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Pride Month: A History of Resistance

It’s June again, which means it’s Pride Month. For many, it’s a busy month full of raucous bar parties and parades in the summer heat. It’s easy to think Pride is simply what you see posted on social media. But that is far from the reality. Pride is more than just a party: it’s a political catalyst that’s been building social change for years. It is and should be both, and its continued relevance and importance cannot be underestimated.

History

The beginning of the modern gay rights movement can be traced back to the early 1900s. There were some small events and organizations forming, mostly after WWII, when migration to cities like San Francisco facilitated gay people “finding” each other, but until the Stonewall Riots happened, there was not widespread visibility of our community– in public culture or amongst LGBTQ people themselves.

From 1965 to 1969, on July 4th, Reminder Day gatherings were held by the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (E.R.C.H.O) in Pennsylvania. These protests helped lay the framework for pride, but something else started what we now think of when we think of Pride.

In 1969, homosexuality was a criminal offense, including the state of New York, where the Stonewall Inn was located. The Stonewall Inn operated as a gay bar and, like many of the other gay bars in the city, was subject to frequent police raids. June 28 marked the beginning of a roughly week-long series of violent altercations between police and protesters. When NYPD attempted yet another unjust raid, the bar patrons stood up and fought back. The first Pride parade was held on June 28, 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots. It went from Greenwich Village to Central Park, which is 51 blocks. Between 3 and 5 thousand people turned out. Ever since, Pride Month has been celebrated in June.

The term Pride was coined in 1970 by activist Craig Schoonmaker, who in a 2015 interview said “There’s very little chance for people in the world to have power… But anyone can have pride in themselves, and that would make them happier as people, and produce the movement likely to produce change.” By celebrating Pride as a community, we empower ourselves and our movement. Our movement is stronger when we are prouder.

Why Pride?

With such a rich history and legacy of resistance from generations of queer ancestors, we still get asked: why do we celebrate Pride? Here’s what we have to say about it. We celebrate Pride because we still live in a country where queer people are shamed for being who they are. We

celebrate to push back against hate. We create spaces that tell the world we all deserve to live freely without fear of violence. We come out to remind each other that our identities are more than rainbow flags and bounce music. We are a public example that self-love and community acceptance are powerful bridges toward liberation. We deserve the freedom to express ourselves authentically and paint bold visions for a place where everyone in our community can thrive. Pride Month isn’t our destination: it’s just a step in our journey.

Pride This Year

Pride Month is especially significant this year. With elections coming up, now is a crucial time for our community to mobilize and to use our powerful voices to work towards collective liberation. That is why our wonderful Advocacy and Action Team has expanded the Task Force’s work in key states where we know we can make a difference, including Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

Leading up to Pride Month, in early May, we held a gathering of progressive leaders from major national and regional organizations to strategize how we can work together towards tangible goals for our communities. This in-person C3 Table, in partnership with the Freedom Center for Social Justice, was some of the first steps in to build intentional and consistent relationships with organizers and leaders throughout the country, and to formalize a focused effort in areas where we can combine our cross-movement capacity. The Task Force seeks to continue these crucial conversations and strategic gatherings to set up more dedicated partnerships.

Now, during the busiest month of the year for LGBTQ organizers, our team has ramped up our ground game by connecting directly with activists and encouraging community members to sign up to Queer the Vote. Queer the Vote is an ongoing campaign to build grassroots people power and create the conditions to deliver concrete wins for LGBTQ+ people. At the beginning of Pride Month, for example, we had two teams each attend Kissimmee Pride in Florida and Pittsburgh Pride in Pennsylvania. There, we heard directly from parents and young people about their visions for a better future and their passion for making that future possible. We are looking forward to growing our relationships in many more areas or supporting the work of existing groups who can help educate, train, and activate our LGBTQ community members and allies.

Coming up, find us at:

  • Polk County (FL) Pride – June 15, 2024
  • Wilton Manor Stonewall Pride (FL) – June 15, 2024
  • Out Raleigh (NC) Pride – June 22, 2024
  • Stonewall Inn (NYC) Wall of Honor – June 27, 6 – 8pm
  • Charlotte (NC) Black Pride – July 20

As we get closer to the end of the Pride season, we call on you to join in cultivating local organizing and fighting back against the cheap fearmongering of some political actors. It will take many of us to build lasting change towards liberation. Show the world that our roots in resistance are not left in our past: our Pride today is resistance.