It’s almost June, which means colorful parades, loud parties, and megacorporations changing their logos to rainbows for exactly 30 days (and no longer). But why do we celebrate LGBT pride in June? Mostly because we know we definitely didn’t just pick a month out of a hat. So let’s do a quick run-through. Why is June Pride Month?
If you’re not caught up on American discrimination and bigotry (we say that a lot, don’t we?), well, you should know that the American political engine really doesn’t like members of the LGBT community–especially before the 70s. The fight for same-sex marriage is still ongoing, despite the fact that the US Supreme Court struck down all bans on same-sex marriage federally in 2015. This is also known as the American government saying, “hey 50 states, gay marriage is legal now!” and then a bunch of states decided “nah.” Gender neutral restrooms are an even more uphill battle.
The point is, the fight for LGBT rights is difficult and faces roadblocks at almost every turn. From bathroom bills, to same-sex marriage, hate crimes, to workplace discrimination (because apparently some employers feel your ability to work is also governed by your sexual orientation). Living as a minority (be it race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) is so oppressive and all-encompassing that there exists little way to truly empathize with those who experience it other than to experience it for yourself. It’s no wonder the CDC has declared racism a public health crisis–and it’s no wonder June 28, 1969 saw the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan.
So, the Stonewall Uprising. It was sparked by New York’s police raids on gay bars for their operation without State Liquor Authority licenses. Some of you may be thinking, “well if you don’t want to get raided get a license.” The problem was that this was the 60s, and New York’s State Liquor Authority refused to grant bars that served the LGBT community at all license–turning every establishment illegal by proxy. If you don’t see the problem with that then we don’t know what to tell you.
So without an avenue to legally operate, unlicensed establishments were run by Mafia with under-the-table deals with the police. On June 27, 1969 a police raid on the Stonewall Inn saw the arrest of 13 patrons. It was followed the next day by protests in the streets. For the following 6 days the uprising played out as you might expect. Hundreds of people chanting for gay liberation, fire hoses spraying down protesters, throwing debris. The works. The Stonewall Inn was a haven for the LGBT community; eventually the police, humiliated by forced retreat, escalated. They deployed the Tactical Patrol Force in a full phalanx formation–which was again made fun of. Protesters formed a kick line. Just imagine a full tactical police force with riot gear on one side and a bunch of people in a vaudeville-esque chorus line on the other.
It’s a funny thought until the ones with nightsticks rush the chorus line.
Alright, so why did we talk about Stonewall? Well following Stonewall demonstrations in response were on the table. While “gay power” was the initial slogan, it was shot down because the gay liberation movement had yet to receive widespread political empowerment. Thus, the slogan became “gay pride,” as those who demonstrated were showing that they were proud of their identities. June 28th was to be declared Christopher Street Liberation Day, to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising.
These demonstrations would spread through Chicago and Los Angeles–the number of participating states growing by the year.
Since then Clinton declared June Pride Month in 1999 and 2000, while the Obama Administration declared it for each June he was in office (2009-2016). In case you were wondering, the Bush Administration outwardly announced that it would not formally recognize Gay Pride month in between Clinton and Obama. The Trump Administration missed the first two Junes and didn’t recognize Gay Pride Month until 2019. But uh… Was kind of hit or miss in 2020. Mostly miss.
Celebrate Pride with global Pride parades here.