AndHumanity-branded collage. Paper clippings of Ness Murby’s headshot, Stonewall Inn, historic photo of Cooper Donuts, contemporary 2SLGBTQIA+ celebration, and a Homer-esque (pink icing, rainbow sprinkles) donut. The word “Pride” is typographically repeated down the left side. “Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month” with a purple awareness ribbon is nestled on the lower right size as well.

Pride comes from within. It’s our uprising.

This article was written by Ness Murby (he/him) a queer, trans, blind disabled person, Ness describes himself as human first. He is a Dad, Gran’s kid always and Pop’s ‘tiger’ forever. Australian, mixed race and white presenting, grateful to currently reside on Coast Salish Territory on the shared and unceded lands of many Indigenous Nations including the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), qʼʷa:n̓ ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen), qiqéyt (Qayqayt), and Stó:lō (Sto:lo). Ness works as the Senior Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategist at AndHumanity, is a counsellor and competes as a Canadian Paralympian. He is a lover of puzzles, connection and culture. 

Sprinkle-laden pink-iced donuts.

Yes, that’s where I’m starting. 

It was August 31st 2021 when I started HRT. Terminology note: “HRT” refers to hormone replacement therapy which is used to align secondary sex characteristics with gender identity. This was a big moment, my wholeness, my whole self, embracing an intimate lifetime of knowing.  These are also things I connected with more so in retrospect. 

Like so many of us I have been told how to feel, I have been told what to feel and told which emotions should be felt in which situations. I’ve been told who I am and how to be. 

“What are you going to do to celebrate your first T shot?” Terminology note: “shot” means injection and “T” means testosterone. The person asking was several years into their own T journey. At the time I had absolutely no idea. I felt misunderstood by the question. I had never considered what celebrating loving myself enough to do this would look like or even considered this act, starting T, in this way (that would come later). 

“Celebrate?” I replied with an ever so slight uptick and a strongly internalised “my life is at the sweet spot of clusterfuck and you’re suggesting celebrating?!” Celebrating definitely wasn’t making the list as I clutched at survival. Thrust into journeying isolation, retaliation, gatekeeping, international debate around the validity of my existence and desires to eradicate me. I’m trans. Existing is heavy, right? Yes, and. It’s never just one thing. 

Let’s go back to the start.

Cartoonishly humongous was the Lard Lad’s “Homer”. It was as big as my head, sprinkle-laden and pink-iced. The donut I chose to celebrate my birthday. I was turning 34 and, amid what I will call a storm of “life being lifey”. I have no idea what compelled me—something akin to an act of internal uprising, taking my power back, choosing freedom—that donut was spectacular. Held in two hands. Every bite transported me. I ate the last of it back at my hotel room and fell asleep with pink icing still on the corners of my mouth. Deeply happy.

Now to skip to the end, also a beginning. 

It was August 31st, 2021 when I commemorated taking my first shot of testosterone. Sitting on a park bench I bit into a sprinkle-laden pink-iced donut. Doing so was the most joyous tangible thing I could think of that was just for me. The average-sized donut was unexceptional, eating it was unremarkable, and the memory of it is indelibly imprinted bookmarking my story. Check mark, and (so many other things).

There was a time when sharing this would have brought about feelings of discomfort and not enough, not queer enough, whatever that means. The Why of donuts felt arbitrary when trying to relate it. Today I feel assured and empowered. For me, donuts are a symbol of resilience. Related to a time when I was learning how to love myself because my life depended on it. They represent joy and a glorious victory for self.

Before me. Before us.

“People around the world will celebrate international Pride Month this June, in honor of the June 1969 Stonewall uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village. Yet, there are few celebrations of the first uprising of this kind, a night of queer empowerment and resistance in the midnight hours of the 1950s.”

“After nearby bars closed, a 24-hour Main Street donut café became the site of a large 2SLGBTQIA+ riot. Two cops, ostensibly checking ID, a routine harassment, arbitrarily picked up “two hustlers, two queens and a young man just cruising” and led them out.” “Bystanders clashed with the police officers over the treatment, pelting them with doughnuts, coffee, paper cups and utensils.” The street was shut down.

”That night is widely considered to be the first gay uprising in modern history, seven years before the Black Cat Riot in L.A.’s Silverlake neighborhood, and ten years before the Stonewall Rebellion.”

—I wouldn’t learn about Coopers until 2022 when I was asked if that’s why I celebrate with donuts. Nope, it’s not, but it brings me joy.

The history that carries me.

On 15 November 2017 Australia said “yes” to same-sex marriage in a historic postal vote. I was 32 years old. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, which legalised same-sex marriage, came into effect on 9 December 2017 giving same-sex couples the same right to marry as heterosexual couples.

Pop, Poppa (my grandfather), a six foot one, light skinned, white (some gray) full-bearded and forearm-tattooed, extra large upper bodied thin-legged man, often told of immigrating to Australia alone in 1949, at the age of 16, to work on a sheep station in Queensland. And, sometimes he’d share about his time in the navy including “I’d swap with some of the men to take night shift so they could spend time with their boyfriends.”

In 2018, a few months after Pop had passed, I took Gran (my grandmother), a “five foot nothing”, dark-skinned, black curly haired and bespectacled, round woman up to our family log cabin in the Victorian High Country. With Alzheimer’s her memory fluctuated between being intensely present and completely absent. This absence destined to increase. The night I showed her my top surgery scars, terminology note: “top surgery” refers to chest masculinisation surgery (removal of breasts), an unexpected TV show played that centered around three trans folks and their journey transitioning on HRT. Gran beaming love, matter of factly said “Ness you should do that”. Shortly after she had no recollection.

Gran and Pop loved me unconditionally, because of them I innately know how to do this for my kid. I am still learning to do it for myself. When I first came out as gay it was to Gran and Pop at age 14. I never came out to them as trans, I didn’t need to.

June, in the US, is also Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, while September marks World Alzheimer’s Month.

End note. Onwards.

Throughout you may have noticed that I have used both the terms commemorate and celebrate, this was intentional. For me, before I could celebrate I needed to first journey commemorating because too often celebrating ignores fundamental context and oversimplifies an event. It is a word that can dictate how we should feel and isolates us when our feelings don’t align. 

There’s no one way to feel about a milestone. There’s no one way to acknowledge a time of significance. Meanings are personal and our understandings evolve. I love being trans. I grew up not being safe to hold hands with my partner in public, closeted multiple times over, confused, and deprived of representation. I celebrate Pride. I understand marching the streets as a form of resistance, symbolic of our uprisings, and an expression of joy. Trans joy.

I’ll be eating a sprinkle-laden pink-iced donut

What are you doing this Pride?

“Coopers Donuts” References and Additional Reading

10 years before Stonewall there was the Coopers Donut Riot

7 LGBTQ Uprisings Before Stonewall

Milestones in the American transgender movement

Gay riot at Los Angeles donut shop

The LAnd Interview with John Rechy

Coopers Donuts : a legacy of inclusivity and community

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