Monday, June 16, 2014
LGBT Pride Month
As LGBT Pride month, June is full of celebrations and events. Around the world the LGBTQ community rallies together to form their own Pride parades with weekends full of advocacy, education, and remembrance in a festive setting. Some celebrate a week, some a weekend, some just a day. However your neck of the woods celebrates, it’s a great way for the LGBT communities and it’s allies to celebrate how far they’ve come since 1969 and how far they still have to go. Let’s look at how this all got started and what an amazing event it’s become over the past four decades.
The impetus for Pride was started after the riots near the Stonewall Inn in 1969. The Stonewall Inn was a well-known gay bar in NYC’s Greenwich Village that was also a haven for the poor and extremely marginalized transgender and transvestite community as well as prostitutes and the homeless. For decades the gay community found few public places they could go to socialize or be even the slightest bit out about their sexuality. A few bars catered to the community but the police raided them often and sent anyone without proper identification or dressed in clothing of the opposite sex (men couldn’t look like women and women needed at least three pieces of feminine clothing) to jail. Wealthy patrons were often blackmailed to keep their orientation a secret. One early morning on June 28th, 1969, the police did a surprise raid at the Stonewall. This one was different as people started to gather outside and the patrons inside decided they had had enough and fought back. People out on the street joined in and soon a small-scale riot had started. During that week more protests occurred and while things started to calm down a need to take action had begun. The coming year would see big steps forward in the fight for gay rights.
The first organizations and advocacy groups to use the word “gay” in their title started popping up in the six months after Stonewall. It was no longer enough to protest quietly or disguise your identity in a vaguely named organization. The Gay Liberation Front was organized and while it didn’t last long other organizations and newspapers were started. The Gay Activists Alliance was started when the GLF disbanded. To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall raid the Christopher Street Liberation Day march took place along 51 city blocks to Central Park. It was not quite the celebration parade it is today since those attending had to worry about the possibility of not even making it from Christopher Street to Central Park due to the hostility from a largely homophobic public. Instead the march grew in number and jubilance as it made it’s way to Central Park. They chanted, carried signs and in general told the public they were no longer going to stay quiet about their cause. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago also had marches that year. The following year saw more marches and soon after the first international marches.
Over the decades those first marches would grow in number of attendance and in the number of host cities worldwide. The 1970’s and 80’s were not an easy time as the LGBT community had a hard fight against discrimination and also some hard fights within their own communities. Despite this the passion to change politics and public opinion never waned. Gay Freedom Marches, Gay Liberation Day and Gay Freedom Day continued to be places to bring homosexual issues to the forefront and to make its causes known to a wider audience. As time progressed Gay and Lesbian rights groups would see many challenges from the assassination of Harvey Milk to the struggle against increased fear and homophobia during the AIDS crisis in the 80’s. Pride events during this time were often just a one-day march but weekend and weeklong festivals were increasing as many cities and towns would add Pride celebrations. The tone was more political in those early years. Over time the marches have become more festive events but the undertone of politics and advocacy has never gone away. By the 1980’s the events changed from “freedom” and “liberation” named events to the term “Gay Pride.”
Pride Around the World
London had it’s first Pride event in July of 1972, Stockholm in 1979, and Berlin in 1979. The 80’s saw an increase in Pride events around the world with cities like Paris, Dublin, Winnipeg, and Hamburg. Many Gay and Lesbian film festivals started in the US and internationally around this time. The 90’s saw an explosion of Pride events with the addition of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Israel, Japan, Thailand, Austria, Iceland, many Eastern European countries and the start of EuroPride which changes the hosting European city every year. The largest celebration is in Sao Paolo, Brazil with 3,000,000 participants and was named the largest pride parade in the world by the Guinness World Records in 2006. EuroPride has the next largest participants while San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have the largest numbers in the US. Taiwan is the largest in Asia, Tel Aviv is the largest in the Middle East and Toronto is the largest in Canada. The smallest was 100 participants in Sligo, Ireland. You can find Pride events in almost every country, from the largest cities to smallest islands and the numbers continue to grow.
LGBT Pride Near You
Pride events also continue to rise in the US. They mostly were in cities with large LGBT communizes but as the need to educate and inform continues, along with growing social acceptance, even small towns have their own festivals. Some Pride events are just jubilant parades while others celebrate for a whole week of music, performances, film festivals, and street fairs. Pride events are family friendly and a great way to help educate your kids about acceptance and the long continuous struggle of the LGBTQ community. These events showcase the broad spectrum of the community, along with a chance for politicians and local organizations to show their support. The parents marching to show love and support of their children is always touching and reminds us that many are rejected by their families for being different. You can even see celebrities and, more recently, sports figures out and proud. Check with your local LGBT organizations like a nearby LGBT Center or check online for lists of Pride events. I’m sure there’s an event near you and is a great way to celebrate the long road since Stonewall and the road to progress yet to come.
Follow on Twitter @Technogeisha