Explained: The origins and significance of the Pride Month

Pride Month 2021: In many parts of the world, June is the ‘Gay Pride Month’, dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ community and their struggle against discrimination and social ostracisation.

In many parts of the world, June is the ‘Gay Pride Month’, dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ community and their struggle against discrimination and social ostracisation. Many countries organise month-long activities and initiatives that culminate into a loud crescendo of the ‘Gay Pride Parade’, usually held in the end of June.

How did it all start?

In the US, the ‘Gay Pride Month’ has its roots in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The Stonewall Riots, or as many call it the ‘Stonewall Uprising’, was a series of extemporaneous and sporadic demonstrations held by the LGBTQ community in and around New York.

The demonstrations were a direct response to a raid conducted by the police on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich village, on June 28, 1969. The Inn had quite a colourful past, right from being owned by a Genovese Crime family to finally becoming a watering hole for gay men in New York. The Inn became quite popular for gay men, and it was one of the few places that allowed gay people to dance.

The sixties was the time in the US when the anti-Vietnam war protest was gathering momentum, and a hippie counterculture was bubbling under. At the same time, gay and lesbian members of the American society were being constantly marginalised. In fact, solicitation of homosexual relations was still a crime in New York City. In these rough times, the Stonewall Inn offered a safe haven to the LGBTQ community.

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Drag Queens, effeminate men, and gay men who pretended to be straight, could all come and have a good time at the ‘bottle bar’ — the Inn didn’t have a liquor license, as the patrons got their own. However, the city still deemed public display of affection by the gay community as illegal. Gay bars were routinely raided and their owners and patrons harassed.

In the wee hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided Stonewall Inn and arrested 13 people. Some were employees, and some were patrons who violated New York state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute — read drag queens. The raid ignited the long pent-up frustration of the LGBTQ community, and many patrons and gay residents of the Greenwich village started to gather around the Inn.

The situation turned aggressive, and many civilians were manhandled, and an LGBTQ woman was hit by a policeman as he bundled her into a police vehicle. Instantly, a full-fledged riot broke out. It led to five more days of belligerent protests and activism by the LGBTQ people of New York. The Stonewall Riots hence mark an important day in the evolution of modern-day gay rights. In 2016, President Obama declared the Stonewall Inn a national monument.

Rioting Legacy

On June 28, 1970, people marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and the anniversary heralded the first ever ‘gay pride march’. There were simultaneous marches held in the cities of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The next year, the marches had spread to Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris and even West Berlin. The pride marches opened a path of acceptance and assimilation for the LGBTQ community, which, for the longest time, had been shunned by the mainstream.

Official Stamp of Acceptance

In the US, the first ever ‘official’ Gay Pride Month was declared by President Bill Clinton in June 1999 and then followed it up with declaring one in June 2000 as well.

The Bush administration maintained a stoic silence on the issue. President Obama, during his two terms from 2009-2016, declared June as the LGBT pride month each year. President Trump took to Twitter to announce that June was the LGBT pride month, but abstained from an official proclamation. President Biden, too, has declared June to be the LGBTQ+ Pride Month of 2021.

Since 2012, Google, too, has been stepping up its LGBTQ+ stance on its homepage. Any search on Google that’s related to LGBTQ topics is offset with the distinct rainbow-coloured pattern — the hallmark of Gay pride. In 2017, Google took it up a notch, with Google maps displaying rainbow-coloured streets to indicate pride marches that were being held across the world.

Pride Beyond June

The month-long celebrations are an affirmation to the long-shunned LGBTQ community. Picnics, marches, public events and initiatives are held for the community and also to help create awareness about them. Many countries have their own respective pride months, which highlight a significant development for the LGBTQ community. Russia celebrates their pride month in May, as that was the month when the country decriminalised homosexuality in 1993.

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