‘Where they burn books, in the end they will burn humans too.’ Heinrich Heine - Almansor
Heine’s quote comes from his book, Almansor, which was ironically one of the books burned in Berlin’s Bebelplatz Square on May 10, 1933. That night some 20,000 books were burned by Nazi officials, and in the following years Heine’s quote became truth.
So why do I state this in the opening of a post about Pride? What correlation can this possibly have?
Far too much is unfortunately the answer.
Among the books burned that night in 1933 in Bebelplatz Square were the entire contents of the Institute of Sexuality Founded in 1919 by Magnus Hirschfeld, a pioneer in work on transsexual understanding, equality for homosexuals, transgender people, and women. And among the multitude of people persecuted and killed between 1933 and 1945 were the uncounted LGBTQ+ people who found no liberation at the end of the war.
Persecution of the LGBTQ+ community is not new, it is the sole reason we have Pride. So often it’s been said Pride began with a riot, the 1969 Stonewall Uprising actually, and yet we are still tempted to forget just why June is full of rainbows and corporations selling colorful merchandise.
Pride is a matter of survival. We have Pride because of a riot sparked by police brutality in 1969. We have Pride because in the same year sodomy laws began to be rewritten to explicitly target gay people. We have Pride because those laws were used to limit the ability of gay people to raise children, to justify firing gay people/denying gay people jobs, and to justify denying gay people equal treatment. We have Pride because in 1987 Reagan publicly said of the AIDS epidemic that “maybe the Lord brought down this plague,” because “illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”
We have Pride for the unnumbered LGBTQ+ individuals who lived and died before us and for everyone of those who will come after us. We have Pride so the next generations can have a brighter future than our present.
Because in our present the words ‘Where they burn books, in the end they will burn humans too’ are beginning to sound all too true again.
This year opened with Texas adopting its trans youth bill, which allowed the opening of investigations into families giving their children gender-affirming care, calling this care “child abuse.” It continued with Florida passing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, banning public school districts from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade, in March.
And in June, this month of Pride, this year saw the overturn of Roe vs Wade, a ruling which stripped away the protection of abortion rights and allowed numerous states to pass bans criminalizing potentially lifesaving care and taking bodily anatomy away from people with uteruses. And as Roe vs Wade fell those responsible made it no secret they would use this as a stepping stone for overturning laws that protect LGBTQ+ people and our rights.
‘Where they burn books, in the end they will burn humans too.’ Where they take away the rights of one group of people, they will take away the rights of others.
We have Pride to proclaim we have a right to live, a right to have a job, a right to marry whoever we love, a right to do with our bodies what we choose and deem right.
And on this last day of Pride, I say we shouldn’t forget the reason for Pride, shouldn’t forget that Pride isn’t done because tomorrow is July 1. In just a few days this country will be celebrating its independence and “freedom for all.” But we aren’t all free, our rights are disappearing and, end of June or not, we need to keep fighting for them.