The History of Pride Month is the History of Activism

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Across the world, June is acknowledged and recognised as Pride Month. In this blog, I’m going to give you an overview of the history of Pride Month.

What is Pride Month?

Pride Month is a full month dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a time for elevating the voices of the community, celebrating their culture, and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. In different cities across the world, people come together for marches, parades, protests, drag shows, and tributes. These tributes pay respect to those who have lost their lives due to hate crimes, but also to HIV and AIDs related illnesses.

Pride demonstration in London

Companies and corporations often get involved in Pride Month. Many show their allies by changing their company logos to something closer to a rainbow theme. Several, including Adidas, Apple, and Levi’s have even created Pride Month products and collections and donated money to LGBTQ+ charities and organisations.

However, it’s worth remembering that Pride Month is more than just parades. At the heart of it, it’s activism and a fight for those still silenced.

A Key Moment: The Stonewall Riots

One of the key moments in LGBTQ+ history was the 1969 Stonewall Riots. In the early hours of 28 June, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City was raided by police. Whilst these kinds of raids were routine on gay bars and clubs throughout the 1960s, the police quickly lost control of this situation, becoming violent.

Sign commemorating 50 years since Stonewall Rising

Employees of the Stonewall Inn were arrested for selling alcohol without a license and for not wearing at least three articles of ‘gender-appropriate clothing’. At the time in New York City, the solicitation of homosexual relations was illegal. Whilst these raids were commonplace, the LGBTQ+ community had had enough of constant police harassment and social discrimination. Customers and neighbourhood residents became increasingly agitated by the events that unfolded.

The riot involved hundreds of people, including the entire neighbourhood. The aftermath of the riots sparked future LGBTQ+ rights struggles, ushering in a new era of resistance. Though the Stonewall Riots didn’t start the gay rights movement, it was a monumental moment for LGBTQ+ activism. Following this event, the first pride march was held a year later in New York on the one-year anniversary of the riots.

Stonewall statue in Greenwich, New York City

The Stonewall Inn became a New York City landmark in 2015. The adjacent St Christopher’s Park in Greenwich Village also features the Stonewall National Monument, which was the first US National Monument to be dedicated to LGBTQ+ rights and history.

Where does the term Pride come from?

The term ‘Gay Pride’ was thought up by gay rights activist, Thom Higgins. Bisexual activist, Brenda Howard also had a part to play in the origins of the term ‘Pride’. Howard was known as the ‘Mother of Pride’ for her work organising the first Pride march in New York City. She also came up with the idea for a week-long series of events surrounding Pride Day. This became the starting point for the annual LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations that are now held throughout June. Brenda Howard and other LGBTQ+ activists including Robert Martin (Donny the Punk) and Craig Schoonmaker are credited with using the term Pride to describe their celebrations.

It’s thought that one reason for adopting the term pride, is that people from the LGBTQ+ community should be and are encouraged to be proud of who they are, their identities, and their sexualities. It helps people be authentic and true to themselves without shame or guilt.

Pride is something that needs to be cherished and celebrated. But, Pride doesn’t always hold the same meaning for everyone in the community. The range of experiences and identities is far too broad to be encompassed in one single definition. It’s a spectrum.

For some, Pride is a celebration of the diversity and inclusivity that they find within the LGBTQ+ community. For others, it’s a fight and struggle to be accepted. It could also acknowledge the fact that someone is able to live freely and give others the same space and opportunities.

The work doesn’t end here

Whilst we’ve made a lot of progress as a society in terms of LGBTQ+ rights over the years, the work doesn’t stop here. LGBTQ+ individuals continue to battle for equal rights in adoption, housing, work, medical treatment and beyond. All of this, serves as a reminder as to why Pride Month is still necessary, and why LGBTQ+ visibility is so important.

Surabhi Sanghi is a SOAS Digital Ambassador, pursuing a master’s degree in South Asian Studies and Intensive Language (which also means she gets to be in London for one whole extra year). She has a background in history and is interested in the religions of South Asia. She is a dog person and her only wish is to be able to pet all the dogs in London.

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