It’s June , which means Pride month has begun. Pride is a time when TBLG people around the world celebrate their queerness, and their ability to be open and honest about it. It is also a time when many in the TBLG community reflect on the struggle for equality waged by activists over the decades and to offer thanks to the people who worked hard in the name of queer equality. Pride month can also be a bitter pill though, as there are people across the globe who continue to have their human rights trampled. People continue to be ostracized, beaten, jailed, and even killed for the non-crime of having a sexuality or gender identity that lies outside the accepted norm. Thus, even as Pride is a time to celebrate what we’ve achieved and to reflect on how we got here, it is also a call to recognize how much more work needs to be done before we all of us can stand in the public and proudly proclaim who we are without social, political, or economic oppression and discrimination.
This post was originally published on 6/23/15. It serves as a Q&A regarding Pride. It was written to serve as a go-to for anyone who had questions about the history of or the need for Pride. I’m reposting it in part because the audience for the Pub has grown since I joined the Orbit, and I think there are readers for whom the information in this post may be of benefit to. Enjoy!
Yep, it’s that time of year again-LGBT Pride Month. What is Pride? Who celebrates it? Who hates it? What groups don’t need to celebrate Pride? When did it begin? Let’s fire up my first ever Shoop FAQ for the answers! To the Shoop-mobile!
What does it mean to have Pride?
In the context of celebrating LGBT pride, the term means different things to different people. Broadly speaking, LGBT Pride refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people feeling self-respect and having a sense of dignity surrounding their sexuality or gender identity. Given the stigmatization and marginalization of LGBT people by their friends and family, as well as the discrimination and oppression foisted upon them by society, being able to express one’s pride in an aspect of one’s identity that is traditionally a source of shame is very important and affirming. Basically, it’s like saying “I’m not a piece of shit. I’m a human being entitled to the same rights as everyone else.”
When did Pride celebrations begin?
The first Pride celebration was held in June of 1970 on New York City’s Christopher Street. Since then, Pride celebrations have occurred every June in cities across the United States, and have extended to other countries as well.
Why is June Pride month?
For much of the history of the United States, homosexuality was criminalized, the social stigma against LGBT people was immense, and nearly all religious organizations condemned homosexuality. New York City had the largest population of gay people in the country and also had an aggressive police force all too happy to arrest and imprison gay people for violating anti-sodomy laws. Which they routinely did (by 1966, police were arresting upwards of 100 people a week). On June 28, 1969, police conducted a raid of the Stonewall Inn-a popular gay dive bar-as they had many times before. This time, however, the bar patrons resisted arrest and the police wound up losing control of the situation. The officers were able to beat back the crowd once police reinforcements arrived, but the crowd returned the following night and numbered over 1,000. The Uprising lasted six days, varying in intensity and location. As a result of the Stonewall Uprising, various gay advocacy groups were formed, and discussions of LGBT rights were held in the community. Within a few short years after the Stonewall Uprising, major cities across the country saw the creation of gay rights organizations.
Did the LGBT Rights movement begin with the Stonewall Uprising?
No. The Stonewall Uprising was indeed a huge moment in the history of the gay and LGBT rights movement (in the United States). It can be argued that the Stonewall Uprising was the beginning of a more cohesive movement seeking to advance equality for gays and lesbians, but that movement wasn’t built from scratch. It was built upon a foundation. A foundation that includes the Society for Human Rights, the Mattachine Society, and the Daughters of Bilitis. In 1924, Henry Gerber-inspired by homophile publications and the relative openness to homosexuality he found in Germany while fighting in WWI-and six friends founded the Society for Human Rights. Sadly, after publishing two issues of a newsletter (paid for out-of-pocket by Gerber), Friendship and Freedom, Gerber’s house was raided by police and he later lost his job, ending the organization. Decades later, Harry Hay and a group of friends formed the Mattachine Society-one of the earliest homophile (the term for gay activist organizations in the 1950s and ’60s) groups. Following its establishment in the winter of 1950, the Los Angeles based Mattachine Society attracted huge numbers of gay men and lesbians, many of whom experienced a form of emotional catharsis as, for the first time, they were able to express their thoughts and emotions in a climate of relative safety and privacy. 5 years later, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon created the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian organization initially comprised of 8 members. Over time, membership grew, and other chapters were established around the United States, though again, membership was typically low. Though founded largely as a social organization, internal dissent led to some members leaving the group and also caused the DoB to shift toward a more political agenda. Under the pen name Ann Ferguson, Phyllis Lyon edited The Ladder, a lesbian serial that began its publishing run in 1956 and is widely considered the first lesbian periodical.
In addition to these organizations, a series of important events occurred prior to the Stonewall Uprising. These events fed into the growing unease and frustration felt by LGBT people and served to fan the flames of their desire for progressive social change. Among these events include:
- the Supreme Court Case One, Inc. v. Olesen, 1958. This case marked the first time SCOTUS ruled in favor of the LGBT community.
