June marks Pride Month, a time where LGBTQ+ folks around the world celebrate the beauty of their sexuality, gender and total identity. But why is June when we celebrate? And why do we celebrate Pride at all?
Let’s get into a (very) short history of Pride in the U.S. and Canada – consider this your starting point for a more in-depth Pride education!
Modern Pride was inspired by the Stonewall Riots in June 1969. A gay bar and refuge for LGBTQ+ folks, especially those living on the street, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich village, NYC was a popular place to gather. Throughout the 60s, police raids on gay bars were common – leading to arrests and removal of liquor licenses for owners. Despite having reached a tentative understanding with some members of the police, the Stonewall Inn was raided on June 28. As police hauled out patrons and employees alike into the street, demonstrations broke out and became violent – the LGBTQ+ community was tired of being discriminated against.
The uprising continued for six days, and became a catalyst for change. Leading to the creation of groups like GLAAD, PFLAG and the Human Rights Campaign. One year later, the first Pride parade was held along the streets outside the former Stonewall Inn. Attendees chanted “say it loud, gay is proud” as they marched down the streets.
In Canada, the LGBTQ+ revolution was beginning as well – May 1969 marked the decriminalization of homosexuality, a great moment in Canada’s political history. However, despite being legal, those who identified as LGBTQ+ were not guaranteed equal rights and protections under the law. The first gay rights protest took place in 1971 on Parliament Hill.
It wasn’t until 1973 that Canada’s first Pride Week took place – programs including art, dances, documentaries and rallies were celebrated in major cities across the country. Of course, the discrimination did not stop there – raids in bathhouses and bars were still common, as well as bookstores geared towards LGBTQ+ clientele. This continued until the 90s, when laws and general attitudes began to shift. In January of 1991, the City of Toronto officially endorsed the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in Toronto.
While both Canada and the U.S. have come a long way since 1969, we have yet to see true equality across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Transgender and non-binary people, in particular, risk higher murder rates than their lesbian and gay siblings, and job discrimination is still rife – not to mention societal discrimination. We celebrate Pride to move forward, to secure protections for everyone and to celebrate unabashedly who we are.
Pride may look a little different in 2020 – no parades, no parties – but it may be a blessing in disguise. This is a great time to learn more about where Pride came from and begin celebrating the people who fought for our freedoms. From documentaries to books, Instagram accounts to YouTube, there are many ways to find out more about Pride in your country or city. It’s critical that we all understand where pride started to honour its roots.