Pride Month is during the month of June and is a time to celebrate and uplift the 2SLGBTQIA+ community while also bringing awareness to issues affecting queer people around the world. But what many might not know is how Pride Month came to be, and the people who helped create it.
Pride Month first saw its beginnings in the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, in New York City when police raided a popular gay club called Stonewall Inn. The raid caused a riot that led to six days of protests and the Stonewall Riots were the catalyst for the gay rights movement and gay liberation, not just in the U.S but around the whole world.
A year after the riots on June 28, 1970 people marched in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in what was America’s first gay pride parade.
Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were two trans WOC who were two of the most important figures during the Stonewall Riots. They were leaders who committed their lives to social justice and bringing change.
They co-founded the STAR (Street Transvetite Action Revolutionaries) that gave shelter to homeless LGBTQ+ youth with a focus on transgender or POC youth and opened the first LGBTQ+ youth shelter in North America.
It’s important that we recognize that despite the discrimination they faced outside and inside the community, Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera worked tirelessly to bring change and should be remembered for all that they’ve done for the LGBTQ+ community.
Another person who’s been forgotten but should be remembered for their impact is Stormé DeLarverie a lesbian singer, drag performer and bouncer who is widely believed to have thrown the first punch that set off the protests and riots against the police. She was a gay rights activist who was the first person to fight back against police raiding Stonewall Inn and should be remembered for her actions.
On August 28, 1971, the first gay rights protest occurred in Canada in Ottawa and Vancouver. A year later in 1972, the first Pride celebration in Toronto occurred with a picnic at the Toronto Islands. Canada’s first gay publication, The Body Politic, was created in 1971 as well.
In the 80s the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Canada had a harmful effect on the gay community. Gay men felt that the government was not prioritizing their health or clarifying the misconception that HIV and AIDS were “gay diseases”. In 1983 Canada’s first AIDS service organization, AIDS Vancouver began offering assistance to those with the disease and later in that same year the AIDS Committee of Toronto was formed.
THE 90’s AND 2000’s
In 1992 the ban on gay and lesbians in the military was lifted, in 1994 a ruling was passed that let gays and lesbians apply for refugee status because of facing persecution in their country, and in 1995 a ruling allowed same-sex couples to adopt in Ontario.
In 2003 same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario and on July 20, 2005, Bill C-38 became a federal law allowing same-sex marriage to be legalized in all of Canada, making Canada the fourth country in the world to do so.
There is still more work to be done, especially in the case of trans rights in Canada with only Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories explicitly stating gender identity under their human rights codes.
It’s crucial that we understand the history of pride month and all the people who gave their lives to help us get to where we are now. Pride Month is a time to reflect on how far we’ve come and celebrate and uplift queer and trans people because there was a time when you couldn’t.
Even when June ends we still need to continue to celebrate and uplift because while Pride Month may “end” being queer never does and it’s important that we recognize that.
By Bethel Eshetu and Emma Assad