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Letter from the Editor

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons / Tony Webster

Can we just cut to the most obvious thing? It’s Pride Month—obvious because of the nearly ubiquitous marches and parades and, in a quintessentially queer twist, Babadook costumes. Perhaps a little less obvious, though: What has Pride come to mean in 2017?

On the one hand, many aspects of the season are the same. Queers the world over are mobilizing with our brothers and sisters and gender-diverse kin to celebrate our presence and our visibility. For instance, Pride celebrations in Washington, DC, last weekend featured everything from a block party that stretched across about a half a dozen blocks to a pop-up exhibit at the Library of Congress that shone a light on historical LGBTQ gems, like original panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and the poetry of Walt Whitman. Equally important, there was a healthy amount of critique, even of the district’s Pride events themselves—the No Justice No Pride protest during the parade reconnected the movement to its riotous liberation roots.

And yet, Pride celebrations this year, it seems, are also marked by tragedy. They come one year after the shooting at Pulse claimed 49 lives, largely Latino and queer. This atrocity is now a sort of totem of how fiendishly provisional queer spaces can be—and how important it is to make more of them. As well, we’re living near the apex of both queer legibility and a harsh state crackdown on queer people through “bathroom bills” and so-called “religious liberty” laws, imbuing the modern queer reality for so many people with equal parts freedom and anxiety. Our very existence is indeed political, and we don’t have a choice to opt out of being politicized.

Amid the headiness of Pride, New America has commissioned a package of stories that offers a glimpse of the queer experience in 2017. Sabia Prescott and Kristyn Lue take critical stock of the victories and challenges that shape the modern LGBTQ student experience. In an interview with Nancy Polikoff, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, Elizabeth Morehead investigates what the definition of “family” should be, keeping in mind the different family situations that often include LGBTQ Americans. Taking us beyond the American context, Cornelius Hanung explains how Indonesia’s LGBTQ citizens are being swallowed up in another wave of anti-gay hatred, one that’s testing the country’s reputation for religious moderation. Susannah Rodrigue makes the case that the inclusion of transgender troops isn’t just about politics; military policy reflects the principles of the institution—and of our nation. Queer representation, writes Fabricio Leal Cogo, is about equality in the broadest sense, and that’s a conversation worth demanding year after year. And last, Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune reports on how transgender Texans are gearing up for a special session of the state’s legislature that will most likely continue the debate over which bathrooms transgender individuals can use.

Pride, unsurprisingly, means different things to different people—and truly, it’s impossible to capture it without pasting over some part of some person’s queerness. So here’s just a sliver of what it can mean, and of the issues to keep in mind long after the celebrations have ended.


Brandon Tensley is the assistant editor at New America.