A Quick History of Pride Celebrations

We all know that Pride is a celebration of people coming together in love and friendship as well as it being a celebration of how far LGBT rights have come. But do you know why all of this is celebrated in June specifically? It all goes back to the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Read on for a quick guide as to why we celebrate Pride.

The Stonewall Riots (1969):

In the early morning of June 28, 1969, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a popular bar within New York's gay, lesbian and transgender community. Police raids on gay bars were common as being homosexual was illegal at the time, but on that particular night, members of the city’s LGBT community fought back. 

Black and white image of the Stonewall Inn; image taken from "History.com"
Stonewall Inn; image taken from "History.com"

This led to an uprising that would launch a revolution and a catalyst for the rights of LGBT people; so much that within 6 months, 2 gay activist groups had formed in New York.

You can view a more detailed timeline here.

Who were some of the key figures involved?

Marsha P. Johnson is often credited with throwing the first punch at the Stonewall Inn. Marsha was a trans woman of colour who was celebrating her 25th birthday at the time of the riots. 

Marsha P. Johnson; image taken from "Tatler"
Marsha P. Johnson; image taken from "Tatler"

Arriving in New York aged 17, Marsha settled in Greenwich Village in 1966. There, she first came into contact with a diverse gay community, which helped her gain the confidence to explore her identity through drag. Marsha settled on the drag queen name ‘Marsha P. Johnson’, inspired by the restaurant, Howard Johnson’s, while the P. stood for ‘pay it no mind’ – the response used by Marsha when asked about her gender. Shortly after the Stonewall Riots, Marsha became a member of the Gay Liberation Front. She was among the trailblazers who took part in the first Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally in June 1970. which marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising; this grew into annual pride month celebrations. Read more on Marsha P. Johnson here.

Known as the “Mother of Pride”, it was Brenda Howard who coordinated the first LGBT Pride march. 

Brenda Howard; image taken from "Them"
Brenda Howard; image taken from "Them"

Friends with many inside the Stonewall Inn the night of the riots, Howard created a one-month Stonewall anniversary rally in July 1969. A year later, with the help of a committee she then planned Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade. Read more on Brenda Howard here

Of course, Pride parades now take place annually and it's probably guaranteed there's one happening near you (if you're in the Midlands like us, check out our 2022 Midlands Pride events guide!). We've come a long way since the first Pride events and the riots at the Stonewall Inn, but it's not to say that there's no need for Pride events in this day and age; Pride month and Pride events are an important time for the community to come together in a space where they can be their truest, authentic selves and celebrate how far the society has progressed, but also acknowledge there’s still work to be done.

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