June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

  • Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2021

From Dwayne T. James, EDIC chair and county engagement specialist in community economic development, St. Louis County

Though the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council (EDIC) is taking a summer break from our Fireside Chats, we wanted to recognize and honor this month.

As extension faculty and staff, members of our communities and change agents for a better Missouri, it is important for us to learn about the diversity of the communities we serve with an open mind. Aristotle is quoted as saying, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” This means that you don’t have to accept or reject a thought while considering the information. As we work to engage community, we must be inclusive in our way of communicating, thinking and being. The way to start is to learn and consider thoughts.

LGBTQIA+ Pride Month is part memorial but mostly a celebration. It commemorates the historic Stonewall riots of June 1969. The Stonewall riots, or Stonewall uprising, came in response to continual law enforcement raids of gay establishments in New York City. The June 28 raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village sparked the uprising, which was a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Pride Month acknowledges the individuals in our society who identify as LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual). The term, which continues to evolve, captures the spectrum of how individuals identify with regards to gender, gender nonconformity and sexuality. Learn more about these terms in “LGBT 101: An introduction to the Queer community,” a seven-minute video tutorial on YouTube.

June is a month to honor the past and use current efforts to increase the equality and visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community. The celebratory efforts are more in-depth than displaying a Pride flag, parades through the community, and Google and other companies changing to rainbow logos to acknowledge Pride Month. This is a time to reflect on the work that has been done within communities, organizations, educational institutions and government for the LGBTQIA+ community to be recognized and treated fairly.

This month is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves, no matter how you personally identify. We can educate ourselves on accomplishments in making our communities and workplaces more diverse, equitable and inclusive. While we celebrate, we must also educate ourselves on the work that continues beyond Pride Month. For more information, check out 10 Ways To Be an Ally & a Friend (GLAAD) and watch 'Ask Me': What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know, a 12-minute video from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I challenge you to watch the videos and read the information provided in the links. I ask that you to not stop there but continue to research the many different perspectives and facts associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, and not just during June. I also challenge you to talk to a friend, family member or coworker about what you heard, learned and understand to be true.

This month we also celebrate Juneteenth, an annual celebration by many in the African American community that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The name is a fusion of “June” and “nineteenth.” On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered and about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Since then, June 19—also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day , Liberation Day and Emancipation Day—has been celebrated in communities across the nation. This year, however, it was designated for the first time as Juneteenth National Independence Day. As a historical moment and, now, a federal holiday, Juneteenth is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the African American community while also educating ourselves about the struggles that remain. Learn more about Juneteenth at Juneteenth.com and What Is Juneteenth? (History.com).

Other events to recognize and celebrate in June

  • Caribbean American Heritage Month commemorates the importance of the Caribbean in the history and culture of the United States.
  • The Indian Citizenship Act, enacted June 2, 1924, granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States.
  • Loving Day, observed June 12, celebrates the 1967 Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia that ended bans on interracial marriage.

Happy Pride and Happy Juneteenth!

—Dwayne T. James