• Nondiah Khalayi

Pride Month: The History Behind this Grand Festival for the LGBTQIA+ Community

Updated: Oct 9

Every event worth commemorating has a rich history. Until you dig deep into the details of Pride Month, you would not know why the LGBTQIA+ community takes a whole month to celebrate their diverse identity.


People under a huge rainbow flag at a Pride Parade.
People under a huge rainbow flag at a Pride Parade.

LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally.

The + is always added to acknowledge that non-cisgender and non-straight identities are represented, just not shown in the acronym.


LGBTQIA+ and Pride


LGBTQIA+ Pride is the promotion of self-affirmation, equality, and increased visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community. Instead of shame and social stigma that defined the decades before the Pride Month movements, the LGBTQIA+ social group has long evolved to find and express ultimate pride in their identity.

June is Pride Month.


But why is June the Pride Month?


The month of June commemorates the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, also known as Stonewall Rebellion or Stonewall Uprising.

In June 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that served the city's gay, lesbian, and transgender communities. At the time, every form of homosexuality was illegal in every state except Illinois, and social places such as bars and restaurants were not allowed to have gay employees or serve gay patrons.


Stonewall Inn was controlled by the Genovese crime family, who paid corrupt police officers to let them serve gay patrons and blackmailed wealthy gay patrons by threatening to "out" them. While the LGBT community in New York City risked partnering with crime lords, Stonewall Inn provided them a haven that they longed for amidst the hostile and unwelcome environment in the whole country.

On June 24, 1969, police arrested Stonewall employees and confiscated their illegal liquor. On June 27-28, 1969, the police entered Stonewall after midnight, singled out, and arrested cross-dressing patrons.


Roughing up transgender persons in the early hours on June 28, 1969, caused the well-known Stonewall Riots. People in the bar taunted the police and threw pennies and bottles at them.


The LBGT+ community fought back. The time had come to stop being tortured in silence. The Stonewall Riots marked a turning point in the long fight for LGBTQIA+ rights.



People gathered in front of the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall Inn: Today. (Via: Advocate)

June 28, 1970


June 28, 1970, marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York. The LGBTQIA+ community organized the Cristopher Street Liberation March to celebrate the first Gay Pride Week.


LGBT community and supporters chanted, "Say it clear, say it loud! Gay is good, gay is proud!". This inspired similar communities in the US and worldwide to proudly affirm their status and fight for equality.


Three Things You Didn't Know About the Pride Month


1. Pride Parades were not always called Pride Parades

Early pride events were militant-like, often called marches. For example, Gay Liberation Marches or Gay Freedom.

In the 80s and 90s, militancy decreased, and they became parade-structured and adopted the "Pride" language that is often seen today.


2. Only three US presidents have acknowledged Pride Month

While the LGBTQIA+ community has long since held events to commemorate the events of the Stonewall Riots during Pride Month, only two US presidents have acknowledged Pride Month.


President Bill Clinton was the first US President to recognize Pride Month on June 11, 1999.


Ten years later, President Barack Obama issued an official proclamation declaring June Pride Month since 2009. In his 2015 proclamation, he thoughtfully stated,


"All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation. We honor those who have fought to perfect our Union. We continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are."

One part of the White House being illuminated with rainbow colors in recognition of the supreme court decision regarding same-sex marriage, on 26 June 2015.
One part of the White House being illuminated with rainbow colors in recognition of the supreme court decision regarding same-sex marriage, on 26 June 2015. (Via: Michael Reynolds/EPA)

President Joe Biden recently acknowledged Pride Month. He stated that he would not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved and codified into law in his proclamation.


3. Every Color of the Rainbow Flag Means Something

The rainbow flag was originally designed by Gilbert Baker for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Celebration and has long since been adopted by the LGBTQIA+ community to symbolize hope and liberation.


There is meaning in every color of the Rainbow flag.

  • Pink: sexuality

  • Red: life

  • Orange: healing

  • Yellow: the sun

  • Green: nature

  • Turquoise: art and magic

  • Blue: serenity

  • Purple: the spirit


How to Respectfully Celebrate and Support Pride Month


Pride Month is beyond voicing inclusion for LGBTQIA+ persons. It is a month of celebration exhibited by parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia, and concerts by the LGBTQIA+ community and supporters.


Pride Month also incorporates memorials for community members who have died of hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. Most importantly, Pride Month remembers the positive impact the LBGTQIA+ individuals have made on local, national, and international history.


If you are interested in celebrating with the LGBTQIA+ community in this year's Pride Month, there are many ways to get involved.


You can support the LGBTQIA+ community by donating to organizations that fight for LGBTQIA+ rights.


This year's theme is "The Fight Continues." Yes, the fight continues regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic. LGBTQIA+ community deserves inclusion, love, and there is a place for them exactly as they are.


A young woman with the Rainbow flag at a Pride parade.
A young woman with the Rainbow flag at a Pride parade.

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References


https://abcnews.go.com/US/lgbt-pride-month-2021-history-events-parades/story?id=71017699


https://www.history.com/news/stonewall-riots-timeline


https://www.myimperfectlife.com/features/facts-about-pride-month


https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/29/presidential-proclamation-lgbt-pride-month-2015


https://outrightinternational.org/content/acronyms-explained


https://www.presbyterianseniorliving.org/blog/pride-month-facts


https://www.pride.com/pride/2016/6/02/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-pride#media-gallery-media-2


https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/06/01/a-proclamation-on-lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-and-queer-pride-month-2021/



Nondiah Khalayi is a Kenya-based Statistics and Programming student at Kenyatta University, a Health Science student at the University of the People, and also a Content Writer at IYOPS. Being an INFJ-T personality, she enjoys a calm life, coding, data analysis, reading, and writing multiple-niche research-based articles.


Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.