Pride Month is a shared celebration of resilience and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit joy. We enjoy parades, drag shows, and festivals washed in joyous rainbow flags. But while we’re celebrating, we must include a call to action and solidarity.
Pride Month is a shared celebration of resilience and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit joy. We enjoy parades, drag shows and festivals washed in joyous rainbow flags. But while we’re celebrating, we must include a call to action and solidarity. Pride started out as a protest, after all. But today’s increasingly polarized political climate has pushed Pride from a celebration of personal freedom and queer identity to a fight for our collective liberation and self-determination.
The current climate is not a coincidence.
We’re seeing the results of a carefully engineered battle trying to appear organic – although it’s anything but grassroots. The vitriolic fearmongering against LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities is a result of a relentless, decades-long push by theocratic groups and affiliated billionaires and foundations.
The interconnected web of conspiracy behind this push was revealed in part due to emails leaked from a South Dakota representative’s email account and further cemented by leaked documents from a fake medical advocacy group, the American College of Pediatrics (ACPeds). The leaks revealed a multi-state legislative strategy, first targeting transgender children because “that’s where the consensus is,” and documented a close coordination between Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the ACPeds. Both groups share a mission of harming LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people and both groups honed their strategies working in statehouses across the country to eliminate or severely limit abortion rights. Leaked documents show that ADF paid ACPeds thousands of dollars to develop credible-sounding white papers to use as “evidence” in state legislatures and presumably legal hearings. Now they’ve turned their attention to harming the queer community.
Since 2015, political attacks against LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people have grown exponentially in state legislatures. In 2023, the ACLU has tracked nearly 500 discriminatory bills targeting freedom of expression, the safety of transgender students, and access to health care for gender dysphoria across the country.
There is nothing grassroots about this movement.
The adult proponents who detransitioned and testified in South Dakota’s legislative hearings on House Bill 1080, the bill that prohibited providing life-saving gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth, were part of a traveling show to statehouses across the country, also appearing in Montana, Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho.
Several of the contacts listed in the leaked emails between the South Dakota representative and other anti-trans collaborators testified in multiple states as well. Names like Quentin Van Meter, William Malone, Scott Newgent, Matt Sharp, and Mirriam Grossman are listed as proponents of anti-trans bills in multiple states. These individuals are political activists posing as medical experts, disingenuously purporting to have the best interest of children in mind. Banning evidence-based medical practices for youth is just one goal of their agenda, with their angry sights set on eliminating the rights of all LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people, including pursuing laws that ban drag shows and ban books that depict queer existence.
South Dakota has long been used as a legislative test balloon for dark conservative model legislation (primarily related to abortion restrictions), so it’s no surprise that a South Dakota state representative is at the center of this conspiracy. Despite (or more aptly, because) of the small population of trans youth in South Dakota, we are the perfect mark to test out the messaging and strategies created by a group of Christian nationalist ideologues with no interest or regard for the lives of the children they are purportedly trying to save. And they have been successful.
Although the ACLU of South Dakota was successful in defeating both bans on drag shows introduced in the 2023 legislative session, the bill to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for trans youth passed with flying colors. The movement to erase queer people is continuing to ramp up in volume and the threat of physical harm. Now more than ever, we need to use our voices to oppose future legislation just as loudly as we celebrate.
Although we love a good party, Pride isn’t just about the parades, festivals, and glitter.
We must also be organizing, educating, and pledging our time and efforts to the work of protecting our communities. After one hell of a legislative session in South Dakota and across the country, we know the fight for true equality is far from over. The ACLU will always fight for our right to determine our futures — but we can’t do it alone. Pride started as a protest – and it still is inherently political.