During the month of June, also known as Pride Month, Pride parades and celebrations are held around the world, events that are filled with fun, music and a general outpouring of support for the LGBTQ community. But getting to this point hasn't been easy, and indeed, the history of Pride is one full of violence, discrimination and shame. In both the United States and around the world, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have fought hard to make the event the cultural phenomenon it is today.
The Stonewall Riots
In the United States, the event that put the Pride movement on its trajectory was the Stonewall Riots, a series of violent confrontations that began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, between police and activists outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City.
The 1950s and 1960s were hostile times for the LGBTQ community, with homophile organizations like the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society starting some of the earliest known demonstrations against discrimination and hate. They faced an uphill battle: At the time, many Americans equated their sexual preferences and gender identities with mental illness.
In 1969, when the Stonewall Riots occurred, the solicitation of homosexual relations was an illegal act in New York City. As such, gay bars, which often served as refuges, were also frequent targets of police harassment.
On June 28, 1969, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York. Nine policemen entered the bar and arrested employees for selling alcohol without a license, abused patrons and took several people into custody, accused of violating a criminal statute authorizing police to arrest anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing. Riots soon commenced against the police, which led to further protests and rioting over the next five days. These riots were the impetus for organizing Pride marches on a larger, public scale—precursors of today's Pride festivals and parades.
On Nov. 2 of the same year, Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy and Linda Rhodes proposed the first Pride march in New York City as a reminder of the riots and a means to commemorate the demonstrations on Christopher Street, dubbing it Christopher Street Liberation Day. They proposed that LGBTQ organizations throughout the nation show their support by holding demonstrations on the same day. June 28, 1970, marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots and included an assembly on Christopher Street and the first Pride march in U.S. history. The following year, Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin and Stockholm, and by 1972 also included Atlanta; Brighton (U.K.); Buffalo, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Washington D.C.; Miami; Philadelphia and San Francisco.
For decades, NYPD officials adamantly denied that officers behaved inappropriately during the Stonewall Riots, and for the better part of half a century, there has been a deep rift between the police and the LGBT community of New York City, but on June 6 of this year, New York Police Department Commissioner James O'Neill formally apologized on behalf of the department.
"The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong—plain and simple," O'Neill said.
"To have the NYPD commissioner make these very explicit remarks apologizing, it's really moving," said Corey Johnson, a New York City Council member who is gay and who had a day earlier called for a police apology.
The Stonewall Riots had international significance, but many countries recognize local events that have been flashpoints in LGBT history. For instance, in Russia, Moscow Pride is held in May for the anniversary of Russia's 1993 decriminalization of homosexuality.
WorldPride is an event promoting LGBTQ issues internationally through parades, festivals and other activities. The inaugural event was held in Rome in 2000, and has since been held in cities like Quebec, Jerusalem, Vancouver, London, Toronto, Madrid and—in honor of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall—the 2019 WorldPride will be held in New York City.
Still a Ways to Go
While strides have been made in the LGBT community worldwide, the fight against discrimination and violations of civil rights continues. In Brazil in August 2011, a Sao Paulo city alderman of the right-wing Democrats Party sponsored a bill for a "Heterosexual Pride Day" to be held in December. Members of Grupo Gay da Bahia and the Workers' Party opposed the bill, but couldn't block its passage.
In a 2008 interview, Queen Sofia of Spain voiced disapproval of Pride. In Turkey in 2015, police used tear gas and rubber bullets on participants of a Pride celebration. In 2016 and 2017, the Istanbul Governor's Office refused to allow a Pride Parade. In 2016 in Uganda, where homosexuality remains against the law, police broke up a Pride event in the capital. Communities the world over have ignored—and often violently suppressed—Pride and the LGBTQ communities it honors, but in the decades since the riots at Stonewall, still more, including Boise, have embraced that movement.