Pride in the context of queer culture stands for tolerance and self-confidence of the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride Month fights against criminalisation, stigmatisation, exclusion and discrimination. The people who have lost their lives for the achievements of the community are remembered and attention is drawn to the injustices that still exist. In June, there are therefore more events by and with people from the queer community. Pride Month sets a sign for a colourful and tolerant society, but at the same time also protests against still prevailing grievances.
How it all began: the Stonewall Riots
To understand the history of Pride Month, one event is crucial. The Stonewall Riots are the fulcrum of a worldwide movement. Before Christopher Street Day, the protests and parades, homosexual and trans* people were ostracised by society. They were considered mentally ill and locked up in prisons or penitentiaries for fornication. Verbal and especially physical violence was the order of the day.
Therefore, members of the queer community were forced to live a hidden life. Selected bars and parks served as meeting places. There, everyone could live out their identity freely. One of these bars was the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York. There were regular police raids and violence at the bar because homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense and the bar itself did not have a license to serve alcohol. However, since the bar was in the hands of the mafia, it was never closed. After a raid, money was paid to the police and the doors could be reopened. Many of the people arrested appeared in the papers the next day by name and with the crime committed in each case. Thanks to their informers, the mafia usually knew when the next raid would take place.
In the early morning hours of 28 June 1969, however, no one knew about the police ‘control’. Unlike usual, the people in the bar resisted the raid. The aggressive and mostly violent police action was no longer tolerated and when the lesbian singer Stormé DeLarverie was to be arrested, the other guests intervened. The first stones, bottles and fists flew on Christopher Street. What began at Stonewall developed over the next five days into a tidal wave of resistance to the repression of the state. Protests and street fights followed this momentous evening in June. LGBTQIA+ people were finally noticed, and the extent of discrimination was recognized by the government, the authorities and society.
What happened next: CSD and Pride Month
Shortly after the Stonewall Riots, the Gay Liberation Front was founded to promote visibility for same-sex lovers. A year later, the first non-violent, colorful, and loud parade called “Christopher Street Liberation Day” was organized in commemoration of the events at the Stonewall Inn. Although there were already the first organizations that stood up for lesbian and gay people before the Stonewall Riots, they were not as successful as the “Gay Liberation Front”.
What is often forgotten in the context of the Stonewall Riots, however, is the key role of Black trans* women* who were at the forefront of the struggle for justice and drove the uprising. Therefore, we should not only remember the day itself but also Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were the first to resist.
Unfortunately, the development of equality is not always equally distributed, for example, trans* people are often affected by multiple discrimination. Social acceptance is slow and does not include all existences of the queer community. This is why we still need Christopher Street Day, the parades, the visibility, and the uprising. The global movement that celebrates Pride Mont every June is growing with each year and more and more people are fighting for the rights of marginalized minorities. For example, at the CSD 2019 in Berlin, there were 1,000,000 people and they walked the streets with the slogan “Stonewall 50 – Every riot starts with your voice”.
The decriminalization of homosexuality in many countries, adoption rights and same-sex marriage are milestones that can be celebrated during Pride Month. In doing so, we should be guided by history and achievements to develop future perspectives and raise our voices.