The Evolution of Pride

It's finally June, the month of sunshine, travelling and PRIDE! So, what is Pride all about? When did it start? What are we celebrating? Our very own Liam Arne, Label's LGBTQ+ Editor, has you covered with everything you need to know about Pride.

June is an exciting time for Label’s LGBTQ+ section for one primary reason- it’s Pride Month! Cities across the world celebrate diverse queer identities and create a safe space for queerness in June. The “first pride” is often considered to be the anti-police brutality riots spearheaded by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera at the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City on June 22, 1969, hence why Pride typically takes place during June.

Queer activists began organising in June to demand their rights and come together as a community. Today, Pride focuses on reinforcing the sense of community among LGBTQ+ identified people amidst politically-threatening environments.

Last June, tragedy struck as 49 people were murdered at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This violent act demonstrated queer people’s lack of safety despite alleged improvements in civil rights like marriage equality. This catastrophe targeted queers of colors as Pulse was hosting its Latin Night.

This year, many Pride events featured vigils remembering those lost to homophobic and transphobic violence in Orlando and internationally. Some remembrances, such as those that took place at Stonewall, focused on challenging legislation concerning access to the types of weaponry utilized in the Pulse attack.

During coverage of these aspects of Pride, a Fox News guest, Chadwick Moore, claimed that this alliance between queer activists and gun control advocates is uncharacteristic since “most gay people aren't political. Most gay people, you know, they care about pop music and going to the beach.”

Moore’s commentary is homophobic and condescending, assuming all queer people are inherently one-dimensional and apolitical pursuing superficial hedonism exclusively. He ignores historically political queer narratives around Stonewall, the AIDS epidemic, marriage equality, and trans rights, let alone LGBTQ+ engagement in other social movements.

In 2017, Prides in many areas has contrasted Moore’s discriminatory assertions. The Pride Parade in Los Angeles transformed into a Resistance March, reflecting change to a consciously political queer perspective following the election of Vice President Mike Pence, who is known for his prominently anti-gay beliefs.

Gay male culture is notoriously criticized for its perpetuation of racism. In Philadelphia, Pride organizers decided to reform the famed rainbow Pride flag and include black and brown stripes to the multi-colored fabric to promote greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people of color and their unique challenges within the greater queer community. Though some cisgender white gay men reacted negatively to the revision claiming it allegedly overemphasizes race, others see the new flag as representative of a more inclusive community (at least superficially).

Furthermore, concerns of failed attempts at intersectionality inspired demands for change from Pride organizers and all queer people complicit in systems of oppression such as institutional racism, misogyny, transphobia, or abusive capitalism. Over the last few years, Pride has increasingly been sponsored by corporations to engender profits from LGBTQ+ (predominantly upper-middle class, white gays and lesbians) consumption.

Protestors stalled the Pride Parade in Washington, D.C. for hours. Queer activists mobilized to confront Wells Fargo’s sponsorship of Pride while threatening Native Americans’ livelihoods. Additionally, Black Lives Matter protestors questioned police officers’ involvement in Pride noting that black queer people, particularly trans women of color, continue to face discrimination and violence from law enforcement.

Ultimately, Pride has begun to re-embrace its political role more explicitly throughout the United States and the world, a welcomed return by many to its radical queer origins. However, many continue to find joy and community in celebratory Pride events which focus on famous headliners and alcohol. This environment is complicated by the increasing presence of young straight peoples (with varying levels of allyship) at Pride seeking fun parties and liberal credentials as LGBTQ+ supporters.

When attending Pride events this year and in the future, be cognizant of Pride’s history as an act of resistance against heteropatriarchy and the importance of intersectionality. Please be aware of your responsibility as an LGBTQ+ person or active ally to engage with queer politics during Pride Month and everyday.