Every year in June, the world celebrates Pride Month. During Pride Month, large cities will host popular Pride Parades, where colorful floats fill the streets, and LGBTQ members and supporters walk to show their solidarity. It is a moment in time where we honor the history of the LGBTQ community members’ struggles over the decades since brave people first started to fight back against their inhumane treatment.
Gay Rights in the ’50s and ’60s
In the 1950s and ’60s, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental disorder. President Eisenhower banned gay people deemed guilty of “sexual perversion” from federal jobs. Bars were shut down if it was determined they had served gay patrons. A “Sip-in” movement was sparked when gay men started to visit bars and declare themselves gay so they could sue for discrimination when the bartenders refused to serve them.
The Stonewall Riots
The most powerful protest occurred during the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, was a popular meeting place for the young LGBTQ community. They could be open about their sexuality or gender expression at this drinking spot. Police raided the Stonewall Inn on this day and injured several patrons while clearing the bar. The raids were nothing new; the police had done raids of the bar several times. But this time, the LGBTQ community and their allies who watched the police beat and arrested the patrons had enough. They began to shout at the police, threw debris, and forced the officers back into the bar to await backup. About 400 people showed up to say enough was enough. The momentous occasion led to a shift in the LGBTQ community. They were tired of having their rights as human beings stripped away due to their sexual orientation. It was time for a change.
Pride Month Marches and Festivities
One year after the Stonewall Riots, the Christopher Street Liberation Day march in New York City can be considered the first Gay Pride parade. First starting out with a few hundred marchers, the event soon swelled. Thousands joined the march, shouted slogans to end discrimination, and cheered for gay pride.
These marches continued to rise in popularity and became much more than stoic protests for human rights. The colors of the rainbow were used to signify gay rights and gay pride and ended up becoming synonymous with the LGBTQ community and Pride Month in general. Democratic presidents all took up the torch for the cause starting with Bill Clinton, who declared the month of June in 1999 to be “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” President Barack Obama expanded this to “LGBT Pride Month,” and President Joe Biden proclaimed it “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month.”
In addition to parades, Pride Month festivities often include memorials to those lost in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community. Pride Month aims to celebrate LGBTQ culture and honor the memories of those who fought for equality amid severe discrimination and turmoil.