June 14, 2023
Derek Demeri portrait
Derek Demeri '20

By Derek Demeri '20, Rutgers Law Adjunct Professor

Reprinted in part from NJ.com

As the LGBTQ+ community celebrates this pride month, many reflect on our history to call for — and unapologetically demand — a better future. We are reminded of our collective history, in which those who paved the way for our present realities relied on each other to resist concerted government efforts to erase our existence.

We reflect on how our community turned to each other during the AIDS epidemic, the medical community, and so-called family-first Christians vilified and shunned us as blighted pariahs. We refuse to forget that our lives and existence were criminalized until a mere twenty years ago.

For many of us, we also recall our own personal histories of relying on the community to survive and thrive. In my own childhood, it was other young queer people who helped me move away from the fraudulent and abusive practices of my church performing conversion therapy on me — a few years before New Jersey outlawed the practice for minors.

I also vividly recall my public North Jersey high school attempting to prevent the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance before my history teacher very bravely stepped in. Without community during these difficult times, my sense of self-worth would look very different today.

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