The first Pride march, held in New York City in June 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, was a revolutionary act. LGBTQ Americans at the time faced every pressure to hide who they were. That day, the protestors made it clear to the nation they had the same right to be themselves as everyone else.

A pride flag flies with the American flag at the Skowhegan Free Public Library in June 2021. It includes black and brown stripes to represent LGBTQ+ communities of color, and the pink, light blue and white stripes from the transgender pride flag.  Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel, File

Fifty-three years later, much has improved, and most Americans agree that the persecution of LGBTQ people was a stain on our history.

But as Pride Month 2023 gets under way, we can’t forget that there are many Americans who want to turn back the clock, and they have no problem targeting their neighbors, even vulnerable kids, in their attempts to do so. In fact, the Republican Party is now almost wholly focused on smearing the LGBTQ community as it tries to roll back hard-won civil rights and freedoms

Most of the hate has been centered on transgender people. It mirrors the earlier conservative project to demean and marginalize gay and lesbian Americans, which lost much of its political power when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, at the same time transgender Americans were gaining rights and becoming more visible.

There’s no doubt changing attitudes toward gender nonconformity has made a portion of Americans uncomfortable, and in this, Republicans saw an opportunity. In short time, high-profile party members have made transgender people an all-purpose bogeyman, using the same tactics and language they used for decades against gays and lesbians.

Across the country, Republicans have coalesced around legislation to rip away the rights of LGBTQ Americans, with a specific focus on people who are trans. More than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed this year alone, with 71 enacted into law as of late May, beating a record set the prior year, which itself had surpassed a record set in 2021.


Many of the bills would ban age-appropriate, best-practice gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary people – the kind supported by every credible medical organization in the country. Most focus on care for children, but others go much further, banning care for adults too.

Others would ban transgender people from using the appropriate bathroom, or criminalize drag performances. Some bills remove information on LGBTQ issues from school lessons, or punish schools that provide support to LGBTQ students.

Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is using his attack on LGBTQ rights as the basis for his presidential campaign, has passed a whole host of discriminatory laws, including the so-called Don’t Say Gay law, which bans instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in such a way that keeps teachers from mentioning LGBTQ people at all.

That’s the same goal of an effort to ban LGBTQ-related books from schools across the country, including here in Maine. Presented as a grassroots movement of parents, the book bans are actually the work of a small number of people. Tellingly, they use the same anti-LGBTQ slurs that have been used for decades. Unfortunately, the hysterics of the anti-LGBTQ crowd have been successful in removing books from school libraries all across the country. As this editorial board noted back in April, our schools have enough real problems on their plate right now.

This sort of cowardice and disparagement has real consequences, as do the mountains of anti-LGBTQ laws being introduced. Together, they tell LGBTQ Americans of all ages that they are not welcome in public life nor worthy of love, friendship or protection under the law.

They also give free rein to anyone who wants to show off their bigotry. Just look at how right-wing criticism of Pride displays at Target escalated into a nationwide intimidation campaign, with extremists visiting stores to destroy the displays and harass employees; or how misleading claims on transgender care led to bomb threats at a number of hospitals.

These are not isolated incidents. They represent a coordinated attack against LGBTQ Americans, and on trans people more specifically, with the aim at making it as hard as possible for them to simply go about their lives.

Pride Month has become a celebration of the advancement of LGBTQ rights.

This year, it’s also an urgent call to action for everyone who doesn’t want to see them rolled back.

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