American history, as it pertains to members of the LGBTQ community, is marked by discriminatory obstacles and numerous inequities. But, the milestones and courageous victories of today are even more paramount.
They have advanced the lives of so many members of this community (myself included).
To commemorate and honor the progress that’s happened over the last several decades, June is nationally recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month.
But, many of the historic and groundbreaking events of the past are either widely unknown or overshadowed by the festivities celebrated throughout the month.
So, before you attend your local pride parade or rewatch your favorite episodes of "Drag Race," be sure to enlighten yourself on the major events, people and pieces of pop culture that have positively impacted the Gay Rights Movement and brought LGBTQ visibility to the American public.
Highlighted here are a few June “must-dos” that’ll bring new meaning to LGBTQ Pride Month and heighten your appreciation for the human rights journey that’s still unfolding around us:
Watch "Paris Is Burning. "
"Paris Is Burning" is a legendary documentary from 1991. It's an insider look at the counterculture of drag balls in New York City, when they were still very much underground during the 1980s.
From throwing shade to vogueing down a runway, it's the essential crash-course on all things fierce. But, on a deeper level, the film reveals the brutally honest, heartfelt stories of many LGBTQ youth struggling to find acceptance, happiness and a place to fit in.
Learn about the Stonewall Riots.
In short, the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn signify a pivotal starting point for the Gay Rights Movement.
At the Greenwich Village bar, LGBTQ customers had a place of refuge. But, considering the social climate of the time and laws about such establishments, the Stonewall Inn was frequently raided by police.
However, on June 28, 1969, the Stonewall customers stood up to the brutality of the police, defended their freedom and exhibited a force for change.
In the week following, several demonstrations took place throughout Manhattan, giving the LGBTQ community an entry point into the nation's civil rights fight.
Educate yourself about Harvey Milk.
Aside from being the first openly gay man to enter the San Francisco City-County Board in 1977, Milk was an advocate for many marginalized groups of people on the fringes of society, gay people and senior citizens alike.
Though he was assassinated in 1978, he was a symbol of heroism for many people living in California.
Take a peek at Allen Ginsberg's classic poem, "Howl."
As an English major in college, this was a fundamental literary work. If you're not familiar with "Howl", don't read it to children or your grandmother.
In the 1957 poem, Ginsberg's boldness, explicit language and erotic imagery illustrate the free and open-thinking of the Beat poets.
He brings to the reader's attention the fluidity of sexuality and the generation of young artists brave enough to swim against the current of the mainstream. Works like this are timeless, and they remind you it's okay to live outside of society's limitations.
Join the movement.
If you're within the LGBTQ community or simply an ally, demonstrating pride, love and acceptance is the best way to continue the fight for equality.
What better way to honor the efforts of those activists before us than to bring awareness to your family, friends and perhaps your larger community?
The journey for complete equality is still underway, and each person can celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month by maintaining an open heart and mind.