- the May 1959 LAPD raid of the 24-hour doughnut shop Cooper Do-Nuts. Located between two popular gay bars, Cooper Do-Nuts often found LGBT people, their johns, hustlers, and friends piling into the establishment after the bars closed. As the police often did in those days, they raided the establishment, asking for identification and checking to see if patrons’ gender presentation matched their ID’s. When they didn’t, several people were arrested. A melee broke out as patrons, upset at the arrests threw doughnuts, coffee cups, and trash at the cops. Sadly, reinforcements arrived and many protesters were arrested.
- the September 19, 1964 gathering of 10 people (8 of whom were heterosexual) outside the induction center of the Army located at 39 Whitehall Street in NYC. The group protested the anti-gay discriminatory policies in the armed forces as well as the military’s complicity in witch hunts.
- the first gay and lesbian protest in front of the White House on April 17, 1965. Among the protesters were Gail Johnson, Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, Gene Kleeberg, Judith Kuch, Paul Kuntzler, Jack Nichols, Perrin Shaffer, Jon Swanson, Otto Ulrich, and Lilli Vincenz.
- the August 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco. Similar in nature to the Cooper Do-Nuts Riot, the uprising began when an employee called the SFFD about unruly guests. When they arrived and tried to arrest a trans woman, she threw a cup of hot coffee in his face. This quickly led to flying dishes, broken windows, thrown furniture, and a nearby newsstand burned down. Where Stonewall was largely disorganized, the uprising at Compton’s was organized, in part due to the presence of queer groups like the Vanguard and the Street Orphans. One of the positive outcomes of the uprising was the establishment of a trans-specific support network by the city of San Francisco as well as the creation of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit in 1968.
- the 1966 ‘Sip-in’ at the NYC bar Julius’. Inspired by the sit-in tactics of African-American civil rights activists, a group of well-dressed gay men (with reporters in tow) visited the bar, declared they were gay and asked to be served. They were denied service, but eventually won a court case ruling that the New York State Liquor Authority could not prevent homosexuals from being served.
If you’re LGBT, do you have to attend a Pride celebration?
No. Attendance is not mandatory, and I believe a fuckton of people would be pissed off if anyone suggested such a thing. Part of the reason Pride celebrations exist is to acknowledge the right of people to self-expression. That includes the right of an individual to decide when, where, or even if they choose to express their personal pride.
Are Pride celebrations open to non-LGBT people?
I suspect the answer to this might vary depending on who is being asked, but there are no guards at these events preventing heterosexual, cisgender people from attending. For my part, I not only have no problem with non-LGBT people attending Pride events, parades, or marches, I welcome it! I know a great many allies attend Pride celebrations to show their support for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender friends and/or family, and I think that’s a wonderful way to show their love and desire for an inclusive society. Others may feel differently. Regardless, if an event takes place in a public location, all members of the public are able to attend (this applies to the United States-I am unsure of other countries).
Wait, if all people are able to show up, does this mean that anti-LGBT activists sometimes show up?
Yeah, they do. Look, I’ve got absolutely no love for these fuckers. They use fear-mongering tactics and threats of divine retribution or punishment to scare LGBT people into living as they [the bigots] want them to. That’s…not cool. To say the least. These people do not get to decide how others live. So long as an individual lives their life in a manner that does not bring harm to others, then these whiny fuckfaces need to shut the fuck up. Their religious rules do not apply to everyone, and even among those that share their religious affiliation, they are not bound by the cherry-picked rules about sexuality or gender identity. Moreover, I’ll continue saying this, well after the point that I’m blue in the face-there is no moral component of sexuality or gender identity. No one is being harmed by an individual being lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual.
Why should LGBT people take pride in their sexual orientation or gender identity?
Because USAmerican society has long cultivated in LGBT people feelings of shame and disgust around their sexual orientation and gender identity. This has caused lesbians, gay people, bisexual people, and trans people to experience feelings of sadness, sorrow, and a sense of worthlessness. It has caused many families to be shattered and lives lost. Growing up in a culture that holds you up as a symbol of revulsion, LGBT people were long considered deviants or mentally ill by society at large (and while this has diminished to some extent, such feelings are remain prevalent). In addition, despite the fact that the United States government is charged with protecting the rights of the citizens of this country, the rights of LGBT people have long been denied (way to go U.S. government-once again only protecting the “right” kind of people). In fact, homosexuality, cross-dressing, genderbending, performing in drag…all of these things were criminalized at various points in U.S. history. The discrimination and oppression LGBT people have historically faced came from all areas of society. From government to private institutions to public or private businesses to the labor and housing markets, LGBT people have long felt the boot of oppression against their necks-simply for being of a different sexuality or gender identity than those in the majority. Hell, until 1973, being lesbian, gay, or bisexual was considered a mental disorder!
That does sound oppressive. But things are different now, right?
