LGBT Pride Month is here and it's a great reason to celebrate. Whether you're queer or an ally, LGBT Pride Month is a time for parties, parades, remembrance, love, and support. And it is a spectacle. I watched my first massive NYC Pride Parade when I was 18 on a fire escape over Christopher Street and my jaw dropped. I wish I could say it was part of a journey of self-discovery, or a deep understanding of the history, but it was simply because it was one of the most amazing displays of anything I've ever seen.
It's easy to get lost in the parties and fun of Pride. But, especially in the wake of the Orlando shooting, it's so important not to forget its roots. If you've ever wondered, "Why do we celebrate Pride?" I understand. It's something I was woefully under-educated in growing up. Besides a rough outline of civil rights struggles and a footnote during World War II chapters of my history books, I'm embarrassed to say how little I was taught about queer rights and history. It always felt like an aside or an addendum. But the history of Pride, why we celebrate it, is so important. There are loads of resources available, but here's a brief outline to get you started. Because it's so much more than a parade.
The history of the Pride we know today has its roots in the Civil Rights Movement. There were "Annual Reminder" marches as early as 1965, which were meant to be a public reminder that the LGBT community didn't enjoy the same basic civil rights as other people. But the watershed moment of the modern pride movement is widely considered the Stonewall Riots. In the 1960s, due to laws prohibiting public sexuality, there were limited options for queer folk and raids of gay and lesbian establishments were common. As the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights explains:
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power." Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1,000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd.
In the following days the demonstrations continued and spread throughout the city. Later, in commemoration of the riots, came the first Christopher Street Liberation Day. In the following years, these celebrations spread across the country and the first pride parades were born.
Celebration And Unity
There is, of course, the celebratory side of today's Pride as well. It's right in the name — showing that you're out and proud and reveling in every ounce of queerness and it's glorious. But you can't underestimate how wonderful it can be to be surrounded by like-minded people. This is something I've just started to understand during my last year in a same-sex relationship. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, until reading an article in The Independent in response to the Orlando tragedy, and something really resonated with me. As Douglas Robertson says:
We don’t go to 'gay clubs' to feel gay, have gay conversations, drink gay drinks and dance gay dances — lots of us go to gay clubs to try and forget that we’re gay. Someone on Twitter used the word 'haven' to describe Pulse this weekend, which might sound like a strange word to use about a nightclub, but think about it in these terms and perhaps you’ll realise why it’s so apt. In these types of places, a 'gay kiss' is just a kiss.
And I get it. I naively underestimated the stares and invasions I would experience, the general threat that comes with being in a same-sex relationship — and I've only been in one for a year. I'm embarrassed at how much I underestimated what queer couples go through every day. But when I'm surrounded by other queer people, it's not an issue. Pride means something different for everyone. Everyone has their personal experience that shapes why they want to be there— to represent, to celebrate, to remember. But for me personally, it's about joy and unity. It's about both making a spectacle and enjoying not being seen as one.
But someone else's reasons to celebrate will be different and that's part of what's great about Pride month. Gay, straight, bi, trans— everyone is welcome. You can find out more about where to celebrate around the country on the Gay Pride Calendar. Whatever your reason and whoever you are, come join.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (2)