WHY GAY PRIDE?
June has come to be known as an annual Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Pride (LGBT) month. Publications, television shows and series, organizations, public institutions and corporate entities make an effort to acknowledge “Pride.” It also shares the month of June with National Safety Month and Cataract Awareness Month. You may hear about Pride month at work or in the media, but have you ever wondered why it’s in June. Or why the LGBT community gets a month of “pride?” Has anyone around you ever wondered, “Why is there not a Straight Pride?” The answer to that is both simple and complex.
The simple part is why June. June of 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which is identified as the start of the modern gay rights movement. On June 28, 1969, New York City police moved to raid a bar in Greenwich Village known as the Stonewall Inn. Police raids on gay bars were fairly common at the time. New York, as did most of the country, had laws against homosexual behavior. While these laws were not routinely enforced, everywhere, at all times, the early ‘60s saw a crackdown on gay social environments as the city tried to pretty itself to host the 1964 World’s Fair. Even after the fair closed, zealous police forces continued to harass, disrupt and raid these gathering places. Often, because most of these places were owned by organized crime, there was more “shaking down” going on than actual moral code enforcement.
There were few organizations working to win rights for gays and lesbians prior to Stonewall. Those that did exist were focused on trying to convince the powers that be that gays and lesbians were no different than everyone else. They were working for acceptance. Most in those organizations paid little heed to the patrons of Stonewall, patrons who represented the poorest and most marginalized of the gay and lesbian population of the city; drag queens, transgendered persons, gender atypical gay men and lesbians. Also, unlike the organized groups, the Stonewall patrons were a racially diverse group. Prior raids would go unnoticed by most of the population of the city, as the raids did not affect most of the population.
That night was different. Usually, the police gave the owners advanced notice of raids in return for kickbacks. There was apparently no advanced notice this time. Caught unaware, the patrons began to push back at their handling by police. Resistance grew. The police were unprepared. Nobody expected gay men and drag queens to fight back
As the police released some patrons from the bar, rather than dispersing, they formed a crowd that grew. Sticks, then bottles, then bricks flew. The crowd pushed the police back. The disturbances lasted for several hours that night, and continued for several more nights that week with crowds growing to include sympathetic allies.
Following the uprising there was a surge of organizing in New York City as two gay and lesbian political organizations were developed. Others quickly followed suit in major cities across the country. On the first anniversary of the uprising a march was held in NYC and several other major cities across the country to mark the event. Those first marches were protest marches. As the marches grew over the years they took on a more festive air, (and frequently corporate sponsorship) and became known as Pride Parades. Today, cities and towns across the country hold Pride parades. Many expand beyond the month of June to avoid competing with neighboring parades. The goal of these parades is multifold but generally include visibility and outreach.
Visibility is important because we know from psychological research that the best antidote to anti-LGBT attitudes (homophobia) is knowing someone who identifies as LGBT. While there are a myriad of tales of those who have been rejected by their families and friends, churches, and jobs when they come out, there are many more stories of those who have felt compelled to rethink their beliefs about the community when they learn that someone they love is part of it.
Outreach is essential, because parts of society do still exist that are hostile to the community and force those recognizing their identities to continue to hide it. Unfortunately, such hiding is harmful to the individual’s psychological health and development. The marches strive for inclusion. Even the initials the community uses have grown to represent this. Lesbian and Gay has gone on to include Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer and Intersexed, The marches welcome community members and allies of every race, color, faith community, profession, physical ability, etc. that wants to be seen.