Well, it’s that time of year again! We managed to get through another Minnesota winter and a rainy spring to find ourselves basking in the sunny rays of June. Happy LGBT Pride Month everyone!
All throughout this month, cities across the world will host different Pride events in honor of the queer community. LGBT individuals and Allies alike will gather and partake in the festivities.
When most people think of Pride, they picture extravagant parades with plenty of rainbow flags, drag queens, and unapologetic attendees having a “gay old time.”
For someone who has attended such events, I cannot argue with this description. The parade is definitely a highlight of most Pride festivals. However, it is important to note that Pride was not created simply to provide a social outlet for the queer community. It important to remember the meaning of the month and how we as a community got to this point of celebration and pride. Today, LGBT individuals can march down the street holding rainbow flags, but not that long ago in our country’s history, two men could not even walk down the street holding hands without fearing for their safety. In fact, in some parts of our country, this still would not be acceptable.
To truly appreciate Pride month, we must remember how it all came to be. We must remember the struggle of past LGBT generations and what they sacrificed for LGBT individuals today to have the opportunity to not only party in the streets every June, but to live openly, queer existences in a once very heterosexist and homophobic society.
The next time you think of Pride Month, here is the picture I hope pops into your head:
This is Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. What may seem like an unremarkable building is remarkably where the modern day fight for LGBT Rights began. Furthermore, it is because of what happened at this very building on June 28, 1969, that the month of June was chosen to celebrate LGBT pride.
During the 1950s and 1960s, very few businesses in America welcomed openly gay individuals. The few places that did were often bars. Stonewall Inn welcomed some of the most marginalized people in society at that time, including drag queens, transgender individuals, effeminate young men, and butch lesbians.
Because of the people who frequented Stonewall Inn, police raids were very common there. However, in the early hours of June 28, 1969, the patrons of Stonewall Inn decided to take a stand. As the patrons refused to be handcuffed and taken away, the officers quickly lost control and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the patrons were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the police.
Eventually, police reinforcements arrived and the crowd dispersed, but the fight had just begun. The next night, over 1000 people returned. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until police forced them to leave. For days following, various demonstrations and protests took place throughout the city.
Within weeks of the riots, residents quickly organized and started efforts to establish places for the LGBT community to be open about their sexual orientation without legal repercussion. Ultimately, the Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize, and within two years after the Stonewall riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States. The modern day LGBT movement was born.
In 2000, it was President Bill Clinton who designated the month of June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” to commemorate the Stonewall Riots. In 2009, President Barack Obama declared June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month” to be more inclusive.
To fully appreciate Pride Month, we must remember Stonewall: the catalyst for the modern LGBT Rights Movement. However, we must also pay tribute to all the queer men and women who have never been recognized for their impact on history.
Additionally, we must take into account the myriad of steps that have been made between that fateful night in 1969 and today. Queer individuals continue to make contributions locally, nationally, and internationally every day and will continue to do so for centuries to come. Pride Month is about celebrating and commemorating all of this: the past, the present, and the future.
The fight is far from over. Great strides have been for members of LGBT community, but we still have a long way to go. Do not get me wrong. Enjoy yourselves this month. Celebrate all of our past successes, but, remember this: Pride is not just a party. It is a time to network and organize for the future. We will dance in the streets in June and march down them every other month of the year until our ultimate goal of true equity for all has been reached.
Happy Pride Month ya’ll!