The History of Pride
June signifies Pride month, an entire month to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, often done in the ways of pride parades, marches, and more. But, why do we have pride month? And why is it so important to recognize how this month was created, especially now with all of the movements going on in the world today? We have to remember where our celebrations started, and how they started to fully be able to join in on the month and continue to fight for full LGBTQ+ rights across the world.
The Start of the Stonewall Riots
So how did pride start, and what does pride month commemorate? The history of the gay pride movement often dates back to the year 1969. In this year, homosexuality was still a crime, men could be arrested for being in drag and women could be arrested if they adorned less than three pieces of “feminine clothing”. Harassment like this weighed on the gay community for years. On June 28th, 1969, the police had shown up with a warrant and entered the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. They had started to raid the bar and arrest gay folk. Though on this specific night, patrons started fighting back when Marsha P. Johnson threw a shot glass into a mirror and cried out
“I got my civil rights!”
More and more bar-goers joined the fights, as well as patrons from neighboring bars, and mayhem erupted. Rioters had broken windows, set cars on fire and injured three police officers. Hundreds were resisting arrest and fighting back against a long history of police oppression. Police had barricaded themselves inside the Stonewall Inn, and although the NYC Tactical police force had tried to intervene, the rioters had ran them out. That night on June 28th had started to calm down, but once word had gotten out about the riots, thousands had returned the next day to join the protesters in support. The Stonewall protests and riots had lasted six days and were the catalyst for LGBTQ+ rights as we know them today.
Who is Marsha P. Johnson?
Marsha P. Johnson was a Black transgender woman who stood on the frontlines of the Stonewall riots and protests. Johnson was a drag performer and sex worker who lived with mental illness and was often homeless. When talking about the Stonewall riots or the beginning of LGBTQ+ rights, Marsha’s name is always brought up. Johnson was one of the main instigators for the Stonewall riots and the shot glass she threw is known as “the shot glass that was heard around the world.”She identified herself as a “transvestite”, a gay woman and a drag performer. Not only was she an activist for the LGBTQ+ community, but Marsha also founded one of America’s first safe spaces for transgender and homeless youth (the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries, STAR). She also advocated her entire life on the behalf of sex workers, prisoners, and those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Though tragically, at the age of 46, Marsha’s body was found in the Hudson river on July 6th, 1992. Police had ruled it a suicide despite ongoing claims from Johnson’s friends and family telling them she was not suicidal. Marsha P. Johnson’s legacy as the catalyst of change lives on through those still fighting the same battle she once did over 50 years ago. Johnson will also be commemorated through a monument in New York City which will be the first, permanent monument to commemorate a transgender woman in the world.
Celebrating Pride and fighting for LGBTQ+ Rights today
Knowing the origins of Pride month and what the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike are celebrating is a key piece to fully being able to support Pride and LGBTQ+ rights. We have come an incredibly long way regarding police brutality and the stigmatization of gay folk, but we still are ways away from being truly equal. You can still be legally fired for being apart of the LGBTQ+ community in 28 states, and the Trump admin has made it clear that it doesn’t want to take gay rights or especially trans rights into consideration. We must also mention that 70 countries still criminalize consenting same-sex relationships, and the jailing time can range from 10 years to life in prison, not to mention some countries have a death penalty inplace for homosexuality. There is still a fight to be had, we must remember and acknowledge that Black, trans, and gay womxn/gender non-conforming folk fought for these rights and we must continue their fight for equality across the globe.