Happy LGBT Pride Month! Even though they should be recognized every month, we celebrate the LGBT community annually in June. From parades to festivals, Pride events are happening throughout the country and overseas all month long. But before you go and celebrate, learn about how Pride came to get a better understanding of the meaning behind this fun, month-long celebration.
Pride takes place in June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. On June 28th that year, shortly after 3 a.m., police raided a gay club called the Stonewall Inn. History notes that while the police claimed the raid was for a valid reason—they were using an expired liquor license at the establishment—it wasn’t the first time that the gay community was openly targeted by the police. In fact, gay clubs like the Stonewall Inn were closing rapidly in New York City, which made the community feel invisible. So, they chose to fight back.
According to Rolling Stone, the first shot glass was thrown by Marsha Johnson, a black trans woman. The act has since been called the “shot glass heard around the world” due to how powerful the moment was. Johnson, a drag performer, was key in the gay liberation movement. She was only 23 at the time of the riot.
The protest against the police got a little violent and extended outside of the club throughout the neighborhood. The riots represent one of the first times the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities aggressively stood u, together for equal rights. The riot and the protests that followed let them have a voice, and later resulted in the founding of the Gay Liberation Front.
On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride Parade took place in New York, with a route that passed The Stonewall Inn—and each year, the tradition continued. In 1980, Johnson earned herself a central spot in New York’s annual parade, and it was a solid reminder that the monumental event might not have been possible without her activism.
So much has changed since that day in 1969. Back then, police were allowed to arrest anyone who wasn’t wearing at least three pieces of what they believed to be gender-appropriate clothes. The gay community couldn’t be themselves without suffering from harassment and assault. On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was finally legalized in the United States.
Even though many situations have improved for the LGBT community, their rights are still challenged every day—and they’re often ostracized by other communities who still think that sexual orientation is a choice. Did you know that just this year, a New York court stated it was unlawful to fire someone since they identified as being gay? Even though many workplaces openly say they’re against discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, states employers can’t fire someone due to reasons such as race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Sexual orientation isn’t listed in there, meaning there was a loophole used by many bigoted employers.
We’re still reaching milestones that make it obvious that gay rights need to be a bigger priority. Just a handful of years ago, politicians often stepped down from office if they were outed as being gay—or, made the announcement years after serving office. In 1987, for example, Barney Frank became the very first member of the House of Representatives to come out as a gay man. This made history, but there are other industries that are lagging behind in openly discussing sexual orientation. For one, it was just this year that ice skater Adam Rippon held the title as being the first openly gay Olympian at the winter Olympics from Team USA.
That’s why Pride events are still so important—as a nation, we still have a long way to go. Pride Month not only celebrates the amazing strides that the LGBT community has made throughout the years, but it’s a way for them to be openly surrounded by friends, allies, and a lot of love in a safe, judgment-free environment.