History has been far from generous to the LGBTQIA+ community. Bullying, hatred, societal prejudice, oppression and laws criminalising our existence has generated an unnecessary amount of torment throughout the centuries. Although numerous acts have been introduced in recent years to try protect LGBTQIA+ people from the systematic injustices inflicted upon us, it wasn’t all that long ago when such acts were pretty much non-existent. During the mid-20th century, homosexuality was still classed as illegal under varying sodomy laws. In many countries, this resulted in police raids on bars that were known to serve gay and transgender people.
America was one of those many countries where homosexuality was banned by law, meaning similar raids were habitually conducted across their many states. On June 28th 1969, however, one raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of allowing the police to carry out their usual incursions, the 200 Stonewall attendees decided enough was enough and resisted. Authorities responded by attempting to arrest everyone inside the pub, however before backup had time to arrive, groups of protesters had formed outside.
In practice the riots carried on for the following five days, however their overall impact lasted far longer than anyone at the time imagined. The actions of June 28th 1969 resulted in a catalyst that helped to reshape the ways in which LGBTQIA+ people were treated by society at large, a moment which can be seen as the start of a liberation for queer people across the globe.
As the years passed, change started to take shape. More and more public figures came out, countries across the world lifted their laws punishing people for same-sex relations, and acts are introduced to protect those who are at risk due to their gender identity or sexuality. From Stonewall to the legalisation of same-sex marriage taking place across the globe in the present decade, fight for liberation still continues today.
Many of these changes were made possible thanks the protests, resistance and marches which stemmed from that very night back in 1969. Demonstrations similar to those held outside the Stonewall Inn continued year-after-year, continuously pushing for change.
Today we refer to these sorts of demonstrations as Pride events, and they are just as important today as they were half a century ago. Such movements not only take place all across the globe, but speak to all of those who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community from ever walk of life. Whether you’re asexual, bisexual, non-binary, pansexual, transgender, agender, bigender, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender variant, androgynous, aromantic, androsexual, bicurious, demiromantic, demisexual, polyamorous or any other member of this wonderfully variant community; Pride is the moment in which non-heteronormative folk can come together and continue the march for liberation which begun during the midpoint of the 20th century.
Due to the sheer scope and variety of the LGBTQIA+ community, however, Pride has a variety of meanings for many. Each individual will have their own interpretation of what Pride means to them based on their backgrounds, experiences and worldviews. So, based upon my own experiences as a trans woman raised in 90s Britain, what does Pride personally mean to me?
Firstly, from my point of view, Pride is a way to look back on the achievements made over the years. It’s a time to celebrate the decriminalisation of homosexuality; establishment of countless gay liberation fronts; repeals made toward those who ‘committed’ the victimless crime of loving another; openly gay & trans candidates running for office; liberating trans people so they’re free transition legally, socially & physically; the introduction of laws protecting LGBTQIA+ people within workplaces; and the countless other steps made toward equality. Over the years an endless amount of individuals have worked endlessly, risked all they have and faced a tirade of struggle in a bid to make the world a better place for the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride celebrations are a means of expressing our gratitude to such folk, thanking them for helping to make the world a more bearable place than it once was. There’s far more work to be done of course, however Pride is a point where we can look back and say thank you to those who’ve got us to where we are today.
Another way in which I look at Pride is by seeing it as an exercise in standing up to the mistreatment and hate still present within our societies today. Bullies, bigots and hateful fools love to hit out at those whom they believe they have power over. For far too long, those very cowards have felt emboldened to make the lives of those unlike them hell. They’ve hindered rights, laughed at the existence of others, beaten, murdered and claimed superiority all because they grew up in a society that made them believe they were superior. Pride is our way of saying no more; a defence mechanism designed to push back against the struggles we continuously face. Pride is our way of telling the hateful members of our society that we are strong, resilient and here to stay. Each and every march is our way of pushing back against the self-assumed dominance held by those who hate us.
Furthermore, Pride can in many ways be seen as a bond that assists in bringing the diverse and multifaceted members of the LGBTQIA+ community together. As already mentioned, there’s a vast amount of sexualities and identities existing beyond the walls of heteronormativity. Considering how large this community is, divisions do at times occur. No single person or experience is the same, meaning it can at times appear as if we’re striving for different goals. Truth is, we’re working toward the same universal outcome; we want a world free from bullying, mockery, violence, shame, misunderstanding, dehumanisation and hatred. The liberation to love who we love and be ourselves without scorn is something we can all rally behind as a collective. Pride is the time where we can all finally come together, embrace the power of working in numbers and stand up as one. By coming together we create an unbreakable unity; a collective working to change the foundations of our societies for the better.
Finally, Pride is an exercise in flexing our visibility; a way of reminding the world that we are more than an idea or stereotype. Over the centuries, LGBTQIA+ folk have been habitually erased from the history books. This is a practise that’s still carried out by many in this day and age. When we’re not being mocked or misrepresented by callous stereotypes, our lives are trivialised and rendered false. Bigots tell us our gender identities are delusions, that our desire to love more than one gender is nothing more than greed, that our love toward someone of the same gender is the by-product of mental illnesses, or our sexualities/genders are contemporary fads uncommon within the human experience. Despite their assumptions, we all exist, we’ve always exited and we shall continue to exist until the end of time. Pride month is the moment each in which we remind the world that we are valid, that our identities are real, that we bleed like everyone else and that we deserve rights just as much as every other human living on this planet.
As already mentioned, Pride can be subjective based on whoever you ask. But that’s its beauty. It allows a vast community of people to come together, recognise the universal struggles each one faces and provides a platform where we can all push for change. To me Pride is a way to look back and thank the liberators of yesterday, celebrate the diversity of the queer community, tower above the bigots and articulate our authenticity to the world. Whether others agree with this is beside the point. No matter how you look at it, just remember that Pride is a movement that will allow progression to continue, no matter how dark the world may feel at times.
Happy Pride Month everyone.