The History of Pride Month
For the past 50 years, the month of June has been known as Pride Month, a month dedicated to the LGBTQI+ community. While Pride Month may have gained a reputation for being marked with parades and parties, it has a much deeper and richer past, present, and future.
LGBTQI+ Pride Month takes place during June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which took place in June 1969. Eight officers from a unit of the police department called the ‘Public Morals Division’ raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York.
Raids on gay bars and other kinds of gay nightlife weren’t uncommon at the time, as gay (then used as an umbrella term for all LGBTQI+ people) bars often had mob and mafia connections and homosexuality, crossdressing, and serving alcohol to homosexuals were illegal. But on this evening, the patrons decided to fight back. It’s not known exactly who started the uprising, but the bar patrons and onlookers began to clash with the police, leading to riots and protests that night and following nights.
There had been plenty of uprisings before Stonewall. In May of 1959 – a whole 10 years before Stonewall- police had attempted to arrest an angry crowd of gay men, trans women, drag queens, and male sex workers at a late night coffee shop called Cooper Do- nuts in Los Angeles, only to be pelted with coffee and donuts. There were sit-ins at bars and lunch counters across the USA, such as at Dewey’s Lunch Counter in Philadelphia in 1965, and at the bar known as Julius’ in New York City in 1966. What may have made Stonewall historical important, however, is what came after it.
A year later in 1970, a parade was organised to celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day, after Christopher Street in New York City where the Stonewall Inn was located, the parade was carried out alongside parallel demonstrations across the USA. Brenda Howard, the feminist bisexual rights activist who coordinated this march, originally came up with the idea for a week long series of celebrations around Pride day, and is credited with popularising the word ‘Pride’ to refer to these celebrations is known by some as ‘The Mother Of Pride’.
Pride Month and LGBTQI+ Rights Today
Both LGBTQI+ people’s experiences and Pride have changed dramatically in the 50 years since the first Pride parades. In 2019, nearly over 100,00 marchers attended the New York City Pride March, with an estimated 4 million people watching! There seems to be a world of difference between Pride in 1969 and 2020, but the fight for LGBTQI+ equality isn’t over. Even in countries where marriage equality exists, this does not mean other LGBTQI+ rights are not under threat, and that we shouldn’t promote the self-affirmation, dignity, and equality of LGBTQI+ people.
Trans rights have come under fire in the UK, with the government not only rejecting gender recognition reform but seeming to suggest potentially rolling back healthcare for trans youth, while transgender people in the USA have also seen their healthcare protections revoked. In Germany, non-binary people still do not have any kind of legal recognition, and trans people who underwent mandatory sterilisation to change their sex on identity documents prior to 2011 have not received any compensation, unlike their counterparts in
other countries like Sweden. Mainstream Pride programming has frequently come under fire for not including or being welcoming to LGBTQI+ Black and Indigenous people, as well as other people of colour. And while not all sex workers are LGBTQ and not all LGBTQI+ people are sex workers, sex worker rights and LGBTQI+ rights often go hand in hand-both movements believe that police and state have no right to infringe on body autonomy, and many of the participants at Stonewall and in the uprisings that made Stonewall possible were themselves sex workers. Laws like the SESTA-FOSTA acts of 2018 continue make the lives of sex workers (including LGBTQI+ sex workers) more unsafe. The need for Pride Month is far from over.
How To Celebrate Pride Month 2021
Pride Month 2020 will be different than many Pride Months in recent years, both due to the limitations on events that the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in and due to the presence of the Black Lives Matter protests and movement. While some in person events are taking place- a Pride march in Philadelphia that focused on elevating the voices of Black transgender women drew hundreds of attendees- others are moving online. Global Pride 2020 will be held on the 27th of June and will take place entirely online, with organisers saying it will uplift the Black Lives Matter movement.
In some ways, the 50th anniversary of the first Pride marches in 1970 has come in hand with a return of the original marches’ values, especially one of the early slogans- “Off the sidewalks and onto the streets”. The 2019 New York City Queer Resistance March has been renamed the Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality, and will take place in lower Manhattan on June 28th 2020.
If you want to support LGBTQI+ organisations and projects this month, there’s plenty to choose from. The LGBTQI+ Freedom Fund helps LGBTQI+ people who are in jail or immigrant detention afford their bail, Gendered Intelligence is a UK charity that provides support to young trans people and increase the quality of trans people’s life experiences in the UK, and SNaPCo is an Black and trans led Atlanta based organization formed in response to an attack on Black trans sex workers by Atlanta’s former mayor that works to combat criminalization and incarceration. This isn’t a complete list- see what organizations and projects are local to you and may need support!
And of course, there’s nothing wrong with using Pride Month as a time for celebration as well! Amnesty International, UK Black Pride, Gendered Intelligence, and Stonewall have joined together to create Pride Inside, a free event bringing together artists, musicians, comedians, DJs, and activists which will take place Sunday 28th of June to Sunday 5th of July. Other cities, such as Seattle and San Francisco, and Berlin are holding their Pride celebrations online. And if those events aren’t your scene, you could attend an event like Club Quarantine, a regular online queer dance party, or engage with LGBTQI+ media, such as films, TV shows, music, or podcasts.