'It's Larger Than Pride': Activists Consider Path Forward For LGBT Movement NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Catalina Velasquez of Casa Ruby and Sue Doster of InterPride about what "Pride" should be and where the LGBT movement needs to go from here.
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'It's Larger Than Pride': Activists Consider Path Forward For LGBT Movement

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'It's Larger Than Pride': Activists Consider Path Forward For LGBT Movement

'It's Larger Than Pride': Activists Consider Path Forward For LGBT Movement

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As we reach the end of LGBT Pride Month, we're going to look at a debate that has been visible at celebrations around the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing, unintelligible).

SHAPIRO: In cities including Phoenix, Ariz., Columbus, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., protesters disrupted pride marches. This tape comes from the march in D.C. earlier this month. The people stopping the march were not anti-gay protesters. They were LGBT people who believe the movement does not represent them. This week I sat down to talk with two women who work together but approach the debate from different perspectives - first Catalina Velasquez. She's with Casa Ruby, an organization here in Washington that focuses on Latino and immigrant LGBT people. She's also the president of her own consulting firm, Consult Catalina.

CATALINA VELASQUEZ: As an undocumented transgender woman, I would say this is about the active neglect. And it's larger than pride. This is really about lack of representation and about the fact that we can be celebrating identities at a time when we are getting murdered.

SHAPIRO: According to the gay rights group HRC, 14 transgender people have been killed already this year. Someone else thinking about this tension among LGBT people is Sue Doster. She's co-president of InterPride, an organization that supports pride events around the world.

SUE DOSTER: I think things are changing. And in order for the change to continue, we need to have more conversations like the one we're having now.

SHAPIRO: So the outlines of this debate became apparent quickly. Sue Doster believes change is happening. To Catalina Velasquez, that line sounds familiar.

VELASQUEZ: This is not new, and there's an element of active neglect and silencing.

SHAPIRO: What do you mean when you say active neglect and silencing?

VELASQUEZ: Well, black transgender people have been getting murdered, and it's not just this year or the year before. And transgender people didn't come out to society just now. We have being part of Stonewall. We have been part of the history and fabric of U.S. culture. And until now, we have been trying to engage in conversations.

SHAPIRO: So, Ms. Doster, what do you say when you hear Ms. Velasquez say, we've been making this argument for years, and we're not being listened to; the changes are not happening fast enough?

DOSTER: I've been a community organizer and pride organizer for over 25 years. And some of these arguments are historical in that lesbians in the very early days of the movement were invisible, were pushed to the side, were not represented. There were a number of groups that I belonged to at the time, going back a quarter of a century, where I was one of the handful of lesbians on the board as opposed to the men in the position. Typically white men made up the vast majority of leadership in these organizations.

VELASQUEZ: And has that changed?

DOSTER: It is changing. It's a slow process, but we need to keep talking about the importance. One thing the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C., did is - that march made a commitment to make sure every aspect of the longest LGBTQ acronym was represented at the highest levels of leadership.

SHAPIRO: Let me just note that the Equality March took place the day after the pride march in Washington, D.C. And it was a march on the National Mall, protesting some of the policies of the Trump administration.

VELASQUEZ: And it wasn't really a pride march. It was a pride parade. And it was a displayed - a PR strategy of corporations to claim loyalties to a community that they have yet to hire, that they have yet to attend. This is about making sure that the people that we are approving into our spaces are indeed working for all our people.

SHAPIRO: How much do you both think this debate reflects the same kind of divide that African-American communities had during the 1960s or even the divide that the Democratic Party has today between working within the mainstream and, you know, being revolutionary from the outside? This feels very familiar.

VELASQUEZ: Well, it's definitely not unique to LGBTQA+ organizing and movement building. We're living in a context that - it's every day more multilingual, more multi-gender, more multicultural. And I think that that's just - people are not adapting to that.

SHAPIRO: Sue, do you see larger echoes beyond this community that we're talking about here?

DOSTER: Absolutely. Progress can come at a faster rate if we work together. I know there are a lot of communities and subcommunities that have been marginalized throughout this movement. But what's happening is a lot of the people who have come from privilege are starting to speak out.

SHAPIRO: But is that only because people like Catalina Velasquez forced their voice into the dialogue?

VELASQUEZ: I will have to agree with that. It didn't happen because people one day woke up and said, I want to be a better human being and walk the footsteps of a stranger. I think it's because people have put their bodies and lives on the line, raised their voices. It's not easy. But what is the alternative - to remain in dialogue as we continue to die...

SHAPIRO: Sue, what do you...

VELASQUEZ: ...Because dialogue is not new. What has happened in the many years prior to this year?

SHAPIRO: Sue, what do you think of this argument that dialogue only goes so far?

DOSTER: At some point, I agree with what Catalina says. There is a disconnect between what works and what is most effective and what has been. And you can talk about it, but at some point, you have to act. You have to make room. You have to elevate those who maybe are unable to elevate themselves.

SHAPIRO: You both clearly have differences of opinion, and you both clearly want a dialogue to be successful. So I wonder if we can conclude this conversation with any steps that you both agree could be taken to help move things in a productive direction - Sue?

DOSTER: Yeah. I think creating venues where the discussion can happen - and both sides need to be a little patient. I agree. Sometimes social justice can move glacially slowly, but that's how lasting change happens.

SHAPIRO: Catalina Velasquez, what do you think could be done today that everybody can get on the same page with?

VELASQUEZ: I think that we need to shift the conversation from reaching out and tokenism to actual collaboration and meaningful engagement. That looks like a substantial change in the leadership of these bodies to reflect the multiple communities that they say they represent.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying get more trans people, more people of color in charge at these organizations.

VELASQUEZ: Right. This is also not about wants. This is not me wanting. This is about me fighting to breathe and walk.

SHAPIRO: Catalina Velasquez of Casa Ruby and Consult Catalina, great to have you here.

VELASQUEZ: Thank you so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: Sue Doster of InterPride, thanks for joining us.

DOSTER: You are most welcome. Thank you for having the conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRISWAD'S "INSPIRATIONAL FRIENDS")

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