Why Pride and Its History Matter for Your Family

05.24.2024

Gay pride parades are famous these days and bring to mind floats, music, dancing, drag queens, and lots and lots of rainbows. These exuberant celebrations of LGBTQ+ people are wonderful, but with all the festivities it’s easy to forget why Pride exists in the first place. Today we want to share some history you might not know about this important holiday so you can better understand your LGBTQ+ child’s struggle and the struggle of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.

The movement for LGBTQ+ rights has made incredible strides in the past couple of decades, so it can be surprising for some people to learn about the discriminatory laws and policies that were in place in the United States until fairly recently.

Here are some examples:

  • When the Stonewall Uprising that inspired the Pride movement took place in 1969, there was no legal recognition for same sex relationships in any state in the nation 1.
  • It wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychological Association (APA) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder 4.
  • Until 1966, it was illegal in the state of New York to serve alcohol to a gay person 3.
  • The 1954 Executive Order that banned homosexuals from working for the US government stayed in place until 1993, when Bill Clinton passed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law 2.
  • In 1996, President Clinton passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which upheld states rights to prohibit same-sex marriage and prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage 5.

When you have an LGBTQ+ child, it’s important to know this kind of history so you can be a better ally and parent. The rights your child has, to get married, to adopt a child, to work for the government, to simply be LGBTQ+ and not be considered mentally ill, have all been won within the last 50 years thanks to the tireless work of brave and dedicated activists. Many of those activists got their start in, or were inspired by, the Stonewall Uprising of 1969.

The Stonewall Uprising

In the 1960s, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense and many LGBTQ+ people led their lives in secret. Because the law prohibited gay bars from holding liquor licenses, many operated illegally and were frequently raided by the police. The Stonewall Inn, one of the most popular gay bars in New York City, was no exception. Before the famous uprising, it was raided an average of once a month 6.

On June 28th, however, after another unprovoked raid in which police interrogated and arrested employees and patrons, over 400 people, LGBTQ+ and straight allies, decided to fight back. As the word spread, thousands of people would get involved, and the raid ended up sparking a series of protests that lasted 6 days.

“Many new activists consider the Stonewall Uprising the birth of the gay liberation movement. Certainly it was the birth of gay pride on a massive scale.” – The Gay Crusaders, by Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker, New York: Paperback Library, 1972.

The uprising helped galvanize the gay rights movement and inspired many LGBTQ+ people to stop living in the shadows. While it certainly wasn’t the first time that LGBTQ+ people fought back against discrimination, the scale, length, and timing of the uprising made it a turning point in the movement 8.

In 1970 on the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, activists organized the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, which is widely considered the first Pride parade in history 7 and drew between 3,000 and 5,000 people. There were also parades in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.

The success of the parade surpassed everyone’s expectations, and started a tradition that would grow with each passing year. One of the planners and participants of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, Foster Gunnison Jr., reflected on the positive outcome of the event 9:

“…And each of these 5,000 homosexuals had a new feeling of pride and self-confidence, for that was one of the main purposes of the event to commemorate, to demonstrate, but also to raise the consciences of participating homosexuals to develop courage, and feelings of dignity and self-worth.” – May 1971

After Stonewall

After that very first parade, Pride events and celebrations spread throughout the United States and eventually became a global phenomenon. Today, an estimated 100+ countries around the world have Pride or similar LGBTQIA+ visibility events 10. In New York City alone, the Pride parade draws 3-5 million people annually.

Pride itself has become a month-long celebration. In June 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June the official Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in honor of the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. It has also expanded beyond parades to include educational events, festivals, concerts, picnics, and parties.

These celebrations and events continue to be vitally important to the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people everywhere, especially considering the recent wave of anti-trans legislation sweeping the United States. The fight is not over, so make sure you’re staying informed about laws that could affect your child.

Celebrating Pride with Your Child

We know that for a lot of parents who are just learning about their child’s LGBTQ+ identity, going to a parade or a very public Pride event might seem overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together several blogs over the years to help you find ways to honor and celebrate your child during this special month:

4 Ways that Supportive Parents Show Pride for Their LGBTQ+ Kids

3 Ways to Show Pride for Your Child This Month

For Parents During Pride Month

Why You Should Speak Up for LGBTQ+ People (and How to Do It)

However you choose to celebrate, make sure your child feels loved and supported this month. Share this article with them, do some research together about the positive gains for LGBTQ+ rights, and be grateful to all the people who have fought so that your child could be their authentic self.

Happy Pride!

Sources

  1. A Brief History of the Path to Securing LGBTQ Rights, American Bar Association. July 5, 2022 https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/intersection-of-lgbtq-rights-and-religious-freedom/a-brief-history-of-the-path-to-securing-lgbtq-rights/
  2. LGBTQ Rights Timeline in American History. Teaching LGBTQ+ History. https://lgbtqhistory.org/lgbt-rights-timeline-in-american-history/
  3. Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Missouri State University. June 3, 2021. https://blogs.missouristate.edu/diversity/2021/06/03/celebrating-lgbtq-pride-month/
  4. How LGBTQ+ Activists Got Homosexuality Out of the DSM. JSTOR Daily. May 26, 2021. https://daily.jstor.org/how-lgbtq-activists-got-homosexuality-out-of-the-dsm/
  5. Same-Sex Marriage, State-by-State. The Pew Research Center. June 26, 2015. https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2015/06/26/same-sex-marriage-state-by-state-1/
  6. 1969: The Stonewall Uprising. Library of Congress Research Guides. https://guides.loc.gov/lgbtq-studies/stonewall-era
  7. LGBTQ Activism. The Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/united-states-history-primary-source-timeline/post-war-united-states-1945-1968/lgbtq-activism/
  8. What was the Stonewall Uprising? National Geographic. June 1, 2023 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/stonewall-uprising-ignited-modern-lgbtq-rights-movement
  9. The History of Pride: How Activists Fought to Create LGBTQ+ Pride. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/ghe/cascade/index.html?appid=90dcc35abb714a24914c68c9654adb67
  10. Pride Around the World. Outright International. 2022. https://outrightinternational.org/pride-map#intro

Photo courtesy of Brian Kyed from Unsplash