Pride parades are increasingly common in recent years, and while their attendance has shot up, not that many people know of their true history. These parades that have been come to known as events with extravagant performances, floats, and outfits have not always been quite the celebration that we see them as today.
Photo: Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash
What is widely regarded as the first pride parade or march actually arose as a result of the anniversary of Stonewall. Stonewall refers to the police raid that was staged in a gay bar in New York City. Patrons fought back, and the days-long protest that followed have become known as the Stonewall Riots.
Not long after the Stonewall Riots, the fifth “annual reminder” picket protest was held outside of Independence Hall. When the atmosphere at the protest was markedly different following the aftermath as protestors started to decry the inability for public displays of affection, it was noted that some change must be made. Before the end of the year, a meeting was held to plan for a march in place of the “annual reminder” that would commemorate the one year anniversary of Stonewall.
In contrast with older LGBT activist attempts, but in accordance with some of the virtues of the Civil Rights Movement, thousands gathered for a march through New York in 1970 that was both a celebration and a present, and were not restricted by dress or age. For the first time, the idea of gay pride had become something to be outspoken about, with the chant being, “say it loud, gay is proud”.
This took place on June 28, and multiple other cities held gay demonstrations around the same time, although facing many obstacles. In Los Angeles, organizers were told that they would have to pay fees exceeding $1.5 million, and only with the help of the ACLU were they able to hold their march. Such discriminatory acts are part of the reason that many thought that the marches were necessary for change. However, after overcoming the barriers, Los Angeles held their pride march and still proclaim proudly today to be the first city to hold a successful permitted pride parade.
These cities and others have followed in that same vein for years since that first day, but are increasingly seen as less of a protest and more of a celebration. Under presidents such as Clinton and Obama, June was declared Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, dating back to 1999. A national declaration of pride month in light of the original protests demonstrates their success and impact.
If you decide to go to a Pride parade this year, remember that its history does not lie in smiles and rainbow stickers. Celebration and recognition is important, but so is recalling that Pride’s foundations still resonate today: change needs to be made.
Sarah DeLena is currently studying for her masters in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College. She hopes to become an editor of YA literature, her favorite genre, own at least two golden retrievers, and further the legacy of the Oxford comma.