Pride Month: Remembering Stonewall protests 50 years on

Pride month came into existence with the Stonewall Riot which took place on June 28, 1969, in New York and the event is historical because it brought the movement for equal rights out into the streets

Representative Image
Representative Image

Sarahbeth George

For the queer community, pride marches are an occasion for them to come out and express their identity in a vibrant and brilliant array of colours, usually associated with the rainbow which symbolises inclusion at its best. But most don’t know the roots of this day which for each country is different.

Pride month came into existence with the historical Stonewall Riot which took place on June 28, 1969, in New York. It began in the early hours of the morning when the New York Police conducted a raid at the Stonewall Inn, which was a shabby bar that was at that point one of the only spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community to congregate and enjoy themselves. The bar had a history of close links with the mafia at that point in time.

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Social Media)
Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Social Media)

But the day became historical as it led to the formation of organisations such as the Gay Liberation Front, Radical Lesbians and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries among a few others, all which fought for the recognition of LGBTQ+ rights and access to basic opportunities which the US government chose to ignore. A year after this event, the Gay Liberation Front led the first Pride Parade or the Christopher Street Liberation Day March as it was then known.

This particular event was also significant because of two individuals, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, members of the community who were often shunned even by individuals within the gay community because they were front runners in this fight for recognition and equality. They led the march that changed the course of history for queer individuals around the world by forcing the world to acknowledge their existence and give them the rights they deserve.

They went on the create spaces for other members of the transgender community and others who were pushed to the outskirts of society. This is not to say that the gay movement hadn’t begun long before, the formation of groups and spaces for members of the queer community had already begun in other parts of the world, such as in Belgium and in other parts of Europe.

The movement still has miles to go before they have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it is important to remember and acknowledge those who fought for their rights as it allowed several people in this century to be open about their sexuality.

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Published: 23 Jun 2019, 1:00 PM