Pride is about the LGBTQ+ community being proud of who they are, as they are. Many LGBTQ+ people are still struggling, don't feel loved and lack the support they need.
Let's look at why we commemorate Pride month and why we should celebrate Pride all year.
Why Do We Celebrate LGBTQ Pride in June?
Pride month marks the Stonewall Riots, which occurred on June 28, 1969, in Greenwich Village, New York. Although LGBTQ+ people have been fighting for their civil rights for more than 150 years, Stonewall was the first event to garner national attention.
That's when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, gay rights activists and other allies began a series of spontaneous demonstrations in response to a police raid. They fought back against perpetual police harassment and social discrimination suffered by a variety of sexual minorities in the 1960s. A year later, the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Long History of Challenges for LGBTQ people
There's a long history of LGBTQ+ discrimination and harassment in the U.S. Being gay or lesbian was a criminal act until 2003, and homosexuality was listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association until 1973. There is still no national LGBTQ+ non-discrimination law for employment.
Some of the worst harassment occurred in the late 1940s and 50s, when anti-homosexuality laws were enacted in conjunction with the anti-communist Red Scare. In 1953, President Eisenhower declared gay men and lesbians a threat to the security of the country and therefore unfit for government service. Over the next four decades, tens of thousands of federal workers lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation. The 2017 film The Lavender Scare was the first documentary to tell the story of this unrelenting campaign.
Early Gay Activism
The 1950s “homophile movement" operated under the belief that LGBTQ+ people would win over public opinion by showing themselves to be discreet, dignified, virtuous and respectable. Although those activists were politically cautious and more reserved than their modern counterparts, they put themselves at enormous risk just by coming out.
By the mid-1960s, LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. formed more visible communities. On July 4, 1965, they picketed in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which some consider the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Meanwhile, in San Francisco in 1966, transgender street prostitutes in the Tenderloin rioted against police harassment at Compton's Cafeteria.
In 1995, the Clinton administration enacted “Don't Ask, Don't Tell," for conditional admittance of gays into the military. Finally, in 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly in the military.
The Value of Celebrating LGBTQ Pride All Year
Many LGBTQ+ people, especially those under 25, still struggle against violence, bigotry and ignorance, on top of continuing to fight for basic civil rights. More than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ individuals between the ages of 13 and 24 seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S., and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds, according to The Trevor Project.
To achieve equal rights and representation, we must continue to stand up to hate and bigotry. We need to support everyone in our diverse LGBTQIA+ umbrella every month of the year — not just in June.
As President Barack Obama said, "When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free."