It’s June, which means Pride Month is here again and it’s a great time of year to celebrate. Whether you are gay or an ally, LGBT Pride Month is a time for parties, parades, remembrance, love, acceptance and support.
‘Pride’ parades have been taking place for 50+ years. There were annual reminder marches as early as 1965, which were meant to be a public reminder that the LGBT community did not have the same basic civil rights as other people ‘cis hetero citizens’.
Back in February for LGBT history month, I posted a blog on why we still need a pride, explaining the important of a pride and what it stands for, but have you ever wondered why we have a pride month, and why is it in June? Well let me explain…
On the 28th June 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. A usual occurrence for the venue and other venues frequented by the LGBT community.
However this raid did not go as planned.
Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, then any men dressed as women would be immediately arrested. On this night, the patrons who’d been at the Stonewall Inn began to refuse to produce their identification. Those ‘cross dressing’ were put into a separate group, and both patrons and police are said to recall that a sense of discomfort spread very quickly, spurred by police who began to assault some of the lesbians by “feeling some of them up inappropriately” while frisking them.
That’s when a crowd of 100+ people started to gather around the Stonewall Inn, watching the riot unfold. However this time the crowds started to fight back.
A bystander shouted, “Gay power, and we shall overcome”.
Pennies and beer bottles, were thrown at the wagons as a rumor spread through the crowd that patrons still inside the bar were being beaten.
A fight broke out when a woman in handcuffs was escorted from the bar to the waiting police wagon, she had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton. Bystanders recalled that the woman sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?”
After an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the wagon, the crowd became a mob and went “berserk”: “It was at that moment that the scene became explosive.”
The police tried to restrain some of the crowd, knocking a few people down, which antagonized bystanders even more. Some of those handcuffed in the wagon escaped when police left them unattended, the police continued to lash out, dispersing some of the crowd who found a construction site nearby with stacks of bricks. Suddenly the police were surrounded by 500-600 people.
A bystander in the crowd stated: “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of these people being treated like this. It was like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration… Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction.
We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.”
Days after the Stonewall Riot, gay, lesbian and bisexual civil rights demonstrations took place in New York. Historically, this was the first major demonstration for homosexual rights, by both gay and straight people, who were standing up against prejudice.
The LGBTQ+ community held a series of spontaneous demonstrations to protest against the riot in order to make sure gays and lesbians could have places they could go to and be themselves. Places they wouldn’t be arrested. Within six months of the riots, two gay activist groups had formed in New York.
Activist Brenda Howard coordinated the first LGBTQ+ (then LGBT) Pride march as well as sparking the idea for a week of events around Pride Day which eventually developed into the LGBTQ+ celebrations held every June, in light of the events at the Stonewall Inn.
US President Bill Clinton officially declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month” in June 1999 before fellow Democrat Barack Obama extended its title to the more inclusive “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month” 10 years later. However President Trump refuses to recognize pride month.
So back to 2019. LBGTQ+ or Gay Pride is a way to celebrate sexual diversity. LGBTQ+ people protest against discrimination, prejudice and violence, something many people in the community still face today. By supporting pride events the community and our ally’s increase awareness about the issues we face, which might not be as evident to those outside of the LBGTQ+ community, as we continue to fight for equal rights around the world.
Information on the Stonewall Inn Riots has come from Wikipedia and Stonewall.