The term Gay Pride has a few meanings, but it is rooted in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) activism and the fight for equal rights.
Gay Pride is an event, a feeling, and even an entire month celebrated by people all around the world. It has become an integral part of society and pop culture, coming a long way from its beginning over 50 years ago.
The beginnings of Gay Pride lay in the Stonewall riots that took place in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Inn bar was raided on June 18th, 1969. At the time, homosexuality was widely discouraged and even prosecuted legally.
During the 1950s and 60s, the gay community was often not welcome to congregate socially at public places due to fear of harassment and abuse. However, some businesses (often bars) did allow gay people to gather openly, creating safe spaces for their community to bond openly.
Police raids on gay bars (as they began to be known) were becoming more and more common as tensions rose between the counterculture and the main stream culture.
Open displays of homosexuality were still punishable by law. In the early hours of June 18th, 1969, a police raid began on the Stonewall Inn. The raid took a turn, resulting in days of protests from the gay community the following night and nights thereafter.
This was a major turning point in American history and in the blossoming history of Gay Pride. Following the Stonewall Riots, LGBT activists began unifying and rallying under new organizations.
Newspapers dedicated to the promotion of gay rights quickly followed, spreading across the United States, and ultimately the world. One year later on the anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid and riots, national Gay Pride parades were held in New York, L.A., and San Francisco. A movement was born.
In the years to follow, more and more cities and countries would join, hosting their own Gay Pride parades. The number of Gay Pride organizations had exponentially grown, too.
Before the Stonewall Riots, there were approximately 50-60 organizations dedicated to Gay Pride in the United States. A year after the riots, it was estimated that there were 1500 Gay Pride organizations nationwide. The Stonewall Riots and the following Gay Pride celebrations brought awareness and a voice to the gay communities across the world.
Gay Pride Month in the United States is in June, coinciding with the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The month was first designated as Gay & Lesbian Pride Month in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. President Barack Obama later followed suit by declaring June to be LGBT Pride Month. No matter the name,
Gay Pride Month has become an opportunity for LGBT leaders and their straight allies to bring awareness to the history and progress of the gay rights movement in the 50+ years following the raid on the Stonewall Inn.
Gay Pride today is celebrated with annual parades and events across the country, in small town and large cities alike. These events are often marked by large gatherings, colorful costumes, and the meeting of the LGBTQ community and its straight allies.
Floats, rainbow flags, joyful music, and dancing are just some of the things you can expect to see at the larger Gay Pride parades, no matter what location you’re viewing it at. However, not all celebrations are loud and raucous. Depending on the community and its beliefs, celebrations may look more subdued or simple. No matter how it looks, the sentiment in the same.
Gay Pride parades have been held on every continent. Antarctica has even hosted a celebration. In 2018 a group of researchers hosted their own Gay Pride parade on the frozen continent. These celebrations honor the history of the gay pride movement and continue to push the world forward in terms of acceptance and safety measures for its LGBTQ citizens.
The largest Gay Pride parade is held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. They have broken the Guinness World Record for largest Pride parade twice, hosting millions of spectators and participants alike. The largest Gay Pride parade in the United States (and in North America) is in New York City. The parade route in NYC passes gay landmarks in the city, most notably the Stonewall Inn. The route travels 51 blocks through the heart of the city, traveling down part of the famous Fifth Avenue.
At the heart of every parade is a political and social movement. While laws that openly discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and families have drastically diminished, there still remains a need for active political participation on behalf of the gay community.
It is not uncommon to see signs or floats dedicated to fighting anti-LGBTQ laws or in honor of those lost during the fight against AIDS (which hit the gay community harder than most). Rallies, speakers, festivals and parties spread the celebration out over the course of days, sometimes beginning or ending with a parade. Each celebration is distinct and unique, matching the flavor of its community.
A staple at every Gay Pride event is the pride flag. First displayed at a parade in San Francisco, this flag features the main colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
These colors represent the spectrum of those on the LGBTQ spectrum and the diversity within the community itself. Prior to the rainbow flag being flown, members of the LGBTQ community was identified by an inverted pink or black triangle. This symbol was originally sewn on homosexuals’ clothing during the Nazi regime, similar to the Star of David being used to identify Jews.
The gay community tried to take the symbol back as one of pride not shame, and it is still used as pride symbol in some circles today, although it is not as widely used. However, as the years went on, gay activists no longer wanted to be associated with this symbol. The rainbow flag was born.
These brightly colored flags have become the main symbol of gay rights and pride throughout the world. However, pride flags do not only live at pride events.
They are often flown outside of LGBTQ homes and the homes of their straight allies as a continuation of pride throughout the year. Rainbow flags are also found on items of clothing and accessories, just as you would find the American flag emblazoned on a hat or t-shirt on the 4th of July. Gay Pride attire is not just for pride month in June, but is worn year round.
The yearly parades and events embody the spirit of Gay Pride, which occurs every single day in communities across the globe. Pride is not limited to a month or a celebration, but is also an active verb. Demonstrations of pride have become increasingly common in society. So much so that television, commercials, and movies have begun to feature LGBTQ stories, characters, and people.
Gay Pride groups and organizations continue to be active in their communities by supporting their members in their every day lives. An increasingly common group at middle and high schools is the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
These student-run clubs seek to unite LGBTQ students and their straight allies in their school. These clubs sprang up out of a need to support vulnerable pre-teens and teens who were struggling with their sexual identity and/or harassment due to their orientation.
LGBTQ and straight youth join together to create a more positive, inclusive environment in their school and community. This can be through creating social gatherings to help create a local community, support groups for students who need safe spaces, or through activism within their school and public.
Pride groups across the world continue to advocate for equitable treatment for LGBTQ people. They are active in their local political arenas, and even more so at the national level. There are also groups that encourage the normalization of adoption for LGBTQ couples. They are also very vocal about the need for LGBTQ couples to be allowed to provide foster care, too.
Gay Pride is even more than political or societal activism. It is, at its heart, a movement for LGBTQ individuals to accept who they are and be proud of the way they were born.
It is changing the way society views relationships that aren’t straight. Pride seeks to end the stigma that individuals face when coming out to their families, friends, and workplaces.
It asks for equal visibility of its straight counterparts in digital and print media, to help make gay couples and individuals a part of the normal fabric of society.
Gay Pride has become a phrase synonymous with history, protest, activism, and progressive ideals. It is embodied by the individuals who live each day proud of who they are. It is the little moments of pride, such as flying a rainbow flag or wearing a pro-LGBTQ shirt, that keep the fires burning year round. It is the large celebrations the span the globe. Gay Pride is more than a movement; it is a way of life.