Here we are-June 28th. Most of you probably don't know why this day is significant. You would if you were taught LGBTQ+ history in school. This is the anniversary of the day Marsha P. Johnson threw the "shot glass heard 'round the world" during a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, setting in motion the chain of events that led to corporations selling us Pride-themed hand sanitizer and bottom-friendly grocery delivery plans (yes, that's a real thing).

This is the third Pride month I've lived through as an out transgender woman, but it is the first that I have been able to truly experience. Over the course of the last four weeks, I have felt incomparable joy and the deepest sorrow. The Spokane Pride Festival washed me away in a torrent of loving humanity. Official tallies put the total number of attendees at over 50,000-equivalent to about 6% of the metro area's total population. For an event that began 30 years ago with a few dozen brave souls marching across a bridge (which is what I remember), it serves as a giant, beautiful benchmark of progress and acceptance. On the flip side, the Dobbs ruling handed down Friday by the Supreme Court, and Clarence Thomas' concurrence in particular, underscored how perilously fragile our personal liberties are right now. Taken in context with the 320+ anti-LGBTQ+ bills and the searing hot rhetoric in state houses and on conservative media, it paints a bleak picture.

This mirrors the impossible situation trans kids are experiencing right now. Positive visibility and seeming acceptance in film, television, and print have given them the confidence to accept their truths, and once they do, the right seeks to demonize, ostracize, and erase them, and to destroy their families. These children are more loved and more hated than ever before.

This seeming paradox is manifestation of division this nation has been sowing for decades. In true American style, this schism wasn't born out of ingrained unshakeable conviction, but rather for profit and personal gain. In 1980, Ted Turner switched on CNN, giving birth to the 24-hour news cycle and q whole new profit center for media corporations. Around the same time, Newt Gingrich was leveraging C-SPAN to raise his profile. He delivered regular tirades to an empty house chamber, knowing that the cameras would stay trained on him-the viewers at home completely unaware that they, not the House of Representatives, were the true audience for his bloviations. Rush Limbaugh saw that Gingrich was gaining a following and realized that extremism sells. He built an empire fomenting hate, as did Fox News. Instead of reasoned discourse based on debate and compromise, we were fed identity politics and black-and-white thinking. And it goes on. 9/11 showed the media corporations just how far they could take panic reporting. For you younger folks, it's worth explaining that breaking news and the news ticker at the bottom of the screen were relatively rare occurrences. The term "breaking news" meant that a story was so important that it interrupted regular programming-not just news shows, but prime-time television. Now everything is breaking news and the term has lost all meaning. Every story has life-or-death consequences and issues that have a clear right and wrong are presented with a false equivalency because it grabs or retains more eyeballs. People become addicted to their own cortisol and hate gets a platform. All for ratings.

And then there's social media. Thanks to the echo chambers expertly crafted by Zuck and Co., the divisions that separated us grew into massive, impassable canyons-- so much so that everything has political implications. Ordering a salad for lunch outs you as a g****mn grass-eating tree-hugging libt**d and getting a burger and a soda pegs you as a racist MAGA POS. (side note: Chik-Fil-A is genuinely evil, and I *will* judge you for eating there).

As I have written here before, LGBTQ+ rights weren't an issue with most people until conservative media made it an issue. Polling backs that up. Nevertheless, here we are. The bills are passing and anything short of a miracle will result in GOP control of all levers of federal government. So we find ourselves simultaneously celebrating unprecedented queer visibility and representation while calling our overseas friends looking for work because we're afraid of becoming murder victims or landing in a concentration camp in two years' time.

I'm thankful that the violence at Pride events was minimal this year, but I think we got lucky. I expect this will be the last time I can say that for some time to come. We're either going to be fighting for our lives or right-wing extremists are going to use us for target practice, or both.

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