By Alexis Moren MD,MPH,FACS
The irony isn’t lost on any minority group as many of us recited the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Originally written in 1892 by socialist Francis Bellamey, additions such as “the United States of America”, and “one nation under God ” were added throughout the years. Written to unite the nation during the unrest of the Civil War, it’s almost comical to think that citizens of the United States felt the country, once the war was over, could truly be equal and undivided. Thousands, if not millions recite this Pledge without giving it an ounce of consideration – to this day America remains divided, subjugated, and full of inequity.
Each June, we celebrate a small victory. June, otherwise known to most as “Pride” month, is a month-long recognition of the history of LGBTQ+ activism and triumphs. Although we acknowledge our successes during this time, we never forget that our community fights against discrimination, transgressions, aggression, and continued political targeting and bigotry year-round. For over 50 years cities across the world hold Pride Parades – we must not forget the foundation on which they began.
The 1960’s, known as the counterculture decade, was a revolution of the American norm. Tom Wolfes’ The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test although a work of fiction depicts what the era represented. Drugs were rampant, clothes were scant, music pushed suitable limits, and sexual liberation flooded the nation. The political scene was turbulent, the war in Vietnam raged, while on home soil the fight for equality heightened. Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement as freedom of expression and equality for all became prevalent. Police brutality was common, often depicted in regards to racial uprisings, but these aggressions were also common among other minority groups.
In 1966, the first LGBTQ+ riots were recorded. The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot occurred in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, was a riot response to police harassment of drag queens and trans-women. Thus began the transgender activism movement in San Francisco. The more well-known Stonewall Riot occurred 3 years later on June 28, 1969 and is often regarded as the beginning of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. When police raided the Inn, club-goers revolted bringing the violence to the streets where cis-gender and gay alike fought back. Protests grew as did support of the LGBTQ community. In remembrance of Stonewall, and to continue the fight for liberation and equality, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations expanded their annual picket to a “Christopher Street Liberation Day” (Stonewall Inn being located on Christopher Street). On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
Celebrated in over 102 countries worldwide, awareness and advocacy of the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow. Despite often hostile environments, new Pride events continue to emerge. In the past 3 years 8 countries including Eswatini, Guyana, Micronesia, Macedonia, Angola, Botswana, St. Lucia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina have held their first Pride event. Even though the LGBTQ+ community continues to face criticism and hostility, Pride month is successful in continuing the mission it was created for; increasing awareness and advocacy, and building a community while increasing resistance.
In recent years, more surgeons have felt comfortable being “out” in their respective programs and the surgical community is becoming more inclusive. AOSA – the Association of Out Surgeons and Allies, has played an integral part in spreading awareness and knowledge. Approaching 300 members nationally, AOSA’s education and outreach programs aim to accomplish throughout the surgical world what “Pride” has achieved universally.
Dr. Moren is a Trauma, Critical Care & Acute Care Surgeon at Salem Health in Salem, Oregon and an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Moren received her fellowship training in Trauma & Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her General Surgery Residency at Oregon Health & Science University and received her MD/MPH from St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies.