The month of June is a period of celebration for the LGBTQ community, especially in St. Louis, but with recent events and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, tensions have been on the rise.
The month of pride was created to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, New York, which was the tipping point for LGBTQ individuals as a result of a police raid at a gay club in Greenwich Heights, New York. In 1970, the first Pride was inaugurated as a remembrance of the event.
Traditionally, the last Sunday in June has been celebrated as “Gay Pride Day.” This day has since transformed into a month-long series of events. The first St. Louis Pride committee began in 1979, marking this year as the 40th anniversary. The first event, however, was in 1980. The first St. Louis PrideFest was in 1981. St. Louis PrideFest 2019 will be held June 29 and 30.
However, some STL residents feel this year is different than past years. On June 5, two Pride banners were set on fire in an alley behind The Grove’s Rehab Bar and Grill, after a karaoke night. South City, especially The Grove area, has been known for its inclusivity of those in the LGBTQ community.
Kyle Hanten, co-owner of the bar, was the first to see the smoke.
“Everybody in the bar ran outside,” Hanten told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “And we just see the fire… I told everyone to get back.”
According to the Post-Dispatch, Hanten said those who were there were shocked and scared.
“We’re human. We were scared,” Hanten said. “I think this is a place where people feel safe. It’s a gay neighborhood. We’re in the city, but the reality is that there are hateful people here, too.”
One member of the community spoke to Fox 2 news about the attack.
“People are people,” community member Wilson Buck said. “Do you want people treating you like this? If you don’t, don’t treat them like this.”
During the same night, two more pride banners went missing from the Kirkwood United Church of Christ. Two weeks prior, on May 24, a man yelled anti-LGBTQ remarks and tried to kick in the door of a Soulard neighborhood home that was decorated for Pride Month, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“The incident in Soulard the night of May 24th and more recent incidents in The Grove area were an attack against LGBTQ people and equality as a whole,” PROMO, a Missouri LGBTQ advocacy group said in a statement to the Post-Dispatch. “LGBTQ people and allies should feel safe and proud to display support of themselves and loved ones without becoming targets of violence.”
At SIUE, the university prides itself on its inclusivity, being voted high on the Pride Index list every year since 2007. This past year, SIUE received 4 out of 5 stars, with 5 out of 5 for Campus Safety and 3.5 out of 5 for LGBTQ Policy Inclusion. The index examines factors ranging from Educational resources to Campus Housing.
Some SIUE students feel the university could be doing more when it comes to policies. For example, The Alestle wrote an article in late Spring on the Evangelical Preacher that visits campus each week.
Student Mina Mathenia took to Facebook to share their distress with the university.
“SIUE administration reviewed the street preacher, Tom Rayborn, after the protest held against him on campus.” Mathenia posted. “Although he made comments about how LGBTQ people will go to hell, along with racist comments, and hurtful comments towards individual people who have had abortions, the administration decided he did nothing wrong and will be allowed back on campus. All after reviewing his own video of the protest, where they could clearly hear everything he had said.”
Mathenia said she thinks campus should be aware of this decision and took to Twitter about the issue. On June 21, SIUE responded to a tweet by Mathenia regarding the situation.
“Hi Mina. SIUE administration has reviewed the recording. The debate was contentious, but it was determined that there was no harassment taking place on either end of the discussion,” the tweet read.
SIUE does offer SIUE Safe Zone and Ally training on campus. The program seeks to encourage a safe environment that is welcoming to all students, staff, faculty and LGBTQ community members, according to the website.
This issue hits a National level, as well, as President Trump vocalized his disagreement with the Equality Act back in May. The act is a federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that adds gender identity and sexual orientation to the federal civil rights law in efforts to prevent discrimination.
In the absence of a national law, more than 20 states have enacted protections for LGBTQ individuals.
For those who feel unsafe, there are resources. Bi Visibility STL is offering self-defense classes for individuals who feel at risk of being attacked. SIUE also offers RAD Self Defense classes during the school year. A full resource list can be found at GLAAD.org