activists claim that gender dysphoria and gender nonconformity are “phases” to be corrected.

Draconian laws against homosexuality once brought stigmatization, harassment and violence. Today, bathroom visits are being policed, and gender-affirming care is being delegitimized and banned.

Gay people were once considered ill-suited to teach students in classrooms. Today, transgender youth are denied the right to be themselves in schools across the South.

The Jewish community must continue to champion LGBTQ+ rights because we know where dehumanization can lead.

Same-sex couples were once denied equal rights in the name of “traditional marriage.” Today, “there are only two genders” is a dog whistle used to deny transgender and nonbinary Americans the freedom to live authentic lives.

In all these cases, rights and freedoms are denied without any consequences to straight or cisgender people.

The Jewish community must continue to champion LGBTQ+ rights because we know where dehumanization can lead. Martin Niemoller’s famous poem “First They Came For…” reminds us that hate has a way of jumping from one group to the next.

Today’s attacks extend beyond transgender rights. The far right is equating the artform of drag with pedophilia, and laws such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill bar instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even the legacy of LGBTQ+ Jewish icon Harvey Milk is in question. Earlier this month, the Temecula Valley School Board in Southern California voted that his history is inappropriate for students to learn. This last attack in particular hits home when it comes to the challenges our Jewish community faces, with antisemitism seeping into ethnic studies curricula.

On June 6, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ organization in the U.S., declared a state of emergency and identified an “unprecedented and dangerous” increase in discriminatory legislation nationwide. The group reported that more than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced this year and that more than 70 of them have been signed into law.

This month, as we adorn ourselves in rainbows and head to the parade, let us remember that Pride is much more than a celebration. It’s about resilience — a trait that the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities have shared for generations.

Tyler Gregory
Tye Gregory

Tye Gregory is CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area.