While Pride should be celebrated year-round, Pride Month officially takes place during June. It’s a time for LGBTQIA+ people and allies alike to celebrate queer identities together through marches, bar crawls, parades, fun events, and more. However, Pride didn’t start that way:
Who started Pride Month, and how long has it existed?
Pride Month was created to remember the events of the Stonewall Riots. On June 28th, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, one single, life-changing moment would go on to define the rest of history.
Here’s what happened: Because homosexuality was criminalized and overpoliced in the United States at that time, gay bars like Stonewall were covert operations typically owned by straight people – or in this case, The New York Mafia.
Situated in a low-income area known for its underground art scene, Stonewall was a hot spot for butch lesbians, gay men, transgender people, and drag queens – especially those of color – so tensions increased once police found out and took action. What began as an ordinary arrest at Stonewall quickly spiraled out of control and developed into a movement started by Marsha P. Johnnson and Sylvia Riviera, two transgender women of color.
Some people thought one of those women threw a brick to start the riot; however, Johnson said she didn’t get there until later, and Riviera more likely threw a cocktail, if anything. There’s actually been some speculation over if a brick was thrown at all, and if there was, who threw it. Regardless, a riot ensued.
In terms of historical significance and progress in equality, the Stonewall Riots became a symbol of resistance against social and political discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and it brought national public attention to the unjust criminalization of queer people in the United States.
Without the events the Stonewall Riots, the legalization of same-sex marriage and constitutionally protected rights of LGBTQIA+ people would not be possible today.
Why is Pride Month so important?
Key findings from The Trevor Project’s latest survey about mental health in the LGBTQ+ community revealed that 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth considered suicide in the past year, and 18 percent of kids ages 13-17 had attempted to end their lives due to the stigma and discrimination they faced.
When LGBTQIA+ youth have poor parental support, a lack of community, and/or mental health challenges with no access to therapy, those odds for suicide increase.
Additionally, as anti-LGBTQIA+ legislature, such as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” continue to gain traction, and LGBTQIA+ books are banned in school libraries and curriculums, a month to celebrate queerness and advocate for social justice is necessary – especially if we want to see a future where children can live long enough to be themselves and validate adults who survived the trauma of being in the closet.
We need to help LGBTQIA+ individuals feel proud of who they are and supported in living their lives as queer.
Who gets to celebrate Pride Month?
There’s a common misconception that you have to be queer to celebrate Pride Month – this isn’t true! Queer people and allies alike are welcome to join the tradition. Plus, now more than ever, we need allies to contribute to the fight for true liberation by using their voice and their vote.
That doesn’t mean you have to stand in front of the protestors at parades or offer free hugs (though we love and appreciate everyone who does!). It can mean that you tip someone wearing a rainbow pin a little extra and say, “Happy Pride Month,” read books by queer authors, or support local queer-owned businesses instead of corporations who profit off of our identities with rainbow-washing. (Rainbow-washing is the act of selling rainbow merchandise or adding rainbows to advertising to indicate support for the
LGBTQIA+ community – or at least get their money – while not actively making changes to support those folks.)
Show up in small ways for the queer people in your life. Remind them that you love them for who they are. Validate their identities. Listen when they need to be heard. Speak up for us, but don’t speak over us. Celebrate the joy of being LGBTQIA+ and remember the activists whose work allowed us to have the freedoms we have today.
Where can you celebrate Pride?
In North Carolina, there are plenty of events and gatherings this month, which Women AdvaNCe compiled into a document for you.
At the same time, remember that you don’t have to go anywhere to celebrate Pride. If you’re in the closet, or you’d just prefer to stay home, take a moment to be proud of how far you’ve come on your journey to finding yourself and try not to feel bad. Celebrate the milestones that have led you here, big and small. Practice self-love. Find joy in your identity by doing whatever you choose. We’re all here to support you.
Women AdvaNCe compiled a list of Pride Month events happening this June! You can check it out here.
Lara Boyle is a writer who enjoys coffee shops, reading and used bookstores. She studies Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte. She is a staff writer for The Farside Review. You can find her on social media @laraboylewrites. Her work has been published in HuffPost Personal, Zenith Literary Magazine, Herstry blog, and more.