June is globally recognized as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. All across the globe, we see the rainbow flag catch wind to proclaim the visibility of this community. In 1978, this widely accepted symbol for the LGBTQ rights movement was designed by artist Gilbert Baker, an openly gay man, and drag queen. The flag is often seen during this month flying proudly to celebrate the identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning, intersex, or asexual people.
Despite the joyous, glittery celebration in the streets, the origins of pride month were not all sunshine and rainbows. This month of celebration was born in honor of the Stonewall riots, which took place in New York City in June 1969. This event is regarded as a catalyst for the LGBTQ movement whose legacy is still felt today.
In the middle of the night on June 28th, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a known gay club located in Greenwich Village. After years of harassment from law enforcement and social discrimination, the club community grew tired. On this particular night, they chose to take a stand resulting in a series of violent clashes in New York City for six days. Thousands took to the streets with a desperate cry for change to be perceived and treated equally with their heterosexual counterparts.
On the one-year anniversary of this horrific event, members of the LGBTQ community in New York City took to the streets again walking from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park reciting chants in unison. History recognizes this event as the first gay pride parade in the United States. As a result, June has since been recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month. This is not only in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots but also in the acknowledgment of all those in the community who were met with adversities for embracing their identity.
Though a lot of progress has been made in the advancement of rights for the LGBTQ community, many still suffer abuse, harassment, marginalization, and exclusions. We owe so much of modern pop culture to the LGBTQ community–from music to fashion to dance to makeup techniques but their narratives are often left out of the conversation. Others have fearlessly joined the armed forces only to be rejected by the very land they served to protect.
Despite the rainbows plastered on storefronts, or flags posted on cash registers, there is still employment discrimination. There are elected officials in 2021, ruling over the body autonomy of women. There are laws enabling hospitals to turn transsexual individuals away. Trans/non-binary people are being purposely misgendered in institutions disrupting their paths to self-discovery and only adding to the trauma of being historically ostracized. Not to mention hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, specifically, Black and Brown transgender women, have ticked up in the past few years.
Where the hatred starts is where it could end-- at home. Younger generations must practice compassion, empathy, open-mindedness, and acceptance. This is especially crucial in creating a safe space to allow them to grow into their identities.
There is an undeniable strength in existing in your truth. For many, acceptance is the gold at the end of this rainbow. Forging a truly inclusive society that does not impede upon a human’s right to own their identity takes efforts beyond June. It takes research and understanding, calling and petitioning, questioning and bettering.
Community takes unity! As we continue to celebrate and honor LGBTQ Pride this month and beyond, similarly to my last blog post discussing Black Music Month, we should make efforts to support LGBTQ+ artists, business owners, organizations, and more. Find causes you are passionate about within the community and donate or share with others who are able. Let’s be a part of the change.
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Peace, blessings, and pride,
Kaiya Nyasha (@kaiyanyasha)