A Q&A with Carlos A. Ball | I was struck, a few years ago, by the ways in which large corporations were coming out (no pun intended) against the passage of anti-LGBTQ laws, such as so-called religious freedom laws and transgender bathroom laws. Partly in response to strong criticism by corporate America, several states, including Arizona, Indiana, and North Carolina, rescinded the anti-LGBTQ laws. That made me start wondering why corporations were taking such public stances in favor of LGBTQ equality, while remaining generally neutral on other so-called hot button social issues.
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. We reached out to some of our authors to reflect on the impact of this landmark and turning point in the centuries of queer history in America and the ongoing fight for queer equality. We share their statements with you below.
By Melinda Chateauvert | This year on the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, I won’t be participating in the parties and parades that celebrate a movement for LGBTQ equality. It’s not JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out), really. I won’t be “gay” on June 25, because I want to honor the transwomen of color who started this protest and still haven’t gotten what they wanted. Stonewall was a riot. It was led by sex workers, street kids, drug users and hustlers, by marginalized African Americans and Latinx who were pissed off with police harassment and police violence. As World Pride approaches, I’m going to remember what caused that 1969 riot, and refuse to participate in the historical amnesia.
Carlos A. Ball | There has been much commentary on the internet and social media about a recent Gillette ad showing a father helping his transgender son shave for the first time. The ad gives a whole new meaning to Gillette’s long-time slogan “The Best a Man Can Get.” The ad also reflects the extent to which corporate America has fully embraced LGBTQ visibility and equality. In many ways, large corporations have become crucial allies of the LGBTQ rights movement.
A Q&A with Michael Bronski | The idea for YA versions of books in Beacon’s ReVisioning American History series largely came from educators and librarians. My editor, Gayatri Patnaik, and I learned that teachers were looking for resources, and Gayatri suggested we answer their call with a young reader’s edition. With support from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility, senior editor Joanna Green reached out to educators, librarians, and adapters, who generously and enthusiastically collaborated on this effort. At the moment, Beacon is releasing my book A Queer History of the United States for Young People as well as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. There have been, in the past five years or so, a surge in YA nonfiction publishing, particularly adaptations of adult non-fiction for younger readers. So, the time seemed right, and the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall seemed to be perfect timing.
With the diploma in hand and the graduation cap thrown jubilantly into the air, the question remains: What’s the next step? Graduation heralds new beginnings and transition. But where and how to start? How should we prepare for the future when the world around us changes on a compulsory basis? In his book Don’t Knock the Hustle, S. Craig Watkins asks the same question and says we should plan to be future-ready. “What should schools be doing? Instead of preparing students to be college-ready or career-ready, schools must start producing students who are what I call ‘future-ready.’ The skills associated with future readiness are geared toward the long-term and oriented toward navigating a world marked by diversity, uncertainty, and complexity . . . a future-ready approach prepares students for the world we will build tomorrow.”
In uncertain times like these, publishing progressive and thought-provoking books at Beacon Press becomes ever more urgent. “One of my great joys at Beacon Press is being able to sign progressive books . . . [that] deserve to be read and debated,” said our editorial director Gayatri Patnaik. Crucially, we sign progressive books to lift up the voices of our marginalized communities. This is true for the continued support needed for the transgender community.
Imani Perry is having a moment in the limelight, and we hope she’s relishing every minute of it. When she first came to our offices to talk about her biography on Lorraine Hansberry, Looking for Lorraine, we knew it was going to be special. Fast forward to this year’s PEN/America Awards, and we delighted in seeing just how special her book is. She won the PEN America/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for biography!
By Mary Collins | I have a transgender son, Donald Collins. Let’s start by erasing the D and make that onald Collins just to show how distorted this sentence becomes with that one edit, with that one irrational erasure. Let us now move on and erase onald and only use Collins, because the Trump Administration wants to define gender solely on the basis of genitalia at birth.
By Daisy Hernández | My mother carried me in her arms on my first trip to Colombia. I was eight months old. She stuffed me in a fluffy pink snowsuit, and we took a picture with the pilot. On my second trip, I was a toddler. Mami couldn’t carry me because I wouldn’t let her. Already hell bent on freedom, I scampered up and down the plane’s carpeted aisle as it made its way from New York City to Colombia. On my third trip, I ran away from my mother at the airport in Bogotá, leaving her with the baby sister in the stroller, careening past adults with worried foreheads, and not even stopping when I spotted the men in uniforms, the rifles in their hands. I didn’t know about the civil war or the drug war, and the Avianca flight getting blown up in the air and killing all 107 people onboard was a few years into the future. It was 1982. I barreled toward the line of familiar voices past the doors: my primas and tías and tíos. An uncle who drove a school bus had brought it to the airport filled with everyone to pick us up.
By Emily Powers and Bella Sanchez | Imani Perry’s Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry is a watershed biography of the award-winning playwright, activist, and artist Lorraine Hansberry. If people know anything about Lorraine (Perry refers to her as Lorraine throughout the book, explaining why she does so), they’ll recall she was the author of A Raisin in the Sun, an award-winning play about a family dealing with issues of race, class, education, and identity in Chicago. Lorraine’s extraordinary life has often been reduced to this one fact in classrooms—if she is taught at all.
By Charlene Carruthers | Unapologetic is an offering to our ancestors, my family, our movement, and the generations who will hold the struggle for Black liberation to come. I began writing this book over five years ago as a personal exploration of freedom, liberation, and movement building. Much like my life in general, where I landed in the book is both far away from and close to where I began. I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago to parents whose own parents migrated from the Deep South. Their ways of talking, eating, and dealing with life still live in my body and in the choices I make.
A Q&A with Crystal Fleming: Usually my girlfriend and I celebrate Pride together, but she happened to be out of town. So, this year I celebrated pride by attending the march in New York City with a group of girlfriends and going out for dinner afterwards. We had a wonderful time. I came home to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers sent from my lady, so in that way, she was still part of my celebration.
A Q&A with Charlene Carruthers | Our national and local work focuses on various issues that impact Black LGBTQ people. For example, our Washington, DC chapter is leading a campaign, within a coalition, to end the criminalization of sex work. This issue disproportionately impacts Black trans women (whether they engage in sex work or not), queer people, and gender-nonconforming people. We have always done our work in the tradition of radical Black feminist and LGBTQ movements.
By Carlos A. Ball | The Supreme Court’s recent ruling involving the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple reminds me of its decision almost fifty years ago to reverse Muhammad Ali’s conviction for refusing to be inducted into the Army. In 1967, when Ali was the professional heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he refused to join the Army on the ground that he was a conscientious objector. At the time, federal prosecutors claimed he was not entitled to the exemption from military service because his objections to fighting in the Vietnam War were not sincere.
Sandra Bland. Rekia Boyd. Decynthia Clements. Chikesia Clemons. Mya Hall. These Black women’s lives and others have been tragically cut short because of police brutality and the criminal justice system. This level of violence hasn’t stopped. It’s time to take a stance. During this year’s #SayHerName National Week of Action to End Violence Against All Black Women and Girls (June 11 through 17), Beacon Press is pleased to announce that all profits from this week’s sales of Andrea Ritchie’s groundbreaking Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color will be donated to Black Youth Project 100.
By Richard Blanco: Here, sit at my kitchen table, we need to write this together. Take a sip of café con leche, breathe in the steam and our courage to face this page, bare as our pain. Curl your fingers around mine, curled around my pen, hold it like a talisman in our hands shaking, eyes swollen.
By Ben Mattlin | Here’s what I know going in: Christina, sixty-two at the time we speak, is a professor of English and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, and author of the memoir A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain. In October 2003, she suffered a severe bicycling accident—a twig got caught in one of her spokes, sending her flying. Yes, a twig. “My chin took the full force of the blow, which smashed my face and broke the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae in my neck,” she writes. “The broken bone scraped my spinal cord.”
By Mary Collins: I never expected my trans son, Donald, whom I battled with over his medical decisions during his transition in high school and college, would ever agree to pen a collection of essays with me that explored our painful emotional journey—nearly failed journey—as a family.
By Donald Collins: One of my favorite photos of all time is a bewitching 1970 image of a young queer person reclining on the edge of a fountain. Her large coat is pulled down to her forearms, splayed dramatically beneath her. She’s wearing flared slacks, boots, a white tunic-like shirt, and a medallion. Her dark hair is short and boxy; she’s giving photographer Kay Tobin a familiar, clever smile. You can probably see the photo on this page, but it feels almost more meaningful to describe it. I also have a history-crush on her.