Every year in June, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, and Intersex community organizes and participates in a series of marches, festivals, celebrations, and events to raise knowledge and awareness about the presence and history of LGBTQ individuals in our society. Collectively, the events are known as Gay Pride Month. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. Gay Pride events happen throughout the month of June all over the globe. They demonstrate to everyone that the gay community is part of the fabric of human society and culture. Gay people live on every continent, every country, and in every big city on earth.
They live in small towns, villages, and rural areas, too.
All of us at Evolve Treatment Centers stand in support of our LGBTQ family members, peers, coworkers, and loved ones. We have a simple message for you:
Thank you for being you.
Thank you for letting us in.
Thank you for letting us help.
We’re proud to be part of your family.
To learn how Evolve helps LGBTQI Teens, please read these three articles:
Now, back to the topic: Pride Month.
This year, Pride Month is special: it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a watershed moment in LGBTQI history that led to what we now know as Pride Month.
Gay Pride Month: A Brief History
To most people in the U.S., Gay Pride month means colorful parades, concerts, and events filled with joyful celebration. Nationwide, the LGBTQI community shows up in their millions in big cities, small towns, and everywhere in between. Participants fly the Rainbow Flag high and take to the streets in to commemorate their freedom and remind the nation – and the world – of their presence and importance to our culture.
However, what many people don’t know is that the festivities of Gay Pride Month are the direct result of a series of events that began on June 28th, 1969 in an around The Stonewall Inn – a bar frequented by members of the LGBTQ community – in Greenwich Village, New York City. In the early hours of that Saturday morning – for reasons related to corruption and reported mafia ties, completely unrelated to sexual or gender orientation – the police raided The Stonewall and arrested 13 patrons and employees. Eyewitness and victim accounts report police were unnecessarily rough and violent during the course of the raid.
As the police brought the Stonewall patrons outside to load them into paddy wagons and cart them off to jail, a crowd made up of neighborhood residents, other patrons, and passers-by stopped to watch the commotion. They disliked the way Stonewall patrons were being treated. The police hit, pushed, shoved, and showed a level of aggression and hostility that, in the minds of the onlookers, was completely unwarranted.
The Stonewall Riot
Soon, the witnesses intervened on behalf of the Stonewall patrons. In minutes, a full-scale riot involving hundreds of people broke out. Clashes between citizens and police continued for five days. Though the disturbances were not pre-planned, observers at the time noted that what the police called riots were more akin a public uprising against police harassment and discrimination against sexual minorities. To put that in context, it’s important to remember that in 1969, soliciting homosexual relations was illegal in New York City. This means the protesters weren’t simply reacting to unwritten practices of the NYPD. Rather, they were reacting to and protesting legal, institutional discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
The Movement Gains Strength
The Stonewall Riot soon became known as the Stonewall Uprising. And while the events surrounding it were not the true beginning of the Gay Pride/LGBTQI movement in the U.S., they were a pivotal moment in its history. The Stonewall Uprising brought attention to LGBTQI issues – although at the time we did not use the acronym LGBTQI – and resulted in the organization of many gay and sexual minority rights and advocacy groups, some of which are still active today, including:
- The Gay Liberation Front
- The Gay Activist Alliance
- The Human Rights Campaign
- GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)
- PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
These groups led the way in advocating for LGBTQI rights and raising awareness throughout the 70s and 80s. And their efforts were successful: in 1998, President Bill Clinton issued an executive order promoting equal employment opportunity in the Federal government by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Then, in June 1999, President Clinton issued the following executive proclamation officially commemorating June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month:
“Thirty years ago this month, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a courageous group of citizens resisted harassment and mistreatment, setting in motion a chain of events that would become known as the Stonewall Uprising and the birth of the modern gay and lesbian civil rights movement. Gays and lesbians, their families and friends, celebrate the anniversary of Stonewall every June in America as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.”
The rest is history.
Gay Pride Month 2019: Major Events
Almost every major city in the U.S. hosts special events for Pride Month. From parades to concerts to roundtable policy discussions, Pride Month is a time for the entire nation to come together in recognition of LGBTQI rights, raise awareness about issues that still need to be addressed, and acknowledge the inequities that persist.
Here’s a list of some of the largest events for Gay Pride 2019, by city:
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- New York City
- June 24th-25th: NYC Pride Human Rights Conference
- June 28th: Stonewall 50th Commemoration
- June 29th-30th: Pride Island Concerts
- June 29th: Youth Pride
- June 30th: NYC Pride March: The Biggest Pride Celebration in the World
LGBTQI Equality: A Work in Progress
We’ve come a long way in recognizing the rights of our LGBTQI sisters and brothers. Most of us now understand LGBTQI individuals have the right to live and love in the way they choose. In 2015, the United States Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states – a major event that was decades in the making. However, there is more work to be done: though President Clinton outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual or gender orientation for employment by the Federal government, there is still no federal law banning hiring discrimination nationwide. In fact, 28 states have laws on the books that allow employers to fire employees for being lesbian, bisexual, or gay. And in 30 states, employers can fire employees for being transgender.
Recent efforts to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military are currently working their way through the courts. LGBTQI activists are confident current military policy, which does not bar transgender individuals from serving, will prevail.
Yes, we’ve made progress, but no, we are not finished. And why do we need to finish? Because LGBTQI individuals are, and always have been, part of our human family – and in our opinion, we feel that we should treat all of our family members – regardless of gender or sexual identity – with love, dignity, and respect.
We’ll end with a quote by writer Michael Bronksi from his book A Queer History of the United States:
“There is no such thing a gay or lesbian history: it is all American history and we just need to uncover this lost history—much of which has been suppressed either consciously or accidentally—and see where it fits in the larger picture. This history is like a giant puzzle and we need to find the missing pieces and where—and how—they fit.”
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.