It’s June— and no doubt, you’ll start seeing random posts for Gay Pride celebrations, parties, parades and events, as well as the now ubiquitous rainbow symbol which has come to represent the LGBT community.
The rainbow Pride symbols have even appeared on two prominent buildings on each side of the Atlantic that resonate with Greek Americans. Both the U.S. Embassy in Athens, as well as the Embassy of Greece in Washington DC celebrated Pride in their own way.
To gays and lesbians— and their allies, June is “Pride Month,” but what I’ve realized is that most of my straight friends, not to mention the vast majority of my younger LGBT friends, think Pride is just another excuse to have a parade and celebrate.
Most people don’t know that the first “pride” celebrations were actually riots— the violent kind.
It was June 1969 and gays and lesbians were amongst the most discriminated population groups in the nation.
Across the Atlantic only decades earlier, homosexuals were targeted in Nazi Germany for extermination and were classified in death camps with a pink triangle.
Same-sex relations were outlawed in 49 states and homosexuals were regular targets of everyday discrimination and violence— just because of the way they were born.
Activism had been brewing in cities with large gay populations but no one saw this coming— not even the LGBT activists of the era.
On a balmy June night in 1969, New York City police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn and began harassing patrons— just because they were gay.
It was a defining moment in American history when these subjugated people had enough of the discrimination, enough of the ridicule. Enough of the living in the periphery of society.
The Stonewall Riots, otherwise known as the Stonewall Uprising, lasted three days and nights and saw members of the LGBTQ community come out in full force and fight back against the police, creating a spark that would ignite similar movements throughout the nation.
Ironically today, in states across the country, we are witnessing the attempt to roll back the rights that were won by these activists in the years that followed the Stonewall Riots.
When you see or hear about Pride celebrations, or wonder what all the fuss about with department stores, television shows and much of mainstream America jumping on the “Pride” bandwagon this month, please know where this has all come from.
It comes from the struggle of a particular group of Americans who happened to be born different, who wanted to be treated the same way all other Americans were being treated.
May the memory of these activists of 1969 live on and may today’s activists find inspiration in their zeal and passion.
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