We know that Pride started with protest. This month-long celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) people arose out of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Over the years, Pride has changed considerably. How much do you know about the history of Pride?
The first Pride parade was held on June 28, 1970 to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising. According to documents from the time, activists planned the first U.S. Gay Pride Week and March to “"...commemorate the Christopher Street Uprisings of last summer in which thousands of homosexuals went to the streets to demonstrate against centuries of abuse ... from government hostility to employment and housing discrimination, Mafia control of Gay bars, and anti-Homosexual laws" The first Pride parade - known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day after the street where the Stonewall Inn was located - was attended by between 3,000 and 5,000 people, who marched through the streets of New York City in commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising.
The idea for this first Pride march came from Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO), which had organized an annual July 4th demonstration at Independence Hall in Philadelphia between 1965 and 1969. These gatherings, known as Reminder Day Pickets, involved group members assembling with placards to demand equality for gay people in the United States. In late 1969, members of ERCHO proposed the first Pride march to be held in New York City - thus beginning the Pride movement.
In September 1970, activists in other cities — including Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — held their own Pride marches. By 1971, Pride had spread across the world, with marches held in Dallas, Boston, London, Paris, Milwaukee, West Berlin and Stockholm. By 1972, LGBTQ+ people in Atlanta, Buffalo, Detroit, Brighton, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Miami joined.
These initial Pride marches brought about a major change in how gay people protested and demanded equality. In the past, ERCHO — led by gay rights activist Frank Kameny — asked attendees to dress in a specific manner, as though they were going to work. At a time when it was dangerous (and often a crime) to be gay in the United States, the idea was to convince heterosexual people that gay people were no different than they were — and that they were not a threat. After seeing how gay people fought back against mistreatment at the hands of the police at Stonewall, the tenor of these protests changed considerably. The focus on respectability ended — and a more aggressive push for equality began.
By the 1980s, there was a major shift in commemorations of the Stonewall Uprising. Rather than grassroots protests, these marches became more organized celebrations. Many of these marches went through a name change during this time, dropping “liberation” and “freedom” in exchange for “Gay Pride.” These changes were made under pressure from more conservative — and less radical — members of the LGBTQ+ community. In some ways, the attempt to make Pride more acceptable to heterosexual people was a throwback to the Reminder Day Pickets, where demands for equality were made by gay people who adhered to strict codes of respectability. By 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” In 2021, President Joe Biden recognized June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
Today, Pride is often viewed as more of a celebration, with parades, parties, and concerts. At its core, however, Pride remains political. In a society where so many LGBTQ+ individuals still face discrimination and violence simply for being who they are, the act of standing together and publicly celebrating who you are can be revolutionary.
At Blackburn Center, we provide services to anyone who has experienced gender-based violence. We also offer a range of services to the community as a whole, with a goal of transforming our society — so that this type of violence ends. If you need help, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our hotline is always free of charge and can be anonymous: 1-888-832-2272.