“Why don’t you guys do something?” screamed a handcuffed woman at a gathering crowd outside of a Christopher Street bar in Manhattan’s West Village. The NYC Police Department had just finished raiding The Stonewall Inn, arresting 13 people because the bar hadn’t been approved for a liquor license.
Image Source: The Atlantic
The reason: NY State Liquor Authority refused to grant any bar that served gay individuals a license. This forced many establishments to become illegal saloons. The would pay key police members and Mafia gangs on the sly, in order to stay open. Despite having these deals the police began cracking down on gay bars in the city and on June 28th, 1969 Stonewall Inn was number one on their list.
Many sources claim that the woman in handcuffs was hit on the head, some say she was being shoved into a police wagon; it’s unclear what happened exactly, but whatever forced her to plead for help shows she was in distress.
The crowd began throwing coins, bottles, stones and practically anything they could find, at the police. Following this, one of the most historical moments for gay rights ensued. A riot broke out in the crowd, made up of both gay and straight people all fighting against the police.
The Stonewall riots lasted days and sparked the modern movement of equal rights in the U.S.A. An article in history documents the backstory of Pride, saying that, “Five months after the riots, activists Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Brody and Linda Rhodes proposed a resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) in Philadelphia that a march be held in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the raid.”
People were paying attention and for what felt like the first time, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, non-gender conforming individuals, drag queens and others that didn’t identify as straight were being heard. The march was approved by the city and activist Brenda Howard began planning it. The march would be held on the last Saturday of June and the dress code was that there was no dress code.
Unlike many other LGBTQ marches, notes history, where men and women had to dress appropriately (men in suits and ties and women in dresses) and walk in silence, this enabled people to have fun and express who they were in the form of dancing, makeup, and clothes. And a lot of glitter!
In 2015, The Allusionist spoke with Craig Schoonmaker a member of the march’s committee and the person who first coined the term, ‘gay pride’. In the interview, he spoke about his reasoning behind it, “My First thought was ‘gay power’. I didn’t like that, so I proposed gay pride. There’s very little chance for people in the world to have power. People did not have power then; even now, we only have some. But anyone can have pride in themselves, and that would make them happier as people, and produce the movement likely to produce change.”
Changes, albeit slow, started developing in the country. This timeline of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender history in the United States shows that just three years after the first march, “The American Psychiatric Association declares that homosexuality per se is not a psychiatric disorder.”
In addition to NYC, other cities were marching on the Saturday of June, in memory of the Stonewall riots. The timeline also includes the first time there was a march held in Washington DC, in 1979. Since then, every year a pride parade would be organized by members of the LGBTQ community in cities in America and all over the world. Banners, colors, and yes, GLITTER would be adorning the crowds, marching for their rights and celebrating with pride.
One of those banners and signs would be the rainbow flag that is synonymous with the LGBTQ community. June is usually a month where someone is highly likely to spot a rainbow wherever they are, especially on Instagram. But where did it come from? For decades the communities symbol was the pink triangle, yet it had negative connotations from being previously used to identify homosexuals in concentration camps.
Image Source: moma
Artist Gilbert Baker decided it needed a change, in an interview for MOMA, where the flag is now next to recognized signs such as the recycling logo, he said, “It was necessary to have the Rainbow Flag because up until that we had the pink triangle from the Nazis—it was the symbol that they would use to denote gay people. It came from such a horrible place of murder and holocaust and Hitler. We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages- all of those things. Plus, it’s a natural flag—it’s from the sky!”
He also spoke about why he decided to use the colorful flag, “And I thought, a flag is different than any other form of art. It’s not a painting, it’s not just cloth, it is not a just logo—it functions in so many different ways. I thought that we needed that kind of symbol, that we needed as a people something that everyone instantly understands.”
Baker wanted to create something to represent the individuals that had been marginalized by society and throughout much of history. He wanted to create a safe space in the form of a piece of cloth, “And that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol, that we are a people, a tribe if you will.”
Being gay isn’t a crime anymore, marriage between same-sex couples is now legal. June is officially Pride month, but there is still friction between the government and some people in regards to the LGBTQ community. For example, the Supreme Court recently sided with an infamous baker who refused to make a gay wedding cake. Celebrating Pride is as important as it is fun; if you can’t attend make sure to volunteer or contribute in any way. Here is a list of places that the marches are happening and here are some places to donate to.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash