The history of LGBT Pride Month
Many people date the beginning of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride movement to the Stonewall Riots in New York City. In the early morning of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run gay bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.
-- By Sharon O’Brien
On the third night of the Stonewall riots, 37 men and women founded the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), an outspoken and militant organization dedicated to LGBT civil rights. The GLF was the first LGBT organization to use the word “gay” in its name and aligned itself with other civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers and various anti-war organizations, believing that together they “could work to restructure American society.”
The GLF, which urged LGBT people to come “out of the closet and into the streets” to battle injustice, was short-lived—the group disbanded in 1972. Before its demise, however, the GLF became a springboard for many other LGBT organizations, such as the Gay Activist Alliance and the lesbian feminist organization Lavender Menace, which later became Radical Lesbians.
On the march
In November 1969, gay activist Craig Rodwell proposed the first gay pride parade, to be held in New York City, in a resolution that he and three friends offered at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations meeting in Philadelphia. Rodwell owned the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, which featured the work of LGBT writers and had become a gay community center and gathering place since opening its doors in 1967.
In January 1970, Rodwell and other gay activists started organizing that first gay pride march from his apartment on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
Video: How to plan a gay wedding
First Pride parade
In June 1970, the "Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day" march was held in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the clash between the New York gay community and local police that galvanized the LGBT civil rights movement and brought it national attention.
A small crowd gathered in Greenwich Village and started marching, attracting hundreds and then thousands of supporters as it moved north through the streets of upper Manhattan and into Central Park. The marchers carried signs and banners with gay pride slogans and chanted, "Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud."
As Pride parades and other Pride events caught on and started to spread year after year, they retained some of their political and activist character, especially in communities that were less accepting of LGBT people, but they also became more festive.
Pride parades featured elaborate floats, drag queens in colorful couture, and groups like Dykes on Bikes (the lesbian motorcycle group that finally succeeded in trademarking its name after a long legal battle). Today, many Pride parades and festivals resemble Mardi Gras more than a protest march.
The rainbow flag is an international symbol of LGBT pride, community and solidarity. The original rainbow flag, which was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978, had eight stripes. That design has been revised several times, subtracting and adding colors in response to the wide availability or unavailability of certain fabrics.
The most common version, and the one used most widely today, has six stripes with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, with red on top as it would be in an actual rainbow.
Celebrating the flag
In 2003, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, the artist who designed the flag, created a rainbow flag that stretched across Key West from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. After the commemoration ceremony, Baker sent sections of the flag to more than 100 countries worldwide.
By 1993, pride event organizers were realizing that “gay pride” was a narrow and inaccurate description of the community they represented, so they voted to change the name to something more inclusive. In San Francisco, for example, the annual gay pride festival was renamed the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Transsexual, Queer and their Friends, Families and Supporters Pride.”
The revised name, which was nicely representative but impossibly long and unwieldy, quickly became simply “Pride.” This elegant new name caught on everywhere. And so it remains.
LGBT Pride quickly spread beyond the borders of the United States. Pride events have been held on every continent except Antarctica, and in countries as diverse as Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Greenland, India, Israel, Taiwan, South Africa, France, Poland and the Netherlands. In 2003, Turkey became the first Muslim-majority country in which a Pride event was held, when 30 people marched in Istanbul.
By 2011, the Istanbul Pride event attracted 10,000 people and the capital city of Ankara also had an annual Pride parade.
In June 2009, President Barack Obama issued a presidential proclamation that officially designated June as LGBT Pride Month—an act he has repeated every year he has been in office.