Pride Month is an annual celebration of the many contributions made by the LGBTQ+ community to history, society and cultures worldwide. In most places, Pride is celebrated throughout the month of June each year in commemoration of its roots in the Stonewall Riots of June 1969. However, in some areas—especially in the Southern Hemisphere—pride events occur at other times of the year.
Origins of Pride Month
The roots of the gay rights movement go back to the early 1900s, when a handful of individuals in North America and Europe created gay and lesbian organizations such as the the Society for Human Rights, founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago in the 1920s.
Following World War II, a small number of groups like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis published gay- and lesbian-positive newsletters and grew more vocal in demanding recognition for, and protesting discrimination against, gays and lesbians. In 1966, for example, members of the Mattachine Society held a “sip-in” protest at Julius, a bar in New York City, where they demanded drinks after announcing that they were gay, in violation of local laws against serving alcohol to gays and lesbians.
Despite some progress in the postwar era, basic civil rights were largely denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—until one night in June, 1969, when the gay rights movement took a furious step forward with a series of violent riots in New York City.
As was common practice in many cities, the New York Police Department would occasionally raid bars and restaurants where gays and lesbians were known to gather. This occurred on June 28, 1969, when the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan.
When the police aggressively dragged patrons and employees out of the bar, several people fought back against the NYPD, and a growing crowd of angry locals gathered in the streets. The confrontations quickly escalated and sparked six days of protests and violent clashes with the NYPD outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street and throughout the neighborhood.
By the time the Stonewall Riots ended on July 2, 1969, the gay rights movement went from being a fringe issue largely ignored by politicians and the media to front-page news worldwide.
First Gay Pride Parade
One year later, during the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, activists in New York City marched through the streets of Manhattan in commemoration of the uprising. The march, organized by the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Umbrella Committee, was named the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.
In time, that celebration came to be simply known as the Gay Pride Parade. According to activist Craig Schoonmaker, “I authored the word ‘pride’ for gay pride … [my] first thought was ‘Gay Power.’ I didn’t like that, so proposed gay pride. There’s very little chance for people in the world to have power. People did not have power then; even now, we only have some. But anyone can have pride in themselves, and that would make them happier as people, and produce the movement likely to produce change.”
The march, which took place on June 28, 1970, is now considered the country’s first gay pride parade. By all accounts, the New York City event was a stunning success, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 participants in the march, which stretched 51 blocks from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Marches and parades also took place that June in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Gay Pride Month
Over the years, gay pride events have spread from large cities to smaller towns and villages worldwide—even in places where repression and violence against gays and lesbians are commonplace. The atmosphere at these events can range from raucous, carnivalesque celebrations to strident political protest to solemn memorials for those lost to AIDS or homophobic violence.
In June 2000, President Bill Clinton officially designated June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, in recognition of the Stonewall Riots and gay activism throughout the years. A more-inclusive name was chosen in 2009 by President Barack Obama: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
The origins of Gay Pride Month were also honored by Obama when, in 2016, he created the Stonewall National Monument, a 7.7-acre around the Stonewall Inn where the modern gay rights movement began.
Today, Gay Pride parades in many cities are enormous celebrations: The events in Sao Paulo, Sydney, New York City, Madrid, Taipei and Toronto routinely attract up to 5 million attendees.
As Pride Month has grown in popularity across the globe, criticism of the events has grown, too. Many early organizers now decry the commercial influence and corporate nature of Pride parades—especially when those corporations make donations to politicians who vote against gay, lesbian and transgender rights.
Gay Pride events are nonetheless seen as vital protests against repression and isolation in places such as Serbia, Turkey and Russia, where Pride parades have been met with antigay violence. Even in the United States, a rise in bloodshed, killings and threats at Pride and other gay events and gatherings highlights the oppression the LGBTQ community still faces.
History.com Editors (May 8, 2023). Pride Month 2023 Retrieved from: Pride Month 2023 (history.com)