Celebrating Pride Month This June
Celebrated across the country every June, LGBTQ+ Pride Month is a time to celebrate people of all sexual and gender identities, accepting people for who they are. Yet, there is much more to Pride Month than just parades and parties. Pride Month is a time to remember the history of LGBTQ+ activism and people, along with ways to defend and enhance their rights and access to resources.
In the modern age, Pride and LGBTQ+ rights have become mainstream topics of discussion. With high profile victories like the national legalization of same sex marriage, along with mainstream media and companies featuring LGBTQ+ stories and perspectives, LGBTQ+ awareness and support is more prevalent today than at any other point in modern history. However, universal protection and acceptance are still far away in America.
Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a friend/family member of one, or simply a person looking to help, Pride 2021 is a great time to celebrate and shape a more accepting future for our country and world. However, you may not know where to find events, resources, and ways to support LGBTQ+ people. In observation of Pride Month, Impactree has compiled a list of expertly crafted actions to create a powerful Pride impact journey.
Stonewall Inn and the History of Pride
Like most social issues, a thorough understanding of the history surrounding LGBTQ+ rights is paramount to understanding the present. While often underrepresented, there are countless LGBTQ+ figures in American and world history. Whether it’s Alan Hart, Gertrude Stein, Christine Jorgensen or Bayard Rustin, there is no shortage of influential, talented and inspirational LGBTQ+ figures who helped define America’s culture and technology. However, in popular culture, much of modern LGBTQ+ history begins with the Stonewall Inn riots.
On June 28th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular LGBTQ+ bar in Greenwich Village. This was not the first time it or other bars like it had been raided to round up gay men and trans women. However, as a massive crowd began to form around the bar, tensions reached a boiling point. Eventually violence broke out, with crowd members clashing with police for multiple nights. The riots were witnessed by thousands and received extensive national media attention (for more information, see the action below).
LGBTQ+ activism and the fight for equality was going on well before Stonewall, but the riots acted as a catalyst for a new generation of activism. Unlike other movements, Stonewall inspired the thousands who witnessed the riots live or in the media to continue their demands for equal rights, not letting the fight which began at Stonewall die out.
In the wake of Stonewall, multiple organizations sprang up to continue its momentum, quickly spreading around the country and world. The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) held many events around America, with tactics like “public confrontations with political officials and the disruption of public meetings to challenge and to change the mores of the times.” Acceptance and respect were no longer being softly asked for, but angrily demanded.
Since Stonewall, LGBTQ+ activism has flourished tremendously, with activists’ hard work paving the way for numerous achievements and advancements. From the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, to the election of openly LGBTQ+ political representatives like Kathy Kozachenko and Harvey Milk, all the way up to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage, the last 50 years of LGBTQ+ activism have been marked by slow but critical progress.
While the past few decades have featured great successes for the LGBTQ+ community, any description of LGBTQ+ history would be remiss without an acknowledgement of the HIV/AIDS epidemic which ravaged the LGBTQ+ community for decades. Due to its close tie to the LGBTQ+ community, reporting and research on HIV/AIDS was minimal to nonexistent. The simple answer to this discrepancy was discrimination, stigmatizing AIDS as a “gay man’s disease,” lessening its federal and media importance by linking it directly with LGBTQ+ people. Despite public health officials becoming aware of the disease by 1981, it took nearly a decade for widespread public funding of AIDS research, yet by that time it had already ravaged LGBTQ+ communities across the country.
Celebrating Pride Today
With it being Pride Month, you may want to celebrate; either to express your own Pride, or to support a friend, family member, or your community. Nowadays, Pride events are held all around the country, and there are countless parades, festivals or events you can attend. And as the United States gets more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, it seems Pride events may be returning as well.
Pride Month is a great time to educate yourself, especially if you are unaware of the intricacy of terminology in the LGBTQ+ community. Gender, sexuality and identity are all different concepts which exist on a sliding scale, yet they are often viewed as interchangeable, binary definitions. The truth of the matter is that these concepts are expressed in a variety of different ways, shown differently from person to person. If you want to be an informed ally to the LGBTQ+ community, understanding gender and sexual expression is paramount.
The fun of Pride Month is the celebration of identity and the beauty of people expressing their true selves. However, Pride Month also serves as a time to acknowledge those who cannot by supporting and defending the rights of LGTBQ+ people the world over. In the United States, that means guaranteeing equal protection from discrimination across the country. Did you know over one third of states do not have any explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity? Similarly, half of Americans live in a state or territory which does not ban the use of conversion therapy on minors. To achieve equality in our country, we must make sure that all are free from discrimination, and are legally protected in social and workplace settings.
In addition to a dearth of laws protecting their rights, members of the LGBTQ+ community also face legislation aimed at excluding them, especially transgender individuals. 2021 was a record breaking year for anti-transgender laws, with over 80 bills being proposed in the first three months of the year.
To make matters worse, there are many parts of the world where LGBTQ+ people are not only discriminated against, but are treated as second class citizens and criminals. Around the globe, there are at least 69 countries with “national laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults. In addition, at least nine countries have national laws criminalizing forms of gender expression that target transgender and gender nonconforming people.”
Rainbow Railroad is one of the largest nonprofit organizations helping LGBTQ+ living in discriminatory or dangerous environments. Their work is essential for protecting and relocating LGBTQ+ people to safer environments, and demanding reform across the globe. If you are looking to help global members of the LGBTQ+ community who cannot express their Pride due to legal penalties, discrimination, and threats of violence, supporting Rainbow Railroad is one of the simplest means of doing so.
There are numerous ways – big and small – to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride month, whether it is through educating yourself, attending events, or supporting important organizations. While LGBTQ+ acceptance is more common than in the past, advocacy and support are extremely important for advancing LGBTQ+ rights – especially from allies of the community.
While the present is better than ever for LGBTQ+ rights in America, it is essential to remember the not-so-distant past, and that it takes advocacy to prevent regression and do away with discriminatory laws and practices that still exist. To ensure a better future, and to celebrate all the achievements of the past, let’s make this Pride Month the most fun and impactful one yet.
To find more ways to celebrate Pride and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, check out Impactree’s Pride Month Action Hub.