• U.S.

Pride, Against All Odds

4 minute read

In America, the month of June is Pride Month, a celebratory period for the queer community whose origins are tied to the 1969 Stonewall rebellion. It is normally commemorated with parades, drag shows, and rallies—all in an effort to uplift the LGBTQ+ community. But this year, pride has been clouded by legislative attacks against the queer community.

Violence against LGBTQ+ people has been at a high, prompting President Joe Biden to announce a new LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership that aims to better protect the queer community. Companies have been targeted—and in some cases experienced bomb threats—for their partnerships with transgender activists, causing some businesses to scale back their pride merchandise or messaging.

In the past six months alone, the ACLU’s legislative tracker found that more than 490 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across state legislatures, targeting trans youth’s access to health care, the right to perform drag and banning discussions about gender identity or sexuality.

And while there has been some successful push back against such policies, causing federal courts to strike down Arkansas’ gender-affirming-care ban on Tuesday and block other healthcare bans in states like Indiana, LGBTQ+ residents still say they feel anxious by the ongoing attacks on the queer community.

“I’m not gonna lie [the Tennessee drag ban] kind of made me very, very nervous,” said Kirkland Pinkerton, a Tennessee drag queen. “The political climate and how fast it changed at the beginning of the year was a slap in the face and I was more nervous to go out in public.”

TIME spoke to Americans in four states—Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Tennessee—that are seeking to limit LGBTQ+ rights. Here’s what they told us:


Tennessee became the first state to restrict drag shows in public spaces this March, though a federal judge ruled against that Tennessee law on June 2, saying it was “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad.”

The law would’ve charged “adult-oriented” performers—which includes “male or female impersonators”—with a misdemeanor if they performed in front of minors.

Here, Pinkerton from rural Tennessee discusses how the legislation and current political climate impacts the precautions he takes before he performs.


In Florida, the state’s board of education expanded the Parental Rights in Education Act, or ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to prevent students from kindergarten through grade 12 from discussing gender or sexual orientation in school in April. Gov. Ron DeSantis later fortified that change by signing legislation that bars discussions of sexual orientation or gender through eighth grade, prohibits staff and students from addressing each other with pronouns that differ from what they were assigned at birth, and defines sex on the basis of reproductive function.

The law, for instance, has been used against a teacher who allowed her students to view a Disney film that features gay characters.

TIME interviewed Michael Woods, a high school special education teacher in Palm Beach County School District who is organizing for the creation of a statewide LGBTQ+ teachers caucus, and Samira Burnside, a transgender student activist.


Montana has been at the center of criticism for its attacks against transgender people after it censured and removed transgender state lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from the floor in April. The state later enacted a gender-affirming-care ban for minors, the very law Zephyr was speaking out against, on April 28.

Ongoing legal battles in Montana brought forward by two transgender children, their parents and two health care providers are testing the constitutionality of this ban, which is set to go into effect on Oct. 1.

TIME spoke to the Cross family, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, about why they decided to sue and what is at stake.


A movement to enact book bans has taken flight throughout the first half of the year, according to PEN America, with more than 870 book titles banned from schools or libraries across the country.

In Missouri, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft enacted an administrative rule that would reduce libraries’ state funding if they give minors books that their parents do not want them to read. It would also deplete funding if libraries do not keep “age-inappropriate” books for children away from sections meant for minors.

Some libraries rely on the state for up to 20% of their budget. TIME spoke to librarian Megan Durham about her experience working at the Daniel Boone Regional Library since the rule went into effect on May 30.

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