It actually started 52 years ago, back in June 1969 in New York City. Pride month commemorates the Stonewall Riots that started here on June 28th when the LGBTQ+ customers of the Stonewall Inn resisted police raids on their bar when officers wanted to ‘check the sex’ of the bar’s customers. Now to you, that sounds completely outrageous right? But this is genuinely just one example of the cruelty and persecution that the LGBTQ+ community faced in these times. Reports of what actually took place on that particular day vary, but what is clear is that the LGBTQ+ community in NYC had endured decades of raids and brutality and whilst this riot may have seemed spontaneous, it was actually born from a long history of mistreatment not only in NYC, but around the world.
Although not the start of the gay rights movement, the Stonewall Riots was a galvanising force for LGBTQ+ activism and gave new life to the Gay Liberation movement around the world. An important part of the movement was to encourage conversations about the lives and perceptions of the LGBTQ+ people and to fight for the radical change in the way they were treated by society.
Brenda Howard (a bisexual activist) organised the first Pride event the following year in 1970 which was notably different to many of the Pride celebrations you and I know today. Named the Christopher Street Liberation Day March after the road that the Stonewall Inn is on, there was a clear and very much needed element of protest alongside the celebrations. From then, Howard continued to organise an event each year and soon, Pride events were established all over the world in solidarity.
Stonewall’s legacy spread far and wide and maybe most notably for most of you reading this blog, gave birth to London Pride which is held on the nearest Saturday to 28th June every year in commemoration of the anniversary. The designated site of the initial riots is now a national monument in recognition of the area’s contribution to gay rights.
You might be thinking, but what does this mean for me? What can I learn from this? What can I take away? I hope this shows you that the fight for equality is not just a thing of the distant past but still ongoing today. Most importantly, what we may take for granted as fundamental human rights that we just have, like living our lives with someone we love – some people had to, and still have to fight for. We’ve made some great progress and it’s important to remember that the Stonewall riots were the catalyst to this. By no means am I saying we are there yet – we must acknowledge that there is still much work to be done, as we continue the essential journey towards equality.
Stonewall says that Pride is “a reminder of the power of standing together in defiance of those who seek to divide us”. Thank you to everyone who stands together.
Written by Becky Aulton