At pride parades everywhere, people are waving signs and shouting. Their signs often have bricks painted on them, and the people are shouting, “The first Pride was a riot!”
As straightforward as it sounds, many people are confused by these signs, even if they’re LGBT. The history of Pride Month isn’t typically taught in schools, so people often don’t know about the violence and hardships faced by LGBT people in the past.
The first Pride can be traced back to Stonewall Inn, at the infamous Stonewall Riot. The inn was a place for LGBT people to gather and drink in secret. At this time, being outed could mean a person would lose their job and all respect in their city.
Despite the inn being seen as a “safespace” for many LGBT people, it wasn’t particularly safe at all. The owners often blackmailed its rich patrons with threats to out them, and cops raided the inn often.
On June 28, 1969, another raid took place.
Then all hell broke loose.
It isn’t clear exactly what happened that day. Many accounts have been strung together to form a mostly coherent story, including the account of Sylvia Rivera.
A transgender activist, Rivera was at Stonewall when the riot happened. Rivera has been interviewed by many, and, according to her, that day in June is when the patrons of the bar decided they finally had enough, and they began throwing bricks and other things at officers. The police took cover inside the inn as stuff was thrown from the outside.
Marsha P. Johnson, an activist, sex-worker and a drag performer, was also at the Stonewall uprising. Many people claim she was one of the first people to begin throwing, but Johnson said that she joined after it had begun.
The riot lasted for almost a week and ended in the arrest of a multitude of LGBT protesters. The riot led to four LGBT organizations forming, one of which was formed by Johnson and Rivera known as the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. It also led to the Stonewall Inn being recognized as a national monument by former President Barack Obama.
The first Gay Pride March took place along the street outside of the Stonewall Inn. Although LGBT people had already recognized June as Pride Month in honor of the Stonewall Riot for over thirty years, former President Bill Clinton was the first to officially honor it with the title of “Gay and Lesbian Month” in 1999. Obama was the one to rename it to “LGBT Pride Month” in an act of inclusivity.
If actively searching for it, information about the Stonewall Riot and Pride Month as we know it is readily available on the internet; however, for children whose unsupportive parents monitor their every move online, it can be impossible to find anything about it.
Despite LGBT rights being an important part of history, many people only begin learning about them once they get to college and have a little more freedom in choosing which classes to take.
Many colleges offer LGBT-oriented classes, including the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. High schools don’t teach about the riot and LGBT activism the same way they do about women’s suffrage, especially if it’s a religious high school like the one I went to. Many high schools try to avoid discussion of LGBT at all in the classroom, even if those schools have a Gay Straight Alliance club like many public schools.
As the years pass by and LGBT news is discussed more often, LGBT youth are slowly able to learn more and more, much to the chagrin of some unsupportive parents.
This Pride Month is already off to a great start with many young LGBT people at parades and making posts on social media in support. They’re joined by the older generation of LGBT, all of whom are making their presence at Pride known. Together, they will continue to make history, and this year’s Pride will be one to remember.