Latisha McDaniel Grife

With the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising will be plenty of articles, tributes, and retrospects on the movement for LGBTQ rights and liberation.

As a bisexual black woman, this time of year is a reminder of how our history continues to be white/cis-washed, and how much of the work so far has been beneficial to a few.

Acts of violence against trans women of color are still on the rise. The medical and mental needs of the bi/pan/queer community continue to be ignored or not taken seriously. Attacks on won rights like open military service, adoption, and marriage remain targets of the current administration. And recently, state governments are doing everything in their power to control the reproductive decisions of people.

With so much turmoil, it seems almost delusional to celebrate anything. But there is plenty to celebrate. Pride month is a time for me to recognize the beauty in our communities, and their beautiful work. Especially considering what’s been happening in Texas recently, it feels fitting to start there:

Texas is where my activism began before I moved to Iowa City, my activism began in Texas, where my teachers were trans/nonbinary people. My early volunteer work  with a group called GEAR (Gender Education, Advocacy and Resources) connected me with the quiet fire of Nell Gaither.

Nell led GEAR and then started her own organization,  Trans Pride Initiative, that advocates for trans/gnc/nb people in homelessness, healthcare, and the criminal justice system.  She is a staunch prison abolitionists and an all around badass.

Another badass is Monica Roberts. Proud of her Houston heritage, Monica has been writing from the perspective of an unapologetic black trans woman since 2006 on her blog TransGriot.  For her no cis-nonsense writing, she has received awards from GLAAD and has been featured in Ebony.com, HuffPost and the Advocate.

She is loved for her honest writing, hilarious callouts, and constant presence as a voice of black trans people in Houston media. She is considered an elder and Auntie to many trans/nb people of color.

Jaime Nevins is an Iowan who created the space for trans/nonbinary people in our local community when there was little to none. A seasoned activist with feminist work at the Emma Goldman Clinic and the Women’s Resource & Action Center, Jaime started Transverse as a facebook presence. The online presence eventually grew into support group for trans/nb/questioning and allies to build community in the Iowa City area. I am thankful for Jaime’s presence and taking the initiative to create more spaces for trans/nb people.

Besides creating queer spaces for us to maintain community, LGBTQ people are doing the work in mainstream/left of center spaces and broadening the perspective of organizations and movements that need our voices.

Especially in Iowa, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has become a force to be reckoned with. Including queer leadership at all levels, the DSA chapters in Iowa City, Dubuque, and Des Moines are tackling affordable housing, tenant rights, workers’ rights and other housing/economic justice issues.

The Tenant Unions throughout Iowa have came at the right time. Many more outside developers are looking to take land and price out low-income people. I may not agree with everything that the National DSA advocates, but their work on the local level feeds my anti-colonialism, anarcho-socialist soul.

When it comes to immigration, Natalia Espina is a founding member of the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project.  Espina and her colleagues created EICBP because of the increased raids by ICE. They’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for bond, travel, court costs and have reunited at least 45 families.

Natalia and other members have organized or spoke at immigration rallies and provided workshops for Knowing Your Rights and how to interact with ICE. Someone with that much fire doesn’t stay in one place for too long: Natalia is currently in Milwaukee as the Operations Director at Voces de la Frontera, continuing to fight for all immigrants.

To answer the question, “Where is the Pride?”, it is freakin EVERYWHERE.  I’ve only highlighted a few LGBTQ activists.  There are so many of us out there doing the work with no recognition and no desire for it.

Celebrating the activist. That is what we need to do to commemorate Stonewall 50.  Have a shot for Sylvia, Marsha P and Brenda.  Read some Lorde, Baldwin, or Hughes.  Watch documentaries about Bayard Rustin, Harvey Milk and ACT-UP.  Laugh and cry watching Pose.

Then after the celebrations, let’s get back to work. Let’s continue fighting for our people, for our sexual liberation, for our right to expression, for our right to love and our right to live.