Every year, the month of June is recognized as Pride Month to honor the contributions to society made by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other people of diverse sexualities and genders (LGBTQ+). Pride Month commemorates the uprising at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, which began on June 28, 1969 and continued for six days. The uprising was led by transgender women of color to demand an immediate end to violent police raids targeting Stonewall’s LGBTQ+ patrons. USAID celebrates this legacy of resistance and honors the courage it takes to live and love authentically through supporting LGBTQ+ programs and research.
The Stonewall uprising helped mobilize a surge of activism and organizing that fundamentally changed the American and global movements for human rights of LGBTQ+ people. At the time, those who pushed back against the NYPD’s persecution could not have imagined the eventual global reverberations of their actions. Instead, as trans activist Sylvia Rivera recounted, the actions of those at Stonewall were simply an assertion of dignity and humanity: “We were determined that evening that we were going to be a liberated, free community.” Yet due to this determination and the subsequent work of countless individuals, including many whose efforts will never be fully known, people all over the world have joined together since 1970 to organize Pride marches, parades, workshops, and other events, raising awareness about the violence, discrimination, and inequalities faced by LGBTQ+ people while also embracing their visibility, diversity, perserverance, and spirit. Decades later, Rivera would experience first-hand how she and other LGBTQ+ pioneers had impacted lives far beyond the U.S. when she was honored by huge crowds gathered in Rome for the first-ever World Pride event. “It gives me great pride to see my children celebrating,” she said of the generations she helped inspire.
Today, passionate, resilient, and strategic LGBTQ+ leaders, allies, and civil society organizations in every country and region are working tirelessly to continue advancing the rights of all people across the diverse spectrum of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics. Like those who participated in Stonewall and the LGBTQ+ right movement that followed, these activists, allies, and human rights defenders have achieved great change on behalf of many, and they persist in their difficult and often-dangerous work because they know that much more progress is still possible. At the outset of Pride Month, it is important to recognize the ways in which their efforts have touched LGBTQ+ lives this past year: since the beginning of 2020, Costa Rica and Northern Ireland have achieved marriage equality; Bhutan, Gabon, and Angola have decriminalized same-sex relations; Germany has banned conversion therapy; and the United States has prohibited employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. For every headline, much more is achieved without any recognition at all: committed advocates assist LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers, staff support centers and shelters, and defend rights and dignity.
At the same time, many LGBTQ+ people today are facing severe stigma, discrimination, exclusion, and repression. LGBTQ+ communities are under threat in all parts of the world, from Poland and Ghana to Egypt and Chechnya. A record number of transgender Americans were killed in 2020, many of them people of color. Overall, nearly 70 countries and territories criminalize consensual same-sex relations between adults, and in many countries vague “morality” laws are used to intimidate, harass, blackmail, and extort transgender and gender non-conforming people. Even in countries with legal protections, LGBTQ+ people face alarmingly high rates of violence and discrimination, often limiting their access to basic social services. This marginalization in turn can trap people in cycles of extreme poverty and poor health. The specific circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic—including new obstacles to healthcare, isolation from support networks, and lockdowns in unsafe conditions—have made the past year particularly challenging for many in the LGBTQ+ community.
USAID champions the human rights of LGBTQ+ people and seeks to protect them from discrimination, stigma, criminalization, and violence. In addition, building on President Biden’s Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQ+ Persons Around the World, USAID strives to integrate considerations of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics across its development and humanitarian programs.
USAID also recognizes that our organization and staff must lead by example. We are committed to a workplace that values diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect for all LGBTQ+ staff, as articulated on the first day of the Biden-Harris Administration by an Executive Order to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. USAID will implement the new USAID strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and hold our staff and our institutions to the same high standard of equity and inclusion that we expect of our partners and programs.