Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

The Origins of Pride: Stonewall 101

With the long-awaited arrival of summer (and summer vacation!), June is one month that everyone’s sure to get excited for. This is especially true for the LGBTQ+ community, with pride festivals popping up in big cities all around the world. There are rainbow flags fluttering in the breeze and music pumping through the streets—and we can’t help but get excited.

Few people know how pride really got started, or even why June is the time of year when pride festivals happen. When people celebrate pride, it’s not just a celebration of identity. Pride marks the anniversary of history’s first queer rights demonstration at the Stonewall Inn. Here’s the breakdown on some Stonewall History 101, the events, the facts, and why they’re important to the LGBTQ+ community today.

How it All Started

Let’s throw it back to the late 1960s. At this time, expressing any “homosexual tendencies” in public was outlawed. People were forced to stay in the closet for the majority (if not the entirety) of their lifetime due to the dangerous stigma that was attached to coming out. Many private gay bars, clubs, and other establishments were frequently raided and shut down. That is, until one fateful summer night when the one crowd of queer partygoers had enough.

On June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Gay men, lesbians, and drag queens alike were violently dragged by the police out of a place that was supposed to be a safe haven. The officers rallied them up like criminals into the back of police cars. But all of a sudden, bottles flew through the air, aimed at the policemen who were arresting owners and patrons of the bar. Two officers were injured before reinforcements were called to contain the angry mob of people who arose to defend what was rightly theirs: a safe space to be who they were.

The Start of Something Bigger

This one fateful night was the beginning of many others to come. The police returned to Stonewall the following night to find that the crowd had become even larger than before. For days following, there were many protests and discussions that came about concerning the civil rights of the country’s queer community. From these discussions came not only the word “gay” to define the queer community, but also the formation of the first advocacy groups, publications, and general support for within the community. Some of these include the Gay Liberation Front and a citywide newspaper called Gay.

On the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, big cities across the country such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago, celebrated their first annual pride parades. Within the first two years of the riots, gay rights groups had been formed in almost every big city across the country.

Why it Matters

Pride weekend is so much bigger than just a festival, a parade, or a bunch of parties. It is a celebration of triumph over years of discrimination, hardship and straight-out bullying. Why a parade? It’s a whole other level of empowerment when there’s an actual parade to celebrate. It’s when people from all different walks of life can come and celebrate love in all its beautiful and unique forms.

Even in revolutionary historical events such as these, we also must be able to critique how they were carried out. While the Stonewall movement was started by drag queens and other genderqueer people, the protests and demonstrations lead afterwards were mostly policed by gay white men. Voices like that of trans woman activist Sylvia Rivera were silenced and booed whenever they tried to speak up. While the world today is getting to a more trans-inclusive space with figures like Caitlyn Jenner, Janet Mock, and Laverne Cox, we can all agree that there is always more work to do.

So if you find yourself in the bustle of New York City this summer for pride, be sure to make a pit stop by the Stonewall Inn to see where it all began. For those of you who will be celebrating pride in your own cities, make sure to remember the great significance of all of those who fought for your right to rock the rainbow proudly.

Barbara Gonzalez is a recent grad of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications with a minor in [email protected]/[email protected] Studies. She hails from New York City, and yes, that does mean Manhattan. Her obsessions consist of writing down anything that comes to mind, YA novels, and anything with pink on it. You can tweet her and follow her on instagram @ohhaibarbie
Similar Reads👯‍♀️