Pride Season is in the air with Long Beach Pride behind us and LA Pride coming up in a week!
Lest we forget, the first Pride was a riot.
Let’s go back to 1960s America. It was the height of the McCarthy Era and the Cold War. Post WWII, the country was overtaken by a deep and pervasive fear of Communism, spies, infiltrators, and immoral outsiders in general. Many intellectuals and social activists were put on trial and incarcerated. The overarching goal was to restore “normality” and “traditional values.”
Homosexuality was still listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a “sociopathic personality disturbance.” Many suspected and actual LGBTQ individuals were forced to undergo invasive therapy techniques and some were involuntarily committed to mental institutions for long stretches of time. Heavy crackdowns of gay bars occurred regularly. Men who were caught in women’s clothing in these bars were subjected to humiliating examinations by police to determine their sex and were subsequently arrested. Many LGBTQ individuals were ousted from their jobs and openly harassed. It was dangerous to associate with institutions that serviced the queer community, and there were very few safe places.
All of this building tension came to a head in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, one of the only remaining bastions for marginalized groups to meet and be authentic. Police raided the bar and the crowd got rowdy. It was not long before more people gathered around to watch the arrests and objects were thrown, names were called, and violence broke out on both sides.
Rioting went on well into the night and tactical police forces had to be called. Eventually the demonstrators were dispersed but they continued to meet in secret to discuss the implications of the riots.
For the first time, the queer community had made it clear that they had had enough of the mistreatment and hostility they were subjected to everywhere they went.
They were not going to stand idly by. They were going to be out of the streets, loud and proud!
LGBTQ solidarity groups began forming all across the country, the tradition of having parades and weekend long celebrations come from that time in history.
So we owe a debt to those that came before, those that bled and those that stood up We have a lot to be grateful for during Pride Week, while remembering that our community, like many others, is also a work in progress.