The Pride Month that we know, today has a rich and often untold history. From the creation and meaning of the rainbow flag to the protests that started it all, here are three things you may not have known about Pride Month.
1. June is Pride Month because of the Stonewall Riots.
Pride Month is celebrated in June in several different places worldwide. Police raided the Stonewall Inn (located in Greenwich Village, New York City) on June 28th, 1969. These were a series of spontaneous and violent riots where members of the LGBTQIA+ community fought back against unauthorised police brutality. They lasted approximately five days. The Stonewall Inn was a place for those who were ostracised from society – lesbians, effeminate young men, prostitutes, drag queens, transgender people and homeless youth. Very few establishments welcomed people from the LGBTQIA+ community in the 1950s and ’60s. These riots catalysed the gay rights movement in 1969 – they are one of the most important events leading up to the gay liberation movement and LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States.
2. The Pride Parade stems from a protest for rights.
Pride month is celebrated annually with a parade nearing the end of June and the beginning of July (of course, preceding COVID-19’s restrictions on mass gatherings). The concept of the Pride march and the parade originated from the response to the Stonewall Riots. Shortly after them, at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organisations in Philadelphia, gay rights activists proposed a march to respond to what had occurred at Greenwich Village in New York. The very first Pride march was on June 28th, 1970 – exactly a year after the beginning of the Stonewall Riots. The theme of the march was ‘pride’ – in hopes that members of the LGBTQIA+ community felt a sense of pride regarding their identity. The Gay Liberation movement was a social and political movement that urged community members to counter societal shame with gay pride. Basic activism consisted of coming out to friends and family and living life as an openly queer person: openly, honestly and without fear.
3. The Pride flag originally had eight colours, each with its own meaning.
Gilbert Baker was an openly gay man and a drag queen who designed the first rainbow flag in 1978 to symbolise pride for the gay community. In an interview, he stated:
‘Our job as gay people was to come out, to be visible, to live in the truth, as I say, to get out of the lie. A flag fit that mission because that’s a way of proclaiming your visibility or saying, ‘This is who I am!”
In Baker’s original version of the flag, red represented life; orange for healing; yellow for sunlight; green for nature; turquoise for art; indigo for harmony; violent for spirit and pink for sex.
The first versions of the rainbow flag were flown in 1978, on June 25th (for the Gay Freedom Day parade in San Francisco) – Baker and a team of volunteers made them all by hand. After this, he wanted to mass-produce the flag, but production issues lead to the pink and turquoise stripes being removed from the flag and the indigo was replaced with a primary blue. This resulted in the more familiar six-striped flag. The many vibrant colours reflect both diversity and unity within the LGBTQIA+ community.