Why Do We Have Gay Pride Month In The United States?

published on July 2, 2020

– [Narrator] For most of the 20th century,

LGBTQ people were forbidden
from showing pride

in their sexuality

They were forbidden
from being who they are,

but they fought back against persecution,

police brutality, oppression

This is the history of
pride in the United States

in six minutes

Okay, go

Throughout most of the 20th century,

activities associated with
being anything but heterosexual

and gender conforming were

against the law

As an increasingly visible
gay culture began to grow,

so did police raids of gay spaces

Police force was used to
suppress the acceptance of

the queer and trans community

and enforce a conservative agenda

Dating back to the early 1900s,

violent raids spread across America,

especially in cities like
New York, San Francisco,

and Los Angeles

A popular location to target
were bars and bathhouses

where gay people gathered

Over time, hundreds of people
were arrested and beaten

just for existing within
these spaces since activities

associated with queerness
were criminalized

In the 1930s, in what is
now Miami-Dade County,

a venue not unlike the spaces
we have the freedom to create

and occupy today existed

La Paloma nightclub was a space

for burlesque-like
performances by both women

and female impersonators,

as well as a space for
effeminate male performers

Some of the staff and
patrons were queer and or

gender non-conforming folks

One of the club's
visitors described it as,

"A scene for homosexuals in evening gowns

"and trousered lesbians,
as well as sex workers"

On a November night in 1937,

a group of nearly 200 men and
women associated with the KKK

stormed the nightclub violently
attacking the people inside

while dressed in their
long white-hooded robes

and burning their fiery cross

Later, local law enforcement
conducted their own raid

of La Paloma

Given the time period, it's
likely that the same authorities

who raided as police had already attacked

while their identities were
concealed with the KKK

Despite the violent,
vigilantian police raids

La Paloma reopened with new programing

that the manager describes as,

"Spicier entertainment than ever"

And that's just one example of the dozens,

maybe hundreds of violent incidents

that targeted the LGBTQ
community for decades

leading up to 1969

So what made the Stonewall Riots of 1969

such an iconic turning
point for gay liberation?

Well, in the 1960s, the West
Village in New York City

became somewhat of a
gathering place for gay people

and home to many underground gay venues

The Stonewall Inn was particularly known

for bring a place where
trans people, drag queens,

and homeless queer youth
could gather safely

It was considered a safe
space not only by the nature

of being for queer people,

but also because it gave young,
homeless queer individuals

a place off the streets to be

In the days leading up to the riots,

tension between the NYPD and
the community was building

A few days prior, police raided Stonewall,

harassing the patrons

Their goal was to shut the inn down

The LGBTQ community was
growing tired of the brutality

and oppression they were
facing for simply existing

In the early hours of June 28th, 1969,

police raided the Stonewall Inn again,

leading to the arrest of 13 patrons

As the patrons were being
removed from the venue,

a crowd gathered questioning
the police's authority,

resulting in violent conflict

Many note a lesbian as one of
the first people to fight back

against the police that night,

with some believing her
to be Storme DeLarverie

DeLarverie, a biracial butch lesbian,

became known to be something
of a guardian to lesbians

in the city

Other prominent figures
in the uprising were

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Rivera was a Latina trans activist

who was just 17 at the time

Marsha P Johnson was an iconic figure

in the NYC trans community
and the Stonewall Riots

That night in 1969 was
followed by six days

of conflict and protest against the NYPD

By the following night, the
news of the riots spread quickly

across the city and a group
of about 2,000 protestors

began to gather

What occurred was a direct
confrontation between

the police and protestors

The cops used fire hoses
and threatened gun violence

while the crowd chanted
and sang for liberation

Further acts of defiance
involved the crowd holding hands

and engaging in other
displays of affection boldly,

as these could've been
considered criminal activities

at the time

Overall, 21 people were
arrested during the riot

Within several weeks,

the New York Mattachine Society,

one of the earliest LGBT
organizations in the United States,

led a gay power march throughout the city,

drawing a crowd of hundreds

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia
Rivera went on to founds STAR,

Street Transvestite
Action Revolutionaries,

and organization that
served to aid homeless

and runaway trans youths,

as well as other LGBTQ individuals

They also rallied against
racism, sexual violence,

and transphobia

A year after the Stonewall
Riots, on June 28th, 1970,

the first Pride parade was held

The first march gave the
community a chance to memorialize

the uprisings that had
occurred on Christopher street

the year before

It's reported that the march started

with just a few hundred
people in downtown New York

but swelled in size as
it made its way uptown

towards Central Park

Displaying gay pride at this
time was still a bold act,

and it's said that at the
beginning of the march,

many were worried about their
safety so they moved swiftly

through the streets

Today, Pride celebrates the
strides the community has made

since that first public
display of gay pride in 1970

We march in June to honor
those who came before us

and took to the streets
demonstrating against centuries

of abuse, government hostility,
and discriminatory laws

(sweeping instrumental music)

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