The history and importance of Pride Month

The very first Pride was actually a riot. In 1969, local police took advantage of laws that banned dressing in clothes that did not match the gender on one’s ID to raid a gay bar known as the Stonewall Inn. This inspired many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to riot in what is now known as the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. A year later in 1970, the first Gay Pride Liberation March took place to commemorate the event. 30 years later in 1999, Bill Clinton officially proclaimed June as Pride Month. Since then Pride has become an annual event in many countries (in 2022, pride and other LGBTQIA+ visibility events were held in over 100 countries), though it has also received criticism and Pride events were broken up or banned in some countries such as Turkey and Uganda in 2016.

Pride is also celebrated annually here on Orcas. Orcas has a Pride festival that is put together by the community and the Gender and Sexuality Alliance at the school. Our island is seen as a safe place for the LGBTQIA+ community by many people and Pride gives everyone an opportunity to express themselves free of judgement. 

During Pride month and beyond, it is important to take time to educate ourselves on current legislation that is opposing the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly the transgender community. In 2024 alone 27 anti-transgender bills have been proposed, 24 of which have been signed into law. These include bills like AL SB129 which states that “Each public institution of higher education shall ensure that every multiple occupancy restroom be designated for use by individuals based on their biological sex.” Pride month is a time for celebration, but also a time for activism and fighting back against harmful legislation.

Since 1969, when the first Pride took place, the United States have reached several milestones in LGBTQIA+ rights. In 1974, Elaine Noble became the first openly gay candidate to be elected into a state office, in 1982, Wisconsin outlawed discrimination based on sexual activity, the first state to do so, and in 1996 Hawaii became the first state to rule that the state had no legal right to ban same-sex marriage. There has also been progress with discrimination in the military. In 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military openly was repealed, and in 2016, the Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender people openly serving in the military. For a more lighthearted note, in 1978, Gilbert Baker created the very first rainbow pride flag as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community. 

While there is always more to be done, we have come a long way since 1969. Pride has evolved from a riot to a celebration of differences that is recognized in many places across the globe, including our island.