Friday, Jun 11, 2021
By Dean Scott Ryan
School of Social Work
Every year Pride Month is observed in June to honor LGBTQ+ people who stood up for their rights in the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York City. Most consider Stonewall as the catalyst for the modern Gay Liberation Movement and the beginning of the organized fight for social justice and rights for LGBTQ+ people.
For decades Pride Month activities and events have been huge, colorful and informative. The celebrations and commemorations recall the work of social justice advocates who bravely fought for greater understanding, recognition and rights of LGBTQ+ people, and to bring attention to discrimination and hatred still being directed toward them.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been more than a year since organizers were forced to cancel many in-person Pride events and related educational activities and services because of the Coronavirus restrictions.
In December 2019, information about the novel Coronavirus began popping up in some news outlets and publications. By early 2020, city and state agencies had enacted safety regulations restricting public gatherings and outdoor celebrations.
For Pride June 2020, there were no flashy parades, star-studded concerts or blocks-long marches. Primarily there were online activities and webinar speaking events that took place last year.
In the months since the restrictions were put in place, advocates worried LGBTQ+ youth, particularly college students, would fall into a collective deep depression or worse, encounter unsafe conditions while social distancing in homes with disapproving parents or other relatives.
Advocates worried as social service agencies, counseling centers and other facilities serving LGBTQ+ youths and students shut their doors to in-person contact, LGBTQ+ people would have limited access to external support and resources.
With these concerns uppermost in the hearts of Social Workers and LGBTQ+ allies, this month for June 2021 Pride, we welcome the return of more in-person interactions and outdoor Pride commemorations.
We also recognize while marches, memorials, concerts, parades and other activities raise awareness and help educate the world about the unique strengths and struggles of our LGBTQ+ peers, there remains difficult challenges ahead – and significant work to be done around the world, particularly here in Texas.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2020 was the most violent year since 2013 when the organization began tracking such statistics for killings of transgender and gender nonconforming or non-binary people. A record 44 people were killed across the nation – many in Texas.
And 2021 has seen no decrease in this violence. At least 28 transgender and gender nonconforming or non-binary people have been killed due to violence so far this year. Many of these hate crimes often go unreported.
These statistics come as more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced here in Texas, neighboring Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona and in at least 27 other states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Social Workers and students must be aware, remain vigilant and speak out against these types of proposed legislation and the increase in violence against LGBTQ+ people and their families. For example, there were several bills proposed in the most recent Texas legislative session which were attempting to strip away the rights of LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender people.
Social Workers must speak out and address such targeted injustices.
The UTA School of Social Work and our classrooms are LGBTQ+ inclusive, welcoming and affirming. Many of our faculty and staff completed training and have specifically designated themselves and their offices as a Safe Zone. We have several Social Work professors who conduct research and clinical practice with LGBTQ+ populations.
For example, last month Social Work Assistant Professor Dr. Brittanie Ash received the Provost’s Seed Grant Award for her project “Thriving at UTA: The LGBTQ+ Residential Learning Community.” UTA is instituting an LGBTQ+ residential learning community (RLC) in the Fall of 2021. Dr. Ash will examine how participating in the LGBTQ+ RLC impacts the well-being, connectedness, and engagement of students via participatory action research.
This month we will host our annual webinar event to discuss successes and issues facing LGBTQ+ people. Details are pending but follow our social media platforms to get updates.
Finally, let us not forget those lost as we approach the five-year anniversary of the June 12 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, a popular gathering place for LGBTQ+ people in Orlando, Florida. On that terrible night 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded. The increase in hateful rhetoric and legislation from elected leaders targeting LGBTQ+ people, often has a causal relationship to increases in violence directed toward LGBTQ+ communities.
This Pride Month, we honor those who sacrificed so much in the LGBTQ+ social justice and human rights movement. We also acknowledge the progress and freedom achieved so far and welcome the return of some in-person events to commemorate this. However, we must remember those lost to violence and hate, and we must remain committed to advocacy and action. Let’s celebrate safely!
Scott D. Ryan
Dean and Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Arlington
Some recommended resources and information to expand your knowledge, and to learn how to get involved and advocate: