I’m sure that most of you have noticed the unusual quantity of rainbow flags waving in the wind recently. There’s a reason for that, June is Pride Month. What is Pride Month, you ask? Pride Month is a month dedicated to recognizing and celebrating Gay Rights and the overall LBGTQ+ community.
Police marching in Toronto’s Pride Parade (photo from Complex.com)
→ Let’s go all the way back to the Stonewall Riots:
The Stonewall riots were a series of protests and police clashes that occurred between the 28th and 29th of June 1969 in New York City. Stonewall Inn was a gay bar and a place of refuge in a city where gay relationships were illegal and America’s judicial system was angled against these minorities. Moreover, being gay was classified as a mental illness until it was taken out of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1973. Because of this perception of homosexuality, police often badgered the bar.
The night of June 28th, policemen entered the bar as it was selling alcohol without a liquor license. But the confrontation escalated into something bigger as New York City’s law dictated that police had the right to arrest any individual without at least three pieces of clothing that were deemed “gender – appropriate”. Instead of dispersing, the throng of over 400 people rose up against the law enforcement officers.
The Stonewall riots came at a time when America was changing immensely. The backdrop of the riots was the civil rights movements and the counterculture during the Vietnam war. Furthermore, people had grown increasingly angry of the constant harassment the gay community had been subjected to. The Stonewall uprising is considered the seed that planted the gay rights movement.
→ The Beginnings of the Gay Liberation:
Although the Stonewall riots were considered to be the turning point for gay rights, the Mattachine Society as well as other smaller groups also immensely contributed to the social justice of the community.
Mattachine Society formed in the early 1950s and was lead by Harry Hay. Hay also published essays and manifestos such as “The Homosexual in America” in 1951. The Mattachine pursued two main things: to end anti-gay discrimination as well as creating a gay community. In order to do this, they supported the community by allowing members to share their experiences but also published ONE Magazine, the first pro-gay magazine. In addition to this, the Mattachine Society paved the way for other gay movements such as the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) as well as the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA).
→ The Situation Today:
Despite all the progress we’ve made in the last few decades, it is evident that there is more that needs to be done.
Indeed, according to mental health statistics. It is estimated that LGBTQ+ youths are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their ‘straight’ peers. Moreover, it is reported that 40% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide.
Furthermore, the stigma is still very much present, especially in religious contexts and communities. An example of this was the punishment for gay sex that the Sultan of Brunei sought to implement earlier this year as part of its Sharia law. Although it was not enforced, it still shows the danger that one’s sexual identity still represents. Even in places where religious law isn’t in place, there is still ongoing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. The USA’s military recently adopted the directive that dictates that transgender men and women are not allowed to enlist unless they register as their birth gender which echoes the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The “DADT” policy was established under the Clinton administration, whereby LGBTQ+ servicemen and women were asked not to disclose or discuss their sexual orientation, essentially banning any openly gay individuals from the army. It was later abolished in 2011. In even more recent news, straight pride will be held in Boston in August. But doesn’t this defeat the whole purpose of Pride Parade and do straight people really need pride? Some suggest that this contentious parade is homophobic and ‘unnecessary’.
Personally, I believe that this time isn’t for them and that they are not the “oppressed majority” they claim to be, and are not the victims. Pride is about acknowledging the LGBTQ+ community and recognizing their struggle and straight people should remain allies. One can even go as far as to say that Straight Pride resembles the “All Lives Matter” hashtag and the way it may undermine the Black Lives Matter movement.
What is your take on this debate?
There is still so much to fight for, but let’s not dismiss the progress we have made and celebrate this community and their contributions to today’s society.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Stonewall Riots.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 June 2019, https://www.britannica.com/event/Stonewall-riots
Editors, History.com. “Gay Rights.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 28 June 2017, www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/history-of-gay-rights
Editors, History.com. “Gay Rights.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 28 June 2017, https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/history-of-gay-rights
“Facts About Suicide.” The Trevor Project, 2019, https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/preventing-suicide/facts-about-suicide/
Gunia, Amy. “Brunei Says It Won’t Enforce Death by Stoning for Gay Sex.” Time, Time, 6 May 2019, https://time.com/5583513/brunei-gay-sex-stoning-enforcenment/
Kaczorowski, Craig. “Mattachine Society.” Glbtqarchive, 2015. http://www.glbtqarchive.com/ssh/mattachine_society_S.pdf
Miller, Ryan W. “Controversial ‘Straight Pride’ Parade Gets Approval from Boston to Be Held in August.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 27 June 2019, https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/06/27/straight-pride-parade-boston-gets-approval-held-august-31/1581271001/
“Stonewall Riots.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 June 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots#Gay_Activists_Alliance
“Transgender Personnel in the United States Military.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17
Turner, Christopher. “Pride Toronto Announces Police Can March In 2019 Pride Parade.” Complex, Complex, 16 Oct. 2018, www.complex.com/life/2018/10/pride-toronto-announces-police-can-march-2019-pride-parade
“What’s the Point of a Straight Pride March?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 June 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2019/jun/05/d-straight-men-need-a-pride-like-parade-to-celebrate-being-er-straight
Yalzadeh, Ida. “Mattachine Society.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mattachine-Society