Pride: Then Vs. Now

Learning where we have come and seeing where we need to go.

The first pride celebration was on June 28th, 1969. But it wasn’t a march filled with rainbow, gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, demisexual, flags and other merch. There were no tables set up where people could learn, acquire materials, or purchase things from a thrift shop in the gayborhood of Philadelphia, for example. In fact, it was anything but a march or a celebration. 

New York City’s Pride Parade in 2019.

That begs the question then, what was the first pride? The first pride began as a riot against the police who were raiding The Stonewall Inn – a National Monument now – on Christopher Street in New York City. The first pride is known as The Stonewall Riots or Stonewall Uprising. It was violent. The police were raiding that bar because it was a well known gay bar in Greenwich Village and sodomy or homosexuality was then illegal in New York City. In fact, the New York State Liquor board shut down establishments that were selling alcohol to gay or otherwise queer identifying individuals. While this ruling was reversed in 1966, sodomy or homosexuality was still illegal through the mid 1980s in New York City. 

NYPD on one of their raids of The Stonewall in in June of 1969.

What’s important to note about gay and lesbian bars – like The Stonewall Inn – in New York City in the 50s and 60s is they were owned and operated by the Mafia who, “who paid corruptible police officers to look the other way” so gay, transgender, and lesbian people could congregate without threat of arrest. However, it didn’t always work. It certainly didn’t work in the case of The Stonewall Inn. The NYPD raided the bar because of sodomy occurring there and due to the bar not having a liquor license. That bar was raided many times over the course of that week and it came to a head when police arrested a woman who was dressed in masculine garb. 

This caused transgender women to throw bottles and bricks at the cops who were outright violating them and assaulting their right to be as they are. This riot lasted several days and as people locally heard about the riot, more people began to stand with the transgender black, Hispanic, and queer women who threw the first brick and bottle like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. “Pay it No Mind” Johnson, and others. They rioted for so long that they actually forced the cops to barricade themselves within The Stonewall Inn for protection from the people rioting all because they wanted to exist as they are and have the cops let them enjoy each other’s company in peace at one of the only places they felt was safe for them to do so. 

Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson & Sylvia River march in the 1970s Gay Liberation Front Parade. They weren’t accepted by their lesbian and gay piers, unfortunately. Trans people are still fighting their fight today.

Despite the striking down of many states sodomy laws in the 70s, 80s etc., and some states banning conversion therapy, there are still many laws on the books that make it unsafe for LGBTQIAP+ people to be who they are in numerous environments in state after state. In 2022 it is illegal to practice sodomy in the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina. I.e. in those states you can be arrested for kissing a member of the same sex or more. In 2022 it is still legal to claim the Gay Panic or Trans Panic defense when a person discovers that someone is LGBTQIAP+ in 34 states. Up until June 15th 2020, a Supreme Court ruled that workers can no longer be fired for being a part of the community, but that doesn’t mean that their decision can’t be overturned in the future. Meaning, LGBTQIAP+ people could one day still be fired for being in the community. Moreover, 22 states have no bans in place on conversion therapy, which is a harmful practice that leads those in “therapy” to enact self harm upon themselves. There are also laws that ban doctors from performing surgery or prescribing HRT to transgender individuals and even states that have banned discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity along with states that ban parents from affirming their trans children. For more information on laws affecting the LGBTQIAP+ community, click here.

For many, hiding in the shadows of a heteronormative culture and behind laws that forbid queer individuals to simply exist, the month of June is a difficult time. For the others, who can show a brave face and walk the streets with a colorful flag wrapped around them, this is a joyous time. However, this is a time to reflect. We must look to the history of the LGBTQIA+ community and why June is a month for remembrance and overcoming grief, instead of just a time for celebration. Everyone who is part of this great community must pause for a moment and remember where we all came from and how far we need to still go. This allows for growth, change, and most importantly, finishing the fight that those courageous people did before us and continue to. 

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