June is a very special month to members and allies of the LGBTQ+ Community. Why? Because it’s pride month, the month where we, as a community, celebrates who we are and how far we’ve come in earning the rights and freedom we deserve. But Pride wasn’t always a celebration, and for many, it still isn’t. It began as a riot. Every fire starts with a single spark, and the first spark that started Pride was made with the Stonewall Riots.
The Stonewall Riots
The global fight for Equality began with the Stonewall inn, a bar known as an LGBTQ+ safe space in Greenwich Village, downtown New York City. The 1960s (and previous decades) were times where the LGBTQ+ community was not accepted- being gay was seen as a mental illness. And so, many gay, lesbian, and trans people (and of course others) took refuge in gay bars and clubs, such as the Stonewall inn; it was a place where they were meant to feel free to be themselves without fear of judgement and abuse. But police harassment was unfortunately a common thing.
In the early hours of June 28th, 1969, the bar was suddenly raided by police without warning. They roughed up many bar patrons, arrested 13 people, including both employees and patrons violating the states “gender-appropriate clothing statute”; in other words, people they suspected of cross-dressing.
After this, people were fed up with the constant police harassment and social
discrimination, and decided that they were no longer going to take it. Angry patrons and residents of the local neighbourhood, rather than leaving, waited outside the bar, becoming increasingly angry as they watched the police aggressively handle the people they arrested. A lesbian being forced into a van incited the crowd to begin throwing things at the police officers, shouting at them to act after being hit on the head by the officer. Within minutes, the Stonewall Riots had begun.
The riots went on to spark protests all around the world calling for justice and equal rights for gay people.
A key individual involved in the Stonewall riots was Marsha P Johnson, a drag queen, and an activist remembered, respected and loved by the LGBTQ+ Community to this day. She resisted arrest, and, in the days following the riot, led a series of protests and marches for LGBTQ+ Rights.
Why do we still celebrate Pride Month today?
Pride is a celebration for many, but still a protest for plenty of others. While the Community has come a long way and gained many of the rights we deserve, society still has a quite a way to go. Stigma and discrimination against innocent gay and trans people still continue to occur, and so Pride continues to act as a protest for LGBTQ+ rights- in many countries, being gay is still illegal. And even in
places where it is legal, lots of people who are unable to come out to their families out of fear of abuse or discrimination use pride month as an opportunity to show their true colours for a little while. Pride also allows us to commemorate and thank the incredible people who started our global fight for the freedom and rights we currently have, such as Marsha P Johnson, Silvia Rivera, and Brenda Howard, known to have organised the first ever gay pride march.
In summary, Pride Month is a time for respect, action, commemoration, friendship, and most of all, love!
Happy Pride Month, everyone!
be happy, be kind,
and stay safe!
By “Blue”, MYC Member