Indy Pride & Black Lives Matter Find Solidarity In Protests

A Queering Indy benefit held recently at Black Circle Brewing

Ted Somerville

“Fifty years ago, Pride started because we couldn’t take it anymore.”

There’s a registered shift in the tenor of Ali Brown’s voice. As the first self-described openly queer woman elected to the Indianapolis City-County Council, Brown is all too familiar with the struggles of being openly queer. Her words hark back to the Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969, the modern catalyst for the LGBTQ rights movement and the reason we celebrate LGBTQ Pride month in June. But her words also underscore the current swirl of emotions in the cultural zeitgeist and recent inflection points with the global pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice.

“When people tell us they’re hurting, we believe them,” she says.

This Pride month, LGBTQ leaders and community organizations are actively advocating to center queer people of color online and in person.

Efforts kicked off earlier this month when the LGBTQ Caucus passed a resolution in celebration of LGBTQ Pride month by recognizing queer and transgender people of color. The resolution speaks for all LGBTQ Hoosiers and specifically recognizes LGBTQ Hoosiers who identify as a person of color.

According to a recent report from the Williams Institute, 4.5 percent of Indiana’s population identifies as LGBTQ. Out of the estimated 229,000 LGBTQ Hoosiers living in Indiana, about 29 percent of Hoosiers—or 66,000—are also people of color. And within Indiana’s transgender community, about 8,000 Hoosiers also identify as nonwhite.

“LGBTQ Hoosiers, especially queer and trans people of color, have long deserved to be recognized for their relentless resilience and heart in fighting for opportunity and acceptance in our state, and it’s an honor to recognize how much work it took just to get us to this point,” says Brown.

In addition to the resolution, members of the “rainbow wave,” the four LGBTQ candidates elected to the Indianapolis City-County Council in 2019, partnered with the Stonewall Democrats on a Pride flag-delivery service and voter-registration drive for the LGBTQ community earlier this month.

Concurrently, Indy Pride, the nonprofit responsible for hosting the Indy Pride Festival canceled all virtual events leading to its capstone Indy Pride Virtual Celebration on June 21, in a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests. The virtual event retooled its programming, dedicating its 2020 virtual festival to center the voices, experiences and leadership of BIPOC LGBTQ community members as a day of recognition, healing, learning and celebration hosted by Patricia Yolonda Weave, Halle Pino, and Tia Mirage Hall.

The nonprofit also announced the decision to no longer contract with or use police departments for security at the Indy Pride Festival and other events. A statement posted on Indy Pride’s Facebook page in part reads:

“Indy Pride is meant to be a safe place where people celebrate LGBTQ+ uniqueness, history and build community. For many in our community who have experienced police brutality, the presence of uniformed officers and police at Pride do not create this safe environment … It is important now more than ever to remember the first Pride marches were protests against police brutality led by brown and black people. This is the time for our community to listen to communities affected by violence, to protest with them, and to support them in all ways possible.”

Clad with signs reading, “Black Trans Lives Matter” and brandishing variations of the Philadelphia Pride flag, the Progress Pride flag and the trans flag, members of the LGBTQ and ally community gathered on June 20 for the “Blaq Lives Matter” protest. Intersecting directly with the Black Lives Matter protests, a joint coalition consisting of Belinda Drake for State Senate, Juneteenth Social, Low Pone and Taste Indy organized the protest to bring light to intersectionality within the black community as it relates to race and sexuality.

Members of the community cheered, danced and celebrated black queerness amongst moments of somberness and solidarity. The protest spoke to the violence and polarizing experiences of members of the Black LGBTQ community and helped raise funds for Indiana Youth Group and Indiana Pride of Color.

As Brown notes, this LGBTQ Pride month is a recognition of queer and trans people of color celebrating their accomplishments in the face of adversity. As the coverage of the protests continues to die down, only time will tell if these shifts in centering the experience of queer people of color will have a lasting impact.