Nonprofit Resources celebrates and recognizes June as Pride Month, and the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Task Force shares the history and necessity for LGBTQ+ representation and advocacy year-round.
Understanding the history behind Pride celebrations is imperative in discussing the Pride movement and how it has evolved over time. This movement traces back to the 1960s, a time when LGBTQ+ Americans were forced to hide who they were and live their lives explicitly in private. Due to this, many individuals found refuge in gay clubs and bars, where they were free to express themselves authentically. These safe spaces frequently faced harsh penalties by the New York State Liquor Authority, as they shut down establishments that served to ‘suspected LGBT’ individuals.
In 1966, the Stonewall Inn was opened as a gay bar. On a seemingly typical morning in June of 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, and arrested many patrons for violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute. Many angered individuals then started a series of rebellions that took place over the next five days following the police raid. It became increasingly apparent that policy brutality seemed to focus on LGBTQ+ citizens of color. These events began an era of LGBTQ+ political activism. On the one-year anniversary of the riots, New York City streets were flooded with people marching for gay rights, an event that is widely considered the first Pride parade in history.
Telling the story of Pride would be incomplete without talking about Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was a prominent drag queen in the LGBTQ+ community, known for her unique costumes and designs, and most importantly, her fierce advocacy for gay rights. Following the Stonewall riots, Johnson and Sylvia Rivera co-founded an agency named the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). STAR went on to provide services to transgender youth on the streets of New York City for the next decade.
Marsha P. Johnson’s legacy of LGBTQ+ activism and fierce fights towards equality lives on to this day in modern Pride celebrations across the world.
Modern Pride celebrations have expanded in many ways since the first Pride parades in the 1970s. The first few marches drew in crowds of hundreds. Today, we see millions of individuals across the world participate in Pride celebrations, decked out in rainbow attire and full of love and hope for the future. Modern-day Pride consists of parades, marches, concerts, art, music, and much more. It is a jubilant celebration of self-worth, validation, and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
As we look ahead, it is important to recognize the individual impact you can make on advancing equality of the LGBTQ+ community in your local community, nationally, and internationally. Although we have come along ways since 1969, there is still work to be done for the LGBTQ+ community to feel safe and welcome in all corners of the world.
I would like to challenge you to make three personal commitments that will push the LGBTQ+ community closer to sustainable equality. This could be anything from protesting to calling your legislator and expressing your concern for the community, or just speaking up about this issue within your social circle.
The number one catalyst to positive social change is advocacy. Being an advocate for marginalized communities creates an insurmountable difference in the fight towards equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans.
“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” -Marsha P. Johnson
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