Heightened Racial Tensions Took Pride Month Back to Its Roots — Why the Work Is Just Beginning

While Pride Month is coming to an end, the fight for LGBTQ rights continues well past June for the fashion industry and the millions of those who comprise and support the LGBTQ community.

“I’m fighting for the tall, plus size, black, queer girl who struggles to find her voice every single day,” stylist Courtney Mays told FN. “Pride is our superpower! Pride is a resounding battle cry and it speaks very loud and clear, especially this year. 2020 is a reminder that we can no longer hide behind the curtain of convenience and comfort.”

Courtney Mays
Stylist Courtney Mays.
CREDIT: Courtesy image

Over the past month, taking a stand against injustices has climbed to the top of the agenda for brands, designers and fashion insiders alike. It was the result of a confluence of events: In the midst of Pride Month, the Black Lives Matter Movement became reinvigorated following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. Anti-racism protests drew significant support from members of the LGBTQ community and proved the persistent parallels between the LGBTQ plight and the situation facing Black people in America are more relevant than ever.

On June 28, 1969, the Gay Liberation Movement was birthed after police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich village, prompting patrons to fight back against police brutality — the situation spawned riots that lasted for six straight days. One year later, the first anniversary of the protests resulted in the first gay Pride parade in 1970. Now, 20 years later, Pride has gone back to its roots — taking a departure from its more recent celebratory parades and parties.

“Pride this year isn’t just about being proud to be part of the LGBTQ community, and not just about honoring and celebrating those that paved the way for us,” Baja East’s Scott Studenberg said. “It’s about being proud that we are all coming together for the LGBTQ as well as the black community, standing up for minorities as a whole and saying that we are here, we are not going anywhere, we will not accept inequality. By coming together our love will overcome the haters’ hate.”

Last week, in a major win for members of the LGBTQ community, the United States Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. It was a key step forward to equality, but as shoe designer Brian Atwood pointed out: “We still have a lot of work to do.”

“[It’s] an essential step in the right direction,” Atwood added. “[But] there is an enormous amount of frustration and disbelief in the system. I feel that there is an energy of change in the air, and I believe this is very important year to implement them.”

Brian Atwood
CREDIT: Shuterstock

For Mays, the menswear stylist to NBA stars Chris Paul, Kevin Love an DeAndre Jordan, the historic ruling has brought on mixed feelings. “There is this undeniable dichotomy where on one hand I want to celebrate the magnitude of this moment but on the other, I am constantly thinking about the notion that such laws even have to exist,” she said. “We live in a world where hate runs through the fabric of not only our history but our present — where equality is up for debate. We have to take our issues all the way to the Supreme Court to receive some sort of justice, and even then, were not assured of its protection. That thought is haunting and baffling.”

So the journey continues.

“I’m fighting for freedom for everyone,” added Studenberg, “otherwise none of us are free. [People need] to listen, educate themselves, be uncomfortable, and be the change our world has been begging for in order for us to move forward unified.”

His brand, Baja East, was one of many that amped up messaging around inclusivity, charity and sense of purpose with their Pride collections. The company has selected to support Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation by donating 20% of proceeds from the Pride line, for instance. The Born This Way Foundation works to demonstrate the power of kindness, validate emotions of youth and eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health. In addition, Adidas, Coach, Dr. Martens, Nike and more labels launched Pride-themed gear with charitable components that support causes that impact LGBTQ people.

Scott Studenberg and models on the catwalkBaja East show, Runway, Fall Winter 2020, The West Hollywood EDITION, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Feb 2020
Baja East founder and creative director Scott Studenberg.
CREDIT: David Buchan/Shutterstock

What is most important now, however, is that the companies that have made it their missions to be more inclusive and diverse are are held accountable. It doesn’t stop in June for Pride or in February for Black History Month, it is a long-term commitment.

Said Mays, “We have to stand tall in all of the beauty that makes us different and not just for one month or one weekend.”

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