The month of June is upon us, which means that Pride Month is here. The culmination of different stories, backgrounds, and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. Pride may be seen as something of the upmost importance or as something trivial. The importance of Pride, however, is as important as it was when it was celebrated in 1970. While Pride Month is a time for members of the LGBTQ+ community to acknowledge how far we’ve come, celebrate where the community is today, and to take pride in who they are, it is also a time to represent an international community that does not share the same freedoms worldwide. It is a time to represent and be a voice to those who are not allowed to be who they truly are.
The history of Pride Month is linked to the Stonewall Riots of 1969 , which occurred when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that served as a refuge because the solicitation of homosexual relations was considered an illegal act in urban areas at that time. Police raids were nothing new at the time, and with this came police harassment. Many were brutalized by the police, and while police continued to raid the inside of the bar, a crowd of over 400 people formed outside the bar and police barricaded themselves inside . The barricade was breached several times and eventually the building was set on fire. The crowd dispersed, but the riot continued on and off for five more days. This tragic event has been considered one of the first times that the LGBTQ+ community came together in order to fight against discrimination.
It may seem as though much has changed since 1969, however, many members of the LGBTQ+ community still face discrimination and are not always accepted for who they are. While the United States has progressed, there are still over 70 countries that have not legalized same-sex marriage, and some allow homosexuality to be punishable by death. This year, Brunei, a southeastern Asian country, was about to make gay sex punishable by stoning, but then extended the moratorium of the law. Couples in countries that have made gay marriage legal are still being harassed and beaten in the streets. In countries all over the world, children are still being kicked out of their homes and forced to find shelter elsewhere. People are committing suicide in order to end the shame they feel because of their identity, in order to deal with the lack of acceptance that exists, and the lack of love they feel. It is for those in other parts of the world who are unable to celebrate their identity, let alone share their identity without resulting in some form of punishment that we share this message today.
So why is Pride important? It is an opportunity for people to express themselves, to be proud of who they are, to show that they are not ashamed, to celebrate others, and to celebrate the battles that have been fought in order to get to where the LGBTQ+ community is today.
There is still much needed to be done, but for now, we celebrate. The National Youth Advocate Program celebrates our LGBTQ youth, our LGBTQ families and our community at large embracing differences, our collective history and our determination to Care for People, Connect Communities and Promote Peace. We celebrate, we love, and we embrace the community.
“The beauty of standing up for your rights is others will see you standing and stand up as well.”
– Columnist Cassandra Duffy