June is Pride month! Although many towns and cities have their Pride celebration week and parades in July, June is the month in which we recognize the history of Pride! So, what is the history of Pride?
In June of 1969, the Stonewall riots occurred in New York and were one of the pivotal movements in regards to LGBTQ+ rights. The Stonewall Inn was a place where queer men, women, and transfolk who were primarily people of colour could go a party and be themselves. Unfortunately, they were subject to frequent raids where trans women’s genitals were checked to ensure they were “actually women” and lesbians were required to wear a minimum of three “feminine” pieces of clothing or face arrest for violating unwritten proprietary laws.
On the night of Stonewall riots, there was an unspoken shift in the attendees of the bar. Queer folk were fed up with the abuse of the police and had no intention to allow the behaviour to continue. Men refused to produce their identification and women would not go in back to have their sex verified. Anyone the police suspected of being a cross dresser was taken into the back room and many were arrested. Those who were let go did not dissipate but instead lingered around outside the bar and a crowd of primarily queer folk grew. As rumours spread through the crowd that trans women in the bar were being beaten the crowd quickly became violent and fought back against the police.
The riot began again the next night, with graffiti covering the Stonewall Inn and began the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. The majority of those involved in beginning this movement for LGBTQ+ rights are trans women of colour, as well as other queer folk of colour. Those who could not or would not live their real selves in stealth and wanted to be true to who they are.
Later, in 1978, Gilbert Baker had met Harvey Milk and learned to sew so that he could create a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community. He created an eight-stripe rainbow flag, each colour representing a different aspect important to the Pride community. Since then, the pink has been removed (due to fabric unavailability in the 1980s) and the turquoise and indigo colours merged into royal blue. The rainbow flag has been a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community and the unity they experience in being systematically oppressed.
This Pride season requires us to celebrate those who brought us here as well as who we are now. Much has changed since the Stonewall Riots of 1969, but far too much has stayed the same. Gay bars are legal, but the murder of trans women is at an all-time high. Lesbians are not required to wear a minimum of three feminine pieces of clothing, but queer folk everywhere are still denied jobs and health benefits for being out. Gay marriage is legal, but there are more homeless LGBTQ+ youth than ever because their parents abused or disowned them for being who they are.
There is so much left to do to bring basic rights and freedoms to people in the LGBTQ+ community that we cannot rest. We must speak out against the abuse and oppression of LGBTQ+ folx in our communities and beyond. We must protect those who cannot be protected, and lift up the oppressed.