In US, Pride Month festivities muted by political setbacks

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FILE - In this Thursday, May 20, 2021 file photo, demonstrators gather on the steps to the State Capitol to speak against transgender-related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House in Austin, Texas. Pride Month celebrations in the U.S. are taking place under unusual circumstances in June 2021, with pandemic-related concerns disrupting many of the usual festivities and political setbacks dampening the mood of LGBTQ-rights activists. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

It’s Pride Month, and gay Americans should have a lot to celebrate: A new president who has pledged to advocate for LGBTQ people, an easing of a pandemic that has disrupted their communal activism, and increasing public acceptance of their basic rights, including record-high support for same-sex marriage.

Instead, the mood is somewhat bleak. Congress has so far failed to extend federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people. Pandemic-related concerns are still disrupting the usual exuberant Pride festivals. And a wave of anti-transgender legislation in Republican-governed states has been disheartening

“The same week I’m seeing all the ‘Happy Pride’ announcements, I received multiple calls from friends about trans kids having to navigate entering psychiatric hospitals because they were suicidal and self-harming,” said M. Dru Levasseur, a transgender attorney who is director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the National LGBT Bar Association.

“I’m doing crisis management,” he added. “These untold stories about what life is like for trans kids are contrasting with ‘Happy Pride, everybody.’ ”

On June 1, the start of Pride Month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill making his state the eighth this year to ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports at public schools. Arkansas, one of those eight states, also has enacted a law banning gender-confirming medical treatments, like hormones and puberty blockers, that greatly reduce the risk of suicide in trans youth.

“Our opponents have been absolutely shameless in their attacks on transgender people,” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of the LGBTQ-rights group Lambda Legal.

“We know that trans young people are most marginalized and vulnerable students in our schools -- being bullied, harassed, mistreated,” Jennings said. “We’re watching state legislators piling on to the bullying.”

The trans community already faces a disproportionate level of violence. At least 28 trans and gender nonconforming people have been killed so far this year in the U.S. -- on track to surpass the previous one-year high of 44 such killings in 2020.