The History Of Pride
June is the month of Pride, and this June, we are in the midst of an uprising. The Black Lives Matter movement is propelling the nation to look at police reform, police brutality, and defunding the institution as we remember the over 7,000 lives lost to police violence, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor who would have just celebrated her 27th birthday.
You might be thinking, ‘I thought this was a History of Pride’ blog! And you are correct! But we cannot begin to discuss Pride without discussing its inextricable ties to the black queer community. As we remember the journey to Pride, we must never forget that it was black queer and trans people who led the charge during the Stonewall Riots, the first pride ever.
Here’s a look into where Pride Month came from, where it is now, and where we want to see it in the future.
It truly is incredible to see the milestones that have been reached on the journey for LGBTQ+ rights. But these protections, now more than ever can feel conditional. This is why every June is Pride month – to not only have us remember those who gave their lives for the movement, but to continue to push toward equality in all facets.
So What is Pride?
Pride Month is an annual homage to not only these events, but a reminder that the fight isn’t over. There are misconceptions of what the Pride March is – and although it is now spoken as a Parade – a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, it is indeed a March. A march to speak out about inequality, a march to stand in solidarity with the community, and a march to say that we are here, we are queer, get used to it. And this year, it’s especially important to remember that it is rooted in protest. It is rooted in a literal fight for civil liberties. Stonewall was not a parade, it was a riot. It was weeks of protest to get to where we are today.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how celebratory we were of LGBTQ+ peoples before Christianity and Puritanism spread their influence across the world. Queer people were celebrated in most pre-Christian societies. From Ancient Greek bacchanals to Roman soldier relationships, and Native American two-spirit cultural practices to Filipino Queer Deities. Before super-powers, imperialism , and advanced technology, queerness was a cause for celebration and power.
- Stonewall Uprising
Fast forward to the context of American Pride. Like many civil rights movements, it started with POC. Specifically black queer/trans people fought for their rights during the civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s, and on June 28, 1969 the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan was raided by police. A black trans civil rights activist, Marsha P. Johnson, along with Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona were in the vanguard of the pushback of the police. The resulting clash between the LGBTQ community and police is known as the Stonewall Uprising.
This became the unofficial ‘beginning’ of the Gay Rights movement, that was spurred on by the Civil Rights movement. Although queer people were oppressed and attacked before that, the Stonewall Riots became a rallying point for the queer community and sparked the fight for queer rights.
- The First Parade
After the events surrounding Stonewall, groups of activists banded together to commemorate the first anniversary of the uprising with a march. Marsha P. Johnson joined groups like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist’s Alliance to organize the Christopher Street Liberation Day demonstration on June 28 1970 in Manhattan. This became the first ever Gay Pride march.
Meanwhile across the county, Chicago Gay Liberation organized its own commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. The next year, seven major cities around the globe participated, and the year after, nine more cities followed suit. This chain of marches and demonstrations spread and bloomed into what Pride is today.
- The Mother Of Pride
Brenda Howard, a bisexual Jewish woman, is known as the ‘Mother of Pride.’ She pushed for Pride to not only be a day commemorating the events of Stonewall, but organizing a week of events that has now spread worldwide.
LET OUR FLAG FLY
Pride isn’t just rainbow flags and thongs. It has changed legislation. It created the term LGBTQ, instead of the term ‘homophile’, a derogatory word used to demean and dehumanize queer people. Pride elevated the “Gay is Good” movement – a phrase meant to de-stigmatize same sex attraction.
So the next time you’re at Pride waving a rainbow flag, know that you’re not just uplifting those less fortunate. You’re also standing in solidarity with those that sacrificed their lives and their voices for us to have these freedoms. And this year, it’s especially important to stand with our black brothers and sisters as they fight for their lives. Because a fight for their lives is a fight for us all.
Lumi Park is a writer, foodie, and Capricorn, from the cornfields of Ohio. He once won a NYC bartending award, a Brooklyn-wide comic book Trivia Bowl, and went to nationals two years in a year for the sport of jump roping. He is oddly not competitive.