So welcome to June! For those of you who don’t know, June is Pride month for those of us in the LGBT community. I figured that since I have so many tolerant people here you guys might enjoy some history about how and why Pride month started. I will also feature some prominent people in the LGBT community who have made a difference in not just our community, but the human race community. I am not going to do the posts back to back – nor will I bore you with a post a day about gay stuff, I figured over the course of the month I will just select a few days to highlight some of the more important moments and people who have helped to bring awareness, progress, and understanding. Also, for my first year ever, I will be volunteering to work the Pride Festival and parade here in Philly – so there will be a couple of days where I won’t be posting at all!
So I figured that I would start off with why June is Pride month and why these parades and festivals became a staple in the LGBT community worldwide.
The Stonewall Inn in New York is the birthplace of the gay rights movement. A bar located in NYC where the ‘undesirables’ went to socialize. On June 28th, 1969 police raided the bar and unlike previous encounters with police – this time the patrons resisted arrest. A riot broke out and the ‘movement’ for equality began.
Some reasons for arrest included two men dancing together, women who failed to wear at least 3 pieces of feminine clothing, and any male dressed in drag. Those who did not fit into these categories were allowed to leave without arrest, but on June 28th they stuck around and fought the 8 policemen who conducted the raid. For the first time in history – gay people and their allies stood up against the bigotry and discriminatory practices of the NYPD and a movement was born.
To honor those who fought at Stonewall and to bring awareness a parade/protest march was planned. These were called Gay Liberation and Gay Freedom parades but the first one was held June 28, 1970 to recognize and publicize the fight for equality and acceptance that began at Stonewall. Brenda Howard is often considered as the “mother of gay pride” because it was on her insistence that these protests were needed and executed. Without her, the first “Gay Freedom” march would have never happened.
The next time someone asks you why LGBT Pride marches exist or why Gay Pride Month is June tell them “A bisexual woman named Brenda Howard thought it should be.”
I find it interesting that Brenda Howard passed away on June 28th 2005. She spent her life honoring those at Stonewall, and it is only fitting that she passed away on its anniversary. My life has been a blessing and not a curse because of this amazing woman who insisted that we not be content being marginalized and criminalized by the society we live in. I was allowed to attend “Pride” festivals, and not “Freedom” marches because these people before me made it possible; and for that I am eternally grateful. I only wish she could see the progress we have made in the most recent years… we will continue her legacy and the legacy of those who were beaten in the streets of NYC to ensure that LGBT people all over the world understand that they too can fight for equality and win it.
Most pride marches have crowds before during and after the parade – not in Rome. I went to the start point of the parade and saw no one. Once it was time to start people came out of nowhere, formed a group, marched, and then once it was over people disappeared like in a dream. It still isn’t safe for many Italians to march – so they march then hide. It was kind of surreal after being a part of something like San Francisco pride where the entire city is involved and for the most part supportive.
I know a lot of Americans see pride parades as a debauchery festival, but while some may see it that way today even in the gay community, the purpose and history behind these events are not just to be in public in short shorts with thumping devil music. The purpose is to unite for a cause. The purpose is to come out of hiding for one day a year and remember that we are a movement. We are fighting for something. While for many it is a party, for many more it is the one time a year where we can walk proudly holding hands with our partners without fear or shame. For many, pride parades and festivals are the only times they get to actually be ‘gay’ without having to hide anything or explain themselves. For me, pride was the only time I could be “out” and because I was in the military, attending and marching was the only time I could feel at ease about being who I was. The feeling of being surrounded by people just like me is powerful, and more addicting than any drug. Freedom is intoxicating.