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Pride Month: A History

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June 1st marks the beginning of Pride Month, 30 days of recognizing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Throughout June, marches, parades, and more events celebrate the importance of love, diversity, and pride in one’s sexuality across the United States.

What We Know:

Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. At the time, every state except Illinois considered homosexuality a federal offense. As a result, police would frequently raid gay bars and harass customers.

One of the more notable bars was the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Four days before the riots, the New York Police Department (NYPD) stormed Stonewall, arrested some of its employees, and confiscated their liquor. Officers stated they targeted the location for not holding a liquor license.

On June 28, just after midnight, eight undercover officers entered the hideaway and began arresting people. Alongside the workers, the police singled out drag queens and cross-dressers; New York deemed it illegal to dress up as a member of the opposite sex. While NYPD arrived in cars and on foot to collect the arrested, a nearby crowd grew restless.

According to witnesses, officers manhandled a woman dressed in masculine attire who complained about tight handcuffs. People began to taunt the law enforcement agents, calling them names such as “pigs” and “copper.” The onlookers started throwing objects such as pennies and bottles at the officers and slashed their tires. This made the police retreat and started a demonstration which went on for six nights.

“It was not the first time police raided a gay bar, and it was not the first time LGBTQ+ people fought back, but the events that would unfold over the next six days would fundamentally change the discourse surrounding LGBTQ+ activism in the United States,” the Library of Congress writes.

The Library of Congress deems the riots a “tipping point” for the gay liberation movement. On the first anniversary of Stonewall, organizers assembled a group of 3,000 to 5,000 people and marched from Christopher Street to Central Park. They also created Pride Day and Pride Week to honor those who identified as homosexual, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Pride marches and celebrations expanded to other cities and states throughout the 1970s until they became the occasion we know today.

Former President Bill Clinton declared June as the United States’ official Pride Month in 1999. After him, Presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden have also acknowledged June as Pride Month.

“While the aim of pride day started with a political nature, many cities around the world have such wide acceptance and legal protections that many events have become a celebration of pride for the local LGBTQ+ community,” says the  International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

Throughout June, parades, marches, concerts, parties, and memorials also commemorate those who lost their lives due to anti-LGBTQ+ violence or to HIV/AIDS. Pride parades across the country now draw millions of attendees compared to the 1970 inaugural pride march. The exponential growth of the movement yields further activism in communities, cities, and countries. Some of the largest international parades occur in New York City, São Paulo, and Madrid, while Washington D.C., San Francisco, Key West, and Denver parades gain notable momentum in the United States.

Also prominent during pride month is the rainbow flag, developed in 1978 by US Army veteran Gilbert Baker, which has become the primary symbol of gay rights activism.

Baker’s website explains that each color of the flag has a distinct meaning. The flag represents pillars of pride, namely life, healing, sunlight, nature, serenity, and spirit. This popularized symbol of LGBTQ acceptance is not only prevalent during pride month, but its presence is extensive throughout the year on buildings, cars, and social media alike. 

Since 1969 and the growth of the Pride movement, officials have worked to grant more rights to LGBTQ+ citizens. For example, in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court announced its decision on the case on June 26, 2015, just two days before the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most national pride parades were canceled in 2020. However, depending on state and local guidelines, certain cities may move forward with in-person parades this year. Organizations and institutions will additionally offer online events so LGBTQ+ advocates may demonstrate support virtually.

Black News Alerts hopes 2020’s Pride Month brings joy, peace, and confidence to all our LGBTQ+ readers and allies. We also aim to bring more awareness to LGBTQ+ struggles and stories throughout the month and the whole year.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

LGBTQIA+

Virginia School Board Approves Controversial Transgender Policy

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The Loudoun County School Board voted 7-2 to require teachers to use a student’s preferred pronouns; officials will also allow students to play on their preferred gender’s sports teams.

What We Know:

  • Policy 8040 follows Virginia law, which asked districts to review the updated anti-harassment guidelines. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) released a statement in which leaders said they want their institutions to prioritize all students’ successes. They also want to