Here’s what Pride Month is all about.
What is Pride Month, and how are cities celebrating it?
Pride is a monthlong LGBT+ celebration, protest, and act of political activism in the US. Nearly every city has some sort of big event – usually a large parade with plenty of rainbow iconography, glitter, and floats driven by local companies and organisations.
Several cities have already kicked off the month with Pride parades and LGBT-centered events, ranging from protests and dance parties to poetry readings and drag shows.
Why do Americans celebrate Pride, and when did it all start?
The history of Pride – as well as the larger LGBT rights movement – dates back to the late 1960s at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan. The venue was known as the rare spot where same-sex patrons could dance with each other without the fear of harassment.
At the time, it was fairly common for police to raid gay bars and nightclubs, especially in big cities like New York City and Los Angeles. Sometimes these raids would result in violence on behalf of the officers.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided Stonewall, but this time, the patrons fought back. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman celebrating her 25th birthday at the time, is credited with starting the uprising.
The Stonewall Riots, consisting of thousands of people, lasted for the next six days.
Does Stonewall still exist today?
The Stonewall Inn – a two-story establishment on Manhattan’s West Side – still operates today as a gay bar and entertainment revenue. Throughout the week, it hosts dance parties and drag shows.
In 2015, the City of New York designated Stonewall as a historic landmark. A year later, President Obama named it a national monument.
“The Stonewall Inn is a rarity – a tipping point in history where we know, with absolute clarity, that everything changed,” Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said in a statement to BuzzFeed in 2015.
What’s the difference between the Pride Parade, the Dyke March, and the Trans Day of Action?
These three events, usually held on separate days in June, focus on different LGBT+ communities. The Pride Parade is more or less for everyone, while the Dyke March is a protest march for the rights of queer women and nonbinary people, and the Trans Day of Action (or Visibility) is a rally for trans and gender non-conforming folks.
Pride Parades, Dyke Marches, and Trans Days of Action are held in most major US cities, including New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, and San Diego.
An official straight-pride month does not exist, because straight identities are considered normative in the US.
How did the rainbow flag come to represent LGBT+ pride?
The LGBT pride flag was invented in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a gay rights activist, army veteran, artist, and self-declared “gay Betsy Ross.”
He created the flag for the 1978 Gay Freedom Pride Parade in San Francisco, at the request of Harvey Milk, a gay local politician who was assassinated later that year.
The original flag had eight colours, each carrying a specific meaning. In 1979, the palette was condensed to six colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet).
In recent years, the flag has been adapted to include black and brown, for racial inclusivity and HIV/AIDS awareness.
As Forrest Wickman wrote in Slate, closeted queer people have historically used bright colours to signal their homosexuality to each other.
“We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things,” Baker told MOMA two years before his death in 2017.
Is the US the only country that celebrates Pride?
Although LGBT+ Americans face issues specific to living in the US, the country is not the only one to have Pride.
Cities across the world – from Tokyo to Sydney to Rio de Janeiro – recognise their own Pride Months that fall at various times throughout the year.
What progress has the US made on LGBT+ rights since the Stonewall Riots?
At the time of the Stonewall Riots, many states still criminalized same-sex relationships. The last states to decriminalize same-sex sexual intercourse were Texas, Idaho, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Michigan, in 2003.
Over the past five decades, LGBT+ rights have significantly improved. In 1975, the US introduced the first federal gay-rights bill to address discrimination based on sexual orientation. Under the Clinton administration, federal funding for HIV/AIDS research, prevention, and treatment more than doubled. In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity, and disability.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military, was repealed in 2011. A year later, the US issued a regulation that prohibits LGBT+ discrimination in federally-assisted housing programs.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in every state. In 2017, Washington, DC, residents became able to choose a gender-neutral option on their driver’s licenses. And that same year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that workplace discrimination against LGBT+ employees was an unconstitutional form of gender discrimination – but the ruling lies on shaky ground, because LGBT+ people are still not considered their own protected class in many states.
Isn’t the fight over since same-sex marriage is now legal? What rights are LGBT+ people still working toward?
Same-sex marriage is just one step toward full equality for LGBT+ people, who are still fighting political battles in 2018.
These include police brutality and profiling, anti-trans “bathroom bills,” limits on transgender members of the military, non-LGBT-friendly healthcare policies, the decision to erase LGBT+ Americans from the Census, discrimination at retail stores and in the workplace, and more.
Even before the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, LGBT+ people were already the most likely targets of hate crimes in the US, according to FBI data. At the 2018 Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City on June 3, a mob of white men yelled slurs and physically attacked gay attendees.
What are the important terms I should understand?
Some terms you might hear this month include:
Asexual – A word that describes people who do not feel sexual desire toward any group of people. Asexuality is not the same as celibacy (i.e. the choice to abstain from marriage and sexual relations).
Biphobia – An irrational aversion toward bixsexual people, often due to negative bisexual stereotypes.
Cisgender – A term that describes people who identify as the sex they were assigned at birth.
Intersectional Pride –A phrase that acknowledges LGBT+ people have a variety of identities – including race and income level – that give them varying levels of privilege in society. The philosophy here is that the LGBT+ movement should fight for everyone in the community, especially those who have less privilege.
LGBTQ+ – This is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus other non-heterosexual identities. Sometimes, “I” for intersex and “A” for asexual or agender are tacked on the end, but not all intersex people identify under the umbrella of LGBT+.
Nonbinary – A term that refers to people who do not fit within the male-female gender binary. Many nonbinary people use the pronouns “they/them.”
Pansexual – A word used to describe people who feel attracted to others of any gender, which can be on a spectrum.
Queer – The meaning of “queer” is debated within LGBT circles, but most often it’s used as an umbrella term for non-heterosexual attraction.
I’ve heard that some people are upset about the growing presence of corporate sponsors and/or police at Pride Parades. Why is this?
Some members of the LGBT+ community, particularly people of colour, have a contentious relationship with police, due to a long history of raids and discrimination – which prompted the Stonewall Riots in 1969. In 2017, several Canadian cities chose to ban uniformed police officers from marching in Pride parades, according to the BBC.
A number of LGBT+ groups have also expressed disdain toward the growing corporatization of Pride in major cities like San Francisco and New York. They argue that, in recent years, Pride has become too commercial and has strayed from its history of resistance and revolution.
I’m a straight person. Should I go to Pride?
Everyone can partake in Pride Month. However, LGBT+ people should remain at the center of the celebrations and marches.
If you are straight and choose to attend a Pride Parade, it’s important to remain respectful as an ally. Support an LGBT+ friend, or better yet, donate your time by volunteering at your local Pride Parade or other Pride events throughout June. You can also donate money to an LGBT+ organisation.
Most cities have sites that list ways to get involved.
Several LGBT+ organisations, like GLAAD, the Audre Lorde Project, and the Anti-Defamation League, have posted resources on these topics and more. You can also find out about your local Pride events here.
Have a question we didn’t answer? Get in touch at [email protected]
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