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Rising Up: Reflections from Tufts LGBT Center Director Hope Freeman

The Stonewall riots of 1969 were a turning point in the fight for LGBT rights, catalyzing a political movement and strengthening gay rights advocacy and activism both in the US and abroad.
On June 28, 2021 -- its 52nd anniversary -- we asked Hope Freeman, Director of the LGBT Center and Interim Director of the Women’s Center at Tufts University for her reflections on the Stonewall anniversary, Pride Month, LGBT rights and the work that remains. Hope is an active bystander, educator, abolitionist, and proud youth worker who was named in January 2021 one of Business Equality Magazine's "Forty Under Forty LGBTQ Pride Leaders.

June is a very important month for me. It's Pride Month, the month that culminated  with the liberation of LGBTQ people during the 1969 Stonewall riots. Remember that in the not too distant past, dressing in clothes of the "opposite" gender got you arrested and dancing with someone of the same gender got you arrested. Police harassed people at gay bars so often that bars developed ways to warn the patrons when the police were coming. LGBTQIA+ people were tired of being harassed by police and fought back with Black and Latinx Trans Women leading the charge. As a Queer Black Woman, my blackness, my queerness, and my womanness are salient in how I show up for other Black LGBTQIA+ people; I am not one of those identities at a time, I am all of them at once as I experience racism, sexism, and homophobia differently because of them.

As we remember the Stonewall uprising, the Compton Cafeteria riot, and the movement for Black Lives, we see they are all similarly connected through fighting back against police harassment fighting for the belief that we are free to be true to who we are. In 2020 with the pandemic, the race uprisings in the U.S., and protests against police killing Black people, many organizations and institutions started to think more critically about antiracism, inclusion, equity, and justice. It is important that we do not forget how Gay Pride month, fighting systems of oppression, and the movement for Black Lives are all connected to seeking justice, securing accountability, and challenging systems of oppression as they currently stand.

Being an ally during the month of June is understanding the foundations of systematic racism, systemic transphobia/homophobia and how they are linked to varying systems of oppression. It is the ally’s job to not just call out these forms of injustice, but find ways to undo them -- in the work place, in family units, and in friend circles. It is vital that we also think about these systems BEYOND the U.S. as they have no geographic boundaries; people are experiencing them across the globe. Ally means “I don’t know everything but want to learn” and allies work to intentionally listen to those who are oppressed. Allies are actively engaged in the communities they are supporting, follow their lead and do not talk over or for people they’re allied with. It’s not about ego; it’s about being humble when unlearning past (and sometimes current) participation in systems of oppression.