You're likely very busy planning out your poster and/or outfit for your local Pride parade this year. In between hot-gluing sequins and doodling rainbows, you may be wondering why Pride Month is in June. Here's a hint: It's not because the weather is finally warm enough to wear nothing but a LGBTQ+ rainbow flag. So before you march, dance, and celebrate your way through Pride Month, you should probably know the answer to this question. It actually has to do with the historic Stonewall Riots in 1969, although there is much more to modern LGBTQ+ history than that. The reasons why the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month during June are honestly so inspiring, so get ready.
Marc Stein, professor of history at San Francisco State University and author of Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement, spoke to Elite Daily about the history of the Stonewall Riots, the origin of Pride Month, and the general emphasis on community solidarity and unity during the early Pride marches. Here's what he had to say on the subject, plus some additional, fascinating Pride facts you should know in preparation for the month of June — as well as to show your pride all year long.
"Pride is generally celebrated in June to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place over the course of a week in late June and early July in 1969," says Stein. At this time, it was illegal for LGBTQ+ people to get together and have a drink or dance with partners of the same sex. Because of this, most bars didn't allow LGBTQ+ individuals into their establishments. They were afraid of police raids and hefty fines. The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, became a safe space for drag queens, queer and trans people, and others in the LGBTQ+ community.
The police knew about Stonewall, and would often raid the bar, arrest patrons, and fine the owners. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, NYC police raided the Stonewall Inn. Bar patrons and passersby had seemingly had enough of the police brutality and discrimination against gays. They resisted and fought back, and thousands rioted in the streets near the Stonewall Inn over the next week. This standoff would become known as the event that launched the modern-day LGBTQ+ rights movement.
"In November 1969, several months after the riots, a regional conference of LGBT activists in Philadelphia (the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations) voted in favor of replacing the Annual Reminder demonstrations, which had taken place at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4 from 1965 through 1969, with an annual event to mark the anniversary of the riots," explains Stein. They called this Christopher Street Liberation Day (named for the street that the Stonewall Inn is on), which would be celebrated in New York. The regional conference also expressed the hope that other cities would join in and organize events to commemorate the anniversary of the riots.
Stonewall has become iconic, but most people don't know that Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, actually organized the first Liberation Day March.
According to The Advocate, Howard was friends with many people who had been inside the bar the night the Stonewall Riots began, and she was already a feminist and anti-war activist. For more than 30 years, Howard advocated for the LGBTQ+ community. She co-founded the New York Area Bisexual Network in 1988 and successfully lobbied for the inclusion of bisexuality in the 1993 March on Washington. A the time, the movement was focused mainly on gays and lesbians. Howard passed away in 2005 during New York City’s Pride Week.
When you march in your local Pride parade this June, remember the history surrounding Pride month — consider the Stonewall rioters, Brenda Howard, and all who fought then so that you can celebrate now.