Many herald June as the first true month of summer. Children have their first taste of summer vacation. Workers finally begin summer office hours. The temperatures rise and everyone attempts to get out in the sun more often. However, the month of June heralds more than just the end of winter and spring. It’s also Pride month. Considering that many LGBTQ members still face discrimination today, it’s important to understand the origins and history of Pride month. Understanding history can help to limit repeating the mistakes of the past and instead only progress further. This article will discuss Pride month and its roots in LGBTQ history that made Pride month possible.
The Stonewall Riots
Pride month started with the Stonewall Riots. On June 28, 1969, riots broke out when police officers attempted to arrest drag queens in a bar in New York City. Before then, the LGBTQ community in New York had been barred from receiving service at bars. They were considered “disorderly” patrons by the government. Supposedly, those who ran bars didn’t want “disorderly” conduct to occur in their bars.
As is often the case with discrimination, law enforcement abused this law. It was not uncommon for law enforcement officers to dress in casual clothes and wait for suspected members of the LGBTQ community to go to a bar. These officers would essentially entrap those persons and then arrest them. Transgender individuals were particularly targeted and arrested..
One bar that allowed LGBTQ members to order drinks was the Stonewall Inn. When law enforcement learned about this, they raided the establishment on June 28, 1969. Immediately, riots occurred. Violent protests were staged with the hurling of bricks, bottles, debris, and even stilettos. As the fighting broke out into the street, more LGBTQ members joined the protests.
Word spread until several LGBTQ members from surrounding neighborhoods joined the riot. This rebellion lasted six days and would essentially forge the LGBTQ movement that is known today. A week after the riot, a gay march was thrown. Brenda Howard is known as the “Mother of Pride.” She was responsible for coordinating the first Pride march. It was also due to her that the celebration lasted a full week. This decision would eventually lead to the month-long celebration of gay pride throughout the country.
A year later, a gay march was thrown in New York City and Chicago. Two years after that, more marches were held in the cities of Dallas, Boston, Milwaukee, West Berlin, Paris, and Stockholm. In 1972, more cities staged marches. They were Brighton, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington DC, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Miami, and San Francisco.
After a few years, many organizations touting the rights of LGBTQ members surfaced. This was extremely helpful for those who were trying to protest in front of Washington DC. One individual, Frank Kameny, wanted to stage a protest in front of the nation’s capital to showcase that gay people weren’t any different from straight people. They looked the same, thought the same, felt the same, had the same goals and desires. Only a few people marched with him then. After the first few Pride marches, he noticed that there were hundreds, even thousands, of LGBTQ organizations. The marches had invigorated the community and got them fired up and eager to start fighting for their rights.
One remarkable point of LGBTQ history is the naming of the celebration ‘Gay Pride.’ Originally, it was going to be called Gay Power. However, when the term was being tossed around in 1970, many felt that they didn’t have power. However, they had a lot of pride being gay. As such, the term ‘Gay Pride’ was born and would be utilized to describe Pride month.
Initially, Gay Pride was merely a weekend. However, as time went on, more events and celebrations were added on that would eventually cover the entire month of June. Now, it’s not uncommon to see festivals, Pride parades, and many other events attributed to Gay Pride month.
Even today, when those who identify as LGBTQ are shamed and told to change, Pride month serves as a key moment where they can take pride in who they are. It’s an effort to stand up against those who would shame them or would stand against their goals of equal rights. Many demands of the LGBTQ family are still being debated by politicians even today. A lot of focus has recently been on transgender individuals and their right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
Despite this slowdown in politics, there have been two presidents who have officially recognized June as Pride month. The first was Bill Clinton. He declared that June was Pride month in both 1999 and 2000. The second was Barack Obama. He declared June as Pride month in every year that he was in office. Donald Trump was the first Republican to acknowledge Pride month in 2019 but he chose to make his proclamation through Twitter rather than as an official statement.
If the rights of the community in America are sometimes difficult to achieve, they’re even more difficult in many other countries. Countries like Brazil and Uganda regularly have their law enforcement break up parades and Pride movements. While some do allow the community to celebrate Pride, they are typically restricted in how much they can do and for how long.
It is clear, though, that Pride exists at all because of the brave decision of a handful of drag queens to stand up to law enforcement in New York City in 1969.
A popular symbol often found in Pride parades and for Pride, in general, is the rainbow flag. That wasn’t initially the symbol to represent the LGBTQ family, however. Their first symbol was actually a pink triangle. However, the Nazis had used the pink triangle to identify sexual deviants in the Holocaust, and they felt that keeping the symbol wasn’t appropriate or inspired enough hope.
Gilbert Baker is responsible for the first rainbow flag design. It was first displayed during a march in San Francisco that was organized by Harvey Milk. His version had eight stripes while the current Pride flag only has six. His goal with the eight stripes was to have a color that represented each facet of gay identity.
Other Pride Parades
While the original Pride parade and month was geared towards those who identified with the LGBTQ community, there were still minorities within the minority who felt that they weren’t being represented. As such, parades representing black and Latin communities have recently become popular. They recently hosted marches in Detroit and New York City. In some cases, they don’t always associate with being gay or any other part of LGBTQ. Instead, their focus is taking in pride in their ethnicity.
Since its inception, Pride month has expanded from its humble origins of representing gay people. It is a call for all who are discriminated against to take pride in who they are. It is the opportunity to be loud, proud, and unapologetic of who they are. Perhaps even more importantly, Pride month allows–and will allow–minorities to have a voice in demanding equal rights.
One popular movement that has arisen to challenge Gay Pride is the concept of Straight Pride. While staging marches have been met with little success, there are a few organizations that have been successful in staging marches against homosexuals. The common thinking behind this movement is that they, themselves, are a minority.
Clearly, there is still a lot of road left until members of the community share the same equal rights as their heterosexual partners. Pride allows everyone to celebrate the milestones that have been reached so far and anticipate those to come.