Yes, many things have changed-for the better. As mentioned above, homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder and in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to reflect a change from gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria. Marriage equality exists in a majority of states in the U.S. and the Supreme Court will soon (this week, hopefully) deliver a verdict in the case of Obergefell vs Hodges. While there is no assurance, many people feel the court will issue a positive ruling, and thus bring marriage equality to all 50 states. Additional improvements in the rights of LGBT people include (but are not limited to) the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘, the extension of benefits to same-sex partners of military service personnel, an increase in workplace protections for LGBT people working for Fortune 500 companies, an increase in LGBT elected officials, the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to anti-discrimination policies in a number of states, and more still.
That sounds great. This means that discrimination against and oppression of LGBT in the United States is a thing of the past, just like racism, right?
Discrimination and oppression against LGBT people still exists and remains widespread. This can be seen in the rise in the number of so-called “religious liberty laws“, which are nothing more than thinly-veiled right to discriminate against LGBT people laws. Then there’s the perpetuation of the bathroom myth by conservatives which demeans trans women while erasing the existence of trans men. Seriously-when trans people use the restroom, they’re doing it for the same reasons cisgender people do. They are not sexual predators, they’re trying to use the fucking bathroom! While we’re on the subject of trans people, 32 states have no employment non-discrimination laws protecting trans people. For LGB people, there are no employment protections covering sexual orientation in 29 states. LGBT people face significant amounts of violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, with trans women of color facing the greatest risk of violence. 40% of homeless youths in the U.S. are LGBT kids, 64% of trans people have experienced sexual assault in their lives, the rates of suicide attempts among LGBT youth are higher than rates among the general youth population, and LGBT men face high rates of street harassment. Really, I could go on, but the general point is made-LGBT people still face high amounts of discrimination, bigotry, and societal oppression simply for having non-normative sexualities or gender identities.
Oh, and racism is still alive and well. It’s in the air and water at FOX “News” and exists among the staff of Breitbart and the Blaze, as well as the entire GOP and the Libertarian Party. Also, the 784 known hate groups in the United States have are filled to brimming with racism. And sexism. And homophobia. And transphobia. I’ve found that if someone or some group is a bigot in one area, expect them to be bigoted in other areas as well.
I’ve heard of heterosexual people advocating for ‘Straight Pride’, but I’ve seen a lot of pushback from the LGBT community. Why is that?
Think back to the discrimination and oppression experienced by LGBT people. See how people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have long experienced social marginalization and bigotry for no reason other than their sexuality or gender identity? Look that the myriad ways that LGBT people have been discriminated against and then compare it to heterosexual people. Have heterosexuals experienced workplace discrimination because of their sexuality? Have cisgender (the term for individuals whose assigned gender at birth matches their gender identity) people been prevented from using restrooms because of their gender identity? Have heterosexual people been prevented from obtaining a job or working for the government as a result of their sexuality? Are cisgender people at any risk of facing violence or imprisonment because of their gender identity?
The answers to all of those questions? A resounding NO. Not just NO, but FUCK NO! Heterosexual and cisgender people have not been made into social pariahs, they haven’t been kicked out of their homes or churches, they haven’t lost jobs, or face higher risk of suicide because of their sexuality or gender identity. They have not been treated in such a way that their sexuality or gender identity a source of shame. They have not been devalued as members of society because of their sexuality or gender identity. Moreover, we live in a culture that acknowledges, appreciates, and even celebrates the accomplishments and lives of heterosexual and cisgender people. The same cannot be said of LGBT people. There is literally no reason-NONE whatsoever-for any heterosexual or cisgender person to start a “Straight-” or “Cis-” Pride celebration. It’s as ridiculous and insulting as white people whining about there not being a White History Month.
I want to be an ally of the LGBT community. How can I go about that?
There are a host of ways. If you have money to spare, donate to charitable organizations like GLAAD (no longer representing just gay men and lesbians, GLAAD extended their advocacy to bisexual and transgender people in 2013), the HRC (the Human Rights Campaign; the largest LGBT rights and advocacy group in the US), Lambda Legal (a non-profit organization that offers legal representation and advocacy for LGBT people) or PFLAG (formerly Parents and Family of Lesbians and Gays). In addition to money, you can donate your time, or apply for jobs with these organizations. You can also show support for LGBT student groups at local high school and college campuses. You can speak out in favor of LGBT equality. You can combat the insidiousness of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia when you hear friends, family, or co-workers speaking disparagingly of LGBT people. Don’t let casual bigotry go unchallenged. You can write your local and state politicians and urge them to support the LGBT community or criticize them when they sign legislation that would harm LGBT people. In online spaces, speak up in the comments sections of articles and offer your support for LGBT people or criticize comments made by bigots. Also: VOTE. Get out and vote for politicians working for positive social change. Start at the local level and support those politicians that echo your values and those of the LGBT people you care about. All of this is a form of activism. All of these are ways that you can contribute to making the world a better, safer, and more inclusive place for LGBT people to live. Doing so helps build a world where we are all welcome, as opposed to one for just the privileged classes.
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