History of the Pride Month

by Zoe Elyse

It is now June, which means Pride Month has begun. It seems like Pride month has turned into a celebration- focused around the big parades, glitter, and rainbows- but it’s important to remember the roots of this movement.

The Stonewall Riot’ is a term everybody recognizes, but not many know the full story behind. I will be the first one to admit I didn’t know what Stonewall was until a few years ago, despite being a member of the LGBT+ community.

An old and well-known hotspot of the gay community, the Stonewall Inn, is located in New York City. In the 1960s, it was owned by the Mafia who would blackmail their wealthier customers (Carter 2004).

In 1969, plainclothes police entered the bar in search of evidence, but some sources claim they were there after refusing a bribe from the mafia (Carter 2004).

Quickly, it was seen that this would not be a standard raid. During a normal procedure, those dressed in women’s clothing were to be searched by female police, and those found to be cross-dressing would be arrested. But this time, many did not comply.

As patrons refused to cooperate, tensions steadily began to grow.

Maria Ritter, a transgender woman not yet out to her family, stated

“My biggest fear was that I would get arrested. My second biggest fear was that my picture would be in a newspaper or on a television report in my mother's dress! (Carter 2004)”

As patrons that were not arrested were told to leave the bar, they congregated outside to watch what was happening. As they became more and more agitated, the violence began to grow. And it all exploded when the unsettled patrons began throwing objects, specifically pennies, and bottles, at the police.

So who threw the first brick at Stonewall? This has become a popular chant among the LGBT+ community, and while the answer is disputed, many claim it was Marsha P. Johnson.

Johnson was a drag queen and an LGBT+ activist. Johnson’s pronouns vary among sources, but in this article, they will be referred to as ‘she’ for consistency.

Johnson most often referred to herself with female pronouns, but it is still not totally clear whether she was transgender or a drag queen (Chan).

Nevertheless, she became an icon of the transgender community. Johnson was an advocate on the behalf of those with AIDS and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, to advocate for transgender youth with her friend Sylvia Rivera.

But did Marsha P. Johnson really throw the first brick at Stonewall? Or is this just a myth to honor her memory?

The truth is, nobody is really confident in who threw the first brick at Stonewall. It was an unlit firecracker lying too close to an open flame and detonated into the riots we know of today.

The Stonewall Inn repeatedly became both a location for people in the LGBT+ community to converge, as well as a target for the New York Police.

The riots spread to newspaper buildings after various newspapers released headlines using homophobic slurs. And in 1970, the very first pride parade began.

In 2019, New York City hosted World Pride as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Pride is both a time of celebration of how much the community has accomplished, as well as a time of remembrance of those who have been lost along the way, especially during the AIDs crisis. Though the parades have been canceled this year due to Covid-19, the spirit of Pride lives on!

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