Pride Month – History and Promise
by SUSAN GAMACHE
The word ‘pride’ conjures up the sense of strength, positivity, and accomplishment.
“Gay Pride Day” initially began as a day of commemoration, but soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events, and to be celebrated as LGBTQ Pride Month. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, and the greater issue of human rights.
The history of Pride Month is long, and hard won. The 1960’s and preceding decades were not kind to LGBTQ Americans. At that time, members of the same sex holding hands, demonstrating other displays of affection, and relationship solicitation were illegal. The Stonewall Inn provided a place of refuge and a level of security and safety as patrons gathered to dance, drink, and commune.
What followed at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn, in Manhattan, served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world. A police raid in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, took place at Stonewall. The New York State Liquor Authority frequently penalized this and other establishments, citing that serving alcohol and gathering of gays constituted disorderly conduct. This raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents that led to 6 days of protests and incited serious clashes with law enforcement.
Primary sources at the Library of Congress provide information on how this raid inspired the subsequent first Pride marches the following year, in 1970. The marches were planned, and research of the Lili Vincenz and Frank Kameny papers in the manuscript division of the library reveal documents, flyers, and correspondence. This first parade was meant to give the LGBTQ community a chance to “…commemorate the Christopher Street Uprisings of last summer in which homosexuals went to the streets to demonstrate against centuries of abuse from government hostility to employment and housing discrimination, Mafia control of Gay bars, and anti-Homosexual laws (Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee Fliers, Franklin Kameny Papers.)
Today, Pride Month is celebrated from June 1 through June 30 to honor the Stonewall Uprising. Celebrations include parades, picnics, workshops, and concerts that attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are also held to commemorate members of the community lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals have had on history locally, nationally and internationally.
In 2016, President Obama designated the area of the riots a national monument in recognition of the area’s contribution to gay rights. On June 24 of that year, Obama designated Stonewall National Monument to honor the larger LGBTQ equality movement.