History of Pride Month celebrations

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Pride Month is more than a colorful parade or series of parties (though those are also great) – it’s the commemoration of those who came before us that made these festive events possible.

Why is pride in June?

If you’ve ever wondered why Pride is in June, it’s pretty simple: Pride, which has become a global phenomenon in recent years, owes its roots to a watering hole and refuge for the LGBTQ community, which , on a pivotal summer night, became the site of the Stonewall rebellion. The riots took place in the early hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, an event that many historians now consider the turning point for the pro-LGBTQ movement (although many LGBTQ communities in other major cities have already started to s ‘organize in this time).

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Before the riots, the Stonewall Inn was a refuge for people from the LGBTQ community in the 1960s. Then it was a nightclub with no running water, drinks were made with alcohol which was rumor be stolen, and customers had to sign a guestbook to make Stonewall appear “exclusive,” although many used aliases. The owners of the Stonewall Inn even extorted wealthy clients by threatening them with “outside”Them, which soon became a more profitable business than beverage service.

Raids were also common during this time. Officers often harassed, arrested and discriminated against bar patrons. This was indicative of the broader social climate of the time, particularly in New York State, which enforced a law revoking the liquor licenses of any bar serving LGBTQ customers. However, Stonewall operated under the fray: like many gay bars in Greenwich Village, Stonewall belonged to the Genoese crime family, who opportunistically sought profit by reaching out to the LGBTQ community when the law prohibited others.

To avoid the impact of frequent raids, the owners of Stonewall made a clandestine deal with the police, exchanging money for tips on upcoming raids; police also turned a blind eye to the bar’s lack of a liquor license, a badge of legitimacy not typically granted to bars serving LGBTQ clientele. (Stonewall functioned as an “open bottle bar,” meaning customers were technically expected to bring their own hooch).

What is the Stonewall Rebellion?

In the early hours of June 28, police raided the bar again. The events of that night are mostly a puzzle made up of different personal accounts, and you’ve probably read conflicting facts about how exactly the riots started. According to a 1989 interview with Sylvie Rivera, a transgender activist who was in Stonewall that night, it started like any other raid.

“The police have entered” Rivera mentionned. “They came to collect their reward as usual. They came in, padlocked the fucking door … That’s what we learned to live with at that time. You had to live with it. We have had to live with it until this day.

It was, by telling the story, a typical crackdown, with the NYPD arresting 13 people, “including employees and people breaking the state’s gender-appropriate clothing law (police officers taking suspected cross-dressers into the bathroom to check their gender) “.

That June night, however, bar patrons fought back and a crowd formed outside the Stonewall, throwing cans, bricks and other items at the police who were forced into the bar. to protect himself. Many different sources credit transgender activists, Marsha P. Johnson and Rivera, among the first to start the rebellion. (Johnson said later she had joined the riots when they were already underway. Yet she played an important role according to many personal accounts.)

Sylvia Rivera on a walk in 1994

Sylvia Rivera on a walk in 1994
Photo: Justin sutcliffe (PA)

What is pride today?

In the months following the rebellion, at least four different LGBTQ organizations formed in solidarity, including the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance, Radical Lesbians and the Street Travestite Action Revolutionaries (formed by Johnson and Rivera). This was not a first: the first gay rights organization in the country’s history, the Society for Human Rights, was formed in 1924, just four years before Stonewall, the first American march for human rights. Gay rights took place in Philadelphia when around 40 LGBTQ activists gathered. in Philadelphia outside Independence Hall on July 4, 1965.

Precisely one year after the riots, the Gay Liberation Front organized the first Christopher Street (later known as the Gay Pride March) Liberation Day March, along the street where Stonewall Inn is located. Similar steps took place in cities around the world shortly thereafter, giving rise to Pride Month events as we know them now. Yet Pride has not been officially recognized as such for over 30 years; former president Bill clinton finally declared June “Gay and Lesbian Month” in 1999. Former President Barack obama expanded this moniker to become more inclusive in 2009 with “LGBT Pride Month”.

In 2016, Obama also designated the Stonewall Inn a national monument. “Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights,” he said in a statement. declaration. “I believe that our national parks should reflect the entire history of our country, the richness and diversity and the uniquely American spirit that has always defined us.

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In recent years, the central role of people of color and transgender people during the riots, including DeLarverie, Johnson and Rivera, has become more at the forefront of the conversation, reversing some of the whitewashed and cisgender accounts of what happened. past that night.

Today, what was once a one-day parade has evolved into a series of month-long Pride events around the world. Nowadays, pride has been fully integrated, with large companies lending their solidarity in the form of sponsorships, sometimes with a dose of cynicism. Many cities also organize memorials to commemorate LGBTQ people who have died of AIDS / HIV.

How to celebrate pride

If you want to find events around you, you should do an online search for local Pride events or organizations and don’t forget to honor the personalities who paved the way for LGBTQ people all over the world; one way to do this is to support pro-LGBTQ causes, such as the Sylvia Rivera Bill, which aims to empower and provide legal resources to low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex or gender non-conforming. Pride is a time of hard-earned celebration, but it is also a time to reflect on the work of those who have come before us, and develop a strategy for how long we still have to go.

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