A Brief History of The Pride Parade

The month of June is coming to a close, the heat is rising, and the NYC Pride Parade is here! We need to bring a little pride month history to our HOWL readers. For those of you who didn't know, or have been living under a rock this last month and missed all the rainbows everywhere, June is Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community!

The date was July 4th, 1965 when the LGBTQ+ community organized the first of many Annual Reminders; a modest group of about 40 people met to peacefully protest and picket in the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, led by the Daughters of Bilitis (the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the USA) and the Mattachine Society (one of the earliest homophile organizations in the United States).

The oppressive 50's and 60's were taking a toll and anyone who wasn't male, white, cisgender and/or straight, so homophile movements started sparking up all over the country.

Above: Protest on July 4th 1965, Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Source: LGBTQ Nation

Fun Fact:

Homosexuality used to be called homophilia, a now outdated term. Homophilia comes from the words homo+phile, the latter is Greek for love. To this day, some people still prefer homophilia as it emphasizes the word love over sex.

As the 60's came to an end, LGBTQ community was becoming more vocal and adamant about the lack of civil rights protections they received. On June 28th, 1969 the Stonewall Riot broke out, creating a snowball effect of riots to follow all over New York and subsequently, the entire United States.

The Stonewall Riot took place at the Stonewall Inn, an allegedly Mafia-owned gay bar, the first of its kind in NYC. Known mostly for the booze, the drugs, and the dancing, Stonewall was constantly raided for its lack of a liquor license and for being a homophile establishment.

Back to the early morning of June 28th, 1969, it was around 2 a.m. that four undercover police officers, two male, and two female, infiltrated the Stonewall Inn, only to end up being caught inside the bar as the raid went wrong. The reinforcements didn't show up in time, and it was the four of them against a swelling crowd of angry patrons. When the reinforcements finally did show up and started arresting people, bystanders recall that the crowd began to fight the police as soon as one woman screamed: "Why don't you guys do something?" [1] as she was dragged to the back of a police car, quickly escalating the situation to the point where the Tactical Police Force of the New York City Police Department arrived to free the trapped police officers inside the Stonewall and to break off the riot.

As an aftermath of Stonewall, a series of riots and movements were ignited; first in the Greenwich Village of NYC for the days to come, eventually spreading across the nation to the West Coast.

Sources: Above, CBS. Below, CNN.

There were many groups of resistance against the oppressive 60's, but Stonewall was a historical point in time for the LGBTQ+ community. Within two years of the Stonewall riots, gay rights groups formed in every major city in the United States, as well as Western Europe, Canada, and Australia.

It was exactly one year after Stonewall, on June 28th, 1970, that the first march was held from Greenwich Village to Central Park– with major marches also happening in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago– and thus the Pride Parade was born. [2] Today, it is one of the world's best known LGBT events, with more than 2 million spectators in 2016.

The now famous Rainbow Flag flew for the first time in the march in San Francisco on June 25, 1978, and was designed by the LGBT activist Gilbert Baker. Baker decided not to trademark the flag, stating he saw it as a symbol that belonged to the LGBTQ community, and was said to have been inspired largely by pioneering gay activist (and writer of Howl) Allan Ginsberg. After the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, on November 27 1978, the demand for the Rainbow Flag grew exponentially.

As the march became an annual event and we progressed into the 80's and 90's, June became known as a month of celebration of Gay Liberation, before it was known as Gay Pride. June was officially declared LGBT Pride Month for the first time by Bill Clinton in 2000.

The word Pride better describes the LGBTQ movement's intention: self-affirmation, dignity, equality rights, increased visibility as a social group, community, and the celebration of sexual and gender diversity.

Fun Fact:

In the seventies, the LGBTQ+ marches and movements were mostly called "Gay Freedom" and "Gay Liberation", but towards the 80's and 90's the focus shifted from Freedom to Pride, the efforts of Brenda Howard [3] and Stephen Donaldson.

In addition to the marches, there are a ton of activities all across the U.S and even on a global scale to celebrate pride; workshops, classes, talks, screenings, parties, and more.

Last year, nationwide Marriage Equality was announced the day before the Pride Parade in NYC and you could feel the energy everywhere. People were ecstatic– dancing, kissing, celebrating, waving flags and hugging friends. It was all love.

This June definitely feels different as most of us know that, as a country, we've taken steps back with Trump's administration. The march in New York and other cities are spotlighting resistance over celebration this year, to what participants see as new pressure on gay rights. But as the government become more oppressive and seeks to undo the progress that's been made for minorities, the resistance rises. There will never be a Trump without a resistance, and as Stonewall stands witness, the world does move forward, even when sometimes steps are taken back. As far away as the fifties seem, we are somehow still facing tragedies as ignorance spreads like wildfire all over the world.

But, as sure as the sun rises, we will stand, and fight, and protest, and picket, and sing, and dance and be gay, and be strong, and just like that, inch by inch, progress is made and walls start coming down. If you can, visit the Pride Parade in your city to stand for the LGBTQ as part of our community or as an ally. It will surely be one of the happiest, craziest, more freeing events you have ever been to, and will leave with nothing but love for this world. •

Photo Sources: CNN, CBS, REUTERS, PrideNYC


[1] David Carter, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution https://books.google.com/books/about/Stonewall.html?id=o0hO1fWw-SkC

[2] Not to be called "Pride" until the 80's and 90's

[3] Know as the "Mother Pride" for her activism and help coordinating the march.

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