Pride Month is celebrated in June, bringing visibility to LGBTQ+ people and recognize their contributions. The Library of Congress explains:
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
Tell me more about Stonewall.
On June 28, 1969, patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village for the LGBTQ community, resisted a police raid. That event is often considered the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, not just in New York City but in the United States.
For the beginning of 2019’s Pride Month, Newsweek spoke with Michael Bronski, Professor of the Practice in Activism and Media Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University, and author of “A Queen History of the United States.” Bronski explained how the Stonewall riots transformed LGBTQ+ activists and their approaches:
Stonewall, helped from social change movement Gay Liberation, addressed many aspects of inequality in American society. The movement did not call for “equality” per se, but rather argued for wide-scale social change that would eliminate many of the factors that caused inequality, such as heterosexism, misogyny, racism, and poverty.
When we are discussing Stonewall, it is also vital to place it squarely in the historical context of the political and street activism of the 1960s. This includes the Black Power movement, Radical Feminism, the anti-war movement against the war in Vietnam and the counter-culture (hippies, drugs, sex and rock and roll.)
There had been many bar raids in New York for decades, and I am sure some patrons resisted at times. But it is at the height of a national wave of political protests—of public demonstrations, vocal political demands, grassroots organizing—that set the climate so that the riots would happen (as they were happening across the country) and set into motion organizing.
So that’s why June is Pride Month?
That was the beginning, but it didn’t become Pride Month right away. A year after the Stonewall riots, the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee commemorated the Stonewall riots with a march. OutHistory.org explains:
On the morning of June 28th, 1970, gay activists convened for the first annual Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Gathering on Christopher Street, marchers made their way up 6th Avenue to Central Park, where they spent the afternoon listening to speeches, hanging out on the lawn, and reveling in the excitement of having been part of the first [LGBTQ] pride march in history. Although the march began with only a few hundred participants, more and more individuals joined along the way. By the time the first marchers reached Central Park, thousands followed behind them.
According to The Advocate, that march was coordinated by bisexual activist Brenda Howard.
So how did Christopher Street Liberation Day become Pride?
The Library of Congress explains:
In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events.
Many people attribute that evolution to Howard, who has been dubbed the “Mother of Pride.” From a 2018 article in the magazine Curve:
Pride grew out of the Christopher Street Liberation Day march, which Howard was responsible for organizing on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots in June 1970. She also came up with the idea of organizing workshops, talks and other events around the march, giving birth to the concept of not only a Pride march but also a Pride festival.
So what is Pride like now?
The Library of Congress pointed out how Pride has changed over the years.
…celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.
OutHistory.org explained that it’s not just the Pride Month events that have changed:
These parades, which feature prominent politicians and corporate-sponsored floats, often seem to bare little resemblance to the early marches. Nonetheless, they remain an important way for LGBT individuals to celebrate their history and affirm their unity, pride, and power.
Politicians and corporations?
Yes, and not everyone is on board. From a 2017 VICE article:
…politics have come to a head at pride events across the country, as activists push for elected officials, the media, and those less politically inclined in the gay community to recognize that even as Chipotle and Wells Fargo embrace pro-gay imagery, there’s still vast amounts of work to be done to ensure the safety of LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color. And this year, controversies over the inclusion of police and other state representatives have taken center stage at some pride celebrations, after years of attendee complaints that they felt uncomfortable with their inclusion.
“Queer and trans people of color aren’t experiencing less violence than they did in 1969,” said Angel Croft, a volunteer organizer with F2L, a New York–based organization that raises money and organizes for queer and trans people in the New York prison system. “We are still routinely profiled, arrested, imprisoned. Where are the white gays on floats [to represent us] then? Why did pride start as a riot and end up as a corporate-state sponsored event? Who took power?”
So are LGBTQ+ people boycotting or protesting Pride events?
The aforementioned VICE article explained how activists made their point at Washington D.C.’s annual Capital Pride in 2017:
And while it included celebrations of corporations and police, it was also disrupted: A group under the banner of No Justice No Pride interrupted the parade, at one point forming a human chain in front of parade attendees from Lockheed Martin, the multibillion-dollar corporation that manufactures weapons for the US government. The protesters were there to implore Capital Pride to ditch its corporate sponsors and focus on issues affecting queer and trans people of color.
Some LGBTQ+ activists are starting their own events. In some cities, there are two separate Pride celebrations as activists have wanted to distance themselves from Pride parades or events that feel too “commercial.” In some cities, there are separate events for Latinx and black LGBTQ+ people to draw attention and visibility to their experiences.
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