The month of June is upon us! And you know what that means – It’s Pride month! The streets are a-glow with beautiful rainbows, the sun is shining on all the Pride flags and we are merrily preparing for the Pride parade happening at the end of the month. But believe it or not, it wasn’t all fun and games when it first began.
The history of Pride Month is a story of discrimination. On June 28, 1969, Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City was raided by the police. There were more gay bars in the city but Stonewall was the only bar that had dancing. This attracted a lot of LGBTQ+ visitors. While the police had a justification for the raid – Stonewall Inn was serving alcohol without a license – it was not uncommon for bars to serve liquor without a license, and it was really common for gay bars to be continually attacked by the police. When a raid happened, all the lights in the bar would be turned back on. People without identification cards or dressed in drag would be arrested and everyone else could leave. Women who were not wearing at least three feminine articles of clothing would also be arrested. On estimate, every gay bar would be raided at least once a month. The managers, in preparation, would have a hidden stock of alcohol so as to resume business as soon as possible after the raids.
So, what was so different about the raid at the Stonewall Inn? The standard procedure during the raids was to line up all the bar-goers and separate the women to have female police officers identify if any of the women were actually men dressed in drag. But this time, people dressed in drag refused to separate themselves and men refused to show identification. When the police were trying to take everyone to the police station, the crowd began singing “We shall overcome,” and fighting arrest, finally throwing pennies and beer bottles at the wagons. The number of people grew to a huge crowd filled with anger, frustration, and unity. The crowd became a mob and escalated to the point that the Tactical Police Force of the New York City Police Department had to come in to free the police trapped inside the Stonewall Inn.
Within 6 months of the riots, gay activists started a city-wide newspaper called Gay. This, they thought, was really important because even the most liberal newspaper in the city refused to print the word “gay”. June 28th, 1970 marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The first ever Pride parades happened simultaneously in Los Angeles and Chicago. More cities joined the next year and the Parade in New York City covered 51 blocks.
This year, if you want to be a part of Pride Month, be sure to check out all the educational, interesting and fun events happening around Waterloo and Toronto. Educate yourself when possible and be aware of the diversity in your community. Toronto Pride Parade is happening this year on Sunday, June 24th. The parade is always a sight to behold and if you decide to march with either EngSoc or The Glow Centre, it is a life changing experience. If attending the parade is not an option, there are so many events happening around Waterloo. For example, Drag Me to Bomber is happening this Friday, June 8th, right in our favourite Bombshelter Pub. Nonetheless, be sure to bask in the Pride colours and celebrate differences this month.