The Importance of Pride Month

Pride Month is a month that means so much to so many different people throughout the LGBTQIA+ community Pride Month is the month where LGBTQIA+ people across the nation are able to be proud of their sexualities and identities. Not that we can’t be proud of our identities throughout the rest of the year, but Pride Month just serves the purpose of shining a spotlight on the LGBTQIA+ community and the people in it. Another purpose to Pride Month is recognize what it took to get to where we are now and the people that pushed for that change. Now more than ever we are fighting for our freedom to love, freedom to identify, and the freedom to be ourselves. Let’s take a look at the LGBTQIA+ communities' fight to exist, past and present.


The Stonewall Riots: A Catalyst in LGBTQIA+ History

Throughout history the LGBQIA+ community has fought for their right to exist. They have done so mostly though protesting, legislature, and if provoked, self defense. One example and probably the most well known of these was The Stonewall Riots. These riots were caused when The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, was subjected to a police raid. The Stonewall Inn was a bar that welcomed drag queens, gay runaways, gay people, and lesbians. The bouncer would vet people by seeing if they “looked gay”. This was all an attempt to stop the frequent police raids that plagued gay bars, as serving gay people liquor was illegal. Sadly, even after all the precautions, on June 28th 1969 at 1:20 a.m. six police officers began a raid on the Stonewall Inn. They breached the doors and sent about 205 people into a panic. They then would start following the normal raid procedure, which was to line people up and check identification. People who dressed as women were checked by women police to ensure that they were “biologically women ''. This time however would be different. After decades of not being allowed to be served in bars and having to endure police raids, they weren’t going to just let the police continue to treat them like less than human. They would refuse to go to bathrooms to check their sex. Refuse to give identifications. At every step the police got more and more agitated and began harassing them. Some lesbians that were there even said the police had sexually assaulted them. People who weren’t arrested were let go, but refused to leave, standing outside the Inn. The mob grew as more and more people joined to see what was happening. As police were dragging a woman out she called for someone to do something before police bashed her over the head with a baton and dragged her to a police wagon. This caused the mob to rise in uproar and become hostile towards the police, throwing things at them. Police tried to restrain people by knocking them down, which only angered the crowd. The police were forced to barricade themselves in the Inn to protect themselves. As they called for backup people started lighting things on fire and set the Inn ablaze. Riot police ended the riot by around 4:00 a.m. By then the streets were mostly empty, but when the smoke cleared the message was loud and clear. The LGBTQIA+ community wouldn’t be complacent anymore. For six more days LGBTQIA+ people protested and clashed with the police. When the riots and protests stopped it was very clear that LGBTQIA+ people weren’t staying silent anymore. Stonewall catalyzed the LGBTQIA+ communities push for rights. Many organizations formed in response to Stonewall. Another big effect of Stonewall was that a year later on the anniversary of Stonewall there was the first pride march. It was in Central Park in New York City on June 28, 1970. This would lead to many other marches being formed, which would later form into what is now known as pride month.


The Compton Cafeteria Riot: A Precursor to Stonewall

Although the Stonewall riots were a big turning point for LGBTQIA+ rights there were other similar events. Even before Stonewall LGBTQIA+ people wanted to fight for their right to exist as long as they’ve been around. One of these examples before Stonewall Was the Compton Cafeteria Riot. Compton Cafeteria was a restaurant chain located in San Francisco. One of these restaurants was a place where drag queens and transgender women (who were not welcome at gay bars) would gather to socialize. This location would call the police on them saying that these people were loitering and making them lose business. They would also go as far as to harass them and make them pay fees to try to get them to leave. Many of these transgender women and drag queens turned to sex work, as that was their only means to survive. They were also constantly harassed by police and after all of this injustice they had faced they were done with doing nothing to stand up for themselves. This ended up causing the Compton Cafeteria Riot.  The exact date of this riot is unknown due to no media coverage at the time. The riot was sometime in August of 1966. The riot began when police were called and they tried to arrest a trans woman inside of Compton Cafeteria. She resisted and threw coffee in the officer's face. This caused an uproar and trans women and drag queens threw objects like utensils and salt shakers at police. This throwing of items shattered a window. They also hit police with their heels and purses. The cops were forced to back up into the streets to call backup causing the fighting to spread. They damaged police cars and burnt down a sidewalk newsstand. Police were able to quickly end the riot explained by an account from a police officer at the time saying there was unnecessary violence towards the trans women and drag queens at the riot. This once again shows the LGBTQIA+ communities capability to fight for our existence even when we face overwhelming discrimination. Even when we are treated like less than. We still can fight. 


The Power of Individual Action: Griffin Gracey's Story

I’ve talked about riots and protests and the effect they can have in pushing forward progress of LGBTQIA+ rights, but even as a single person you can make a difference. One such example is Griffin Gracey. She is a trans woman of color who made a big impact on a much smaller scale, as well as helping in different ways. She lived in New York City before she was put in prison. She was released and then moved to San Diego and organized many community efforts and grassroot movements. She worked at a food bank at first, until she went to directly helping trans women who were incarcerated, homeless, or struggling with addiction. She also found herself in the middle of the AIDS Epidemic. So she helped provide medical aid and funerals to people affected. Then in 2003 she began working at Transgender Variant Intersex Justice Project. The goal of this project was to help incarcerated trans women, especially women of color, who are incarcerated at higher rates than other trans people. She helped many trans people that felt left behind or abandoned. She gave those people hope when they were in a state of despair and hopelessness. When their very existence was illegal. So even if you’re just one person, that is all it takes to make a difference. 


The Role of Organizations: STAR

There are also many organizations that formed to help LGBTQIA+ people. One such organization was STAR or Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. This was founded by two LGBTQIA+ rights activists named Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. In fact both of them were there during Stonewall. It was a radical political group. It also provided housing and other resources to homeless LGBTQIA+ youth. The house was mainly funded by the two founders, who used sex work to pay for the organization. They pushed for recognition of trans people and for furthering LGBTQIA+ rights. They also campaigned for Intro 475, a bill that would protect people from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. Two people made an organization that would fight for their rights and help trans people. 


The Legislative Path: Harvey Milk's Legacy

Another method the LGBTQIA+ community has taken to get rights is through the legislature. If not by fighting bills that would further discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community, then by passing bills that would make it harder to discriminate against us. One person that took the route of the legislature is Harvey Milk. He was the first gay man to be elected in office in California. He was a politician who fought for LGBTQIA+ rights. He was the city supervisor for San Francisco and as supervisor supported a bill that would ban discrimination of housing and employment based on sexuality. Not only that, but he also led opposition against California Proposition 6 in 1978. This proposition would ban gay and lesbian people from being allowed to teach at schools. Harvey Milk very heavily opposed it. The way he went about doing so says something about why homophobia and transphobia exists. He launched a campaign called “Come out Come out Wherever you are.” This encouraged people to come out to family members and friends to show that LGBTQIA+ people are just that, people. This worked as Proposition 6 ended with results being 58% no to 41% yes. The Proposition was blocked and proved that when people are made aware that LGBTQIA+ people are all around them, it causes people to be more accepting of those people. Hating a group of people is easier to do when it isn’t your sibling or friend.

The Ongoing Fight for Rights: LGBTQIA+ Struggles Today

Up until now we have talked about the past fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. The fight for our rights is just as important then as it is now. So let’s talk about our fight now. This year 45 anti-LGBTQIA+ laws have been enacted. There’s a bill in Florida called SB 1674. It was passed and it bans transgender people from being able to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. There’s another bill that passed in Florida called SB 254 that bans all HRT or hormone replacement therapy. These are just a few of the growing number of anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and legislation. While this is becoming a scary situation for the LGBTQIA+ community, especially trans people, some states are fighting back against it. Louisiana managed to reject bill HB648, which would ban gender affirming care for children. Even more states are working to protect gender affirming care in their states. These states are Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Minnesota. All of them have added protections for gender affirming care. Even though it might feel like the laws and bills are overwhelming and that you’re alone, there is an entire community that understands and cares about you.  People are fighting for you and your rights. You are not alone.


The Trevor Project: A Lifeline for LGBTQIA+ Youth

One such organization that helps LGBTQIA+ people is The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization that helps LGBTQIA+ youth. They do this by having a suicide hotline for LGBTQIA+ youth, having a social network so LGBTQIA+ youth have a safe space, research to help LGBTQIA+ either surveys or other inquiries, they educate people on issues relevant to LGBTQIA+ youth, and they advocate for our rights by pushing for policies and laws to help the LGBTQIA+ community. The Trevor Project is so important as they estimate that 1.8 million LGBTQIA+ youth seriously consider suicide every year. This is too high a number to think about and if I do it fills me with this despair. The fact that the hatred against us pushes people to have to consider suicide is saddening. If you are LGBTQIA+ and you are considering harming yourself The Trevor Project’s hotline is 1-866-488-7386. If you need to text you can text 678-678. If you want the suicide prevention hotline it is 988. The way we can stop suicide is by helping people realize they are not alone, especially LGBTQIA+ youth. 

One way we accomplish this goal is through Pride Month itself. It lets people know they are not alone and encourages more and more people to be themselves. Another way we can do so is by reporting it and pushing people to talk about it. The more people that know about issues and the more knowledge spreads the less alone people feel. One example of someone who does this is activist and journalist Erin Reed. She is a trans woman who reports on many anti-LGBTQIA+ issues and laws. She spreads knowledge on anti-LGBTQIA+ so we can be safe and understand what states treat us like second class citizens and which ones don’t. She also spreads positive LGBTQIA+ stories when she can. She even made a map of which states to look out for when concerning anti-trans laws. She proves that spreading information is a really important aspect of fighting for our right to exist. 


Beyond Pride Month

Pride Month is just a month of the year to shine a spotlight on the LGBTQIA+ community. We can show people that they aren’t alone. We can show how many of us there  really are. We can recognize how far we’ve come and how hard people have fought to get here. This is the most accepting age for LGBTQIA+ people, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t discrimination against us. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people that want to eradicate us. It just means we have made progress, so we must continue that progress. The past shows us that we will have opposition every step of the way, but our community made progress back then and we can now. We must continue fighting for our rights just as hard as they did. For every LGBTQIA+ person that has ever fought for our right to exist. For every LGBTQIA+ person. For we are friends, brothers, sisters, siblings, mothers, fathers, parents, and most importantly we are people. We are the LGBTQIA+ community and we are proud. 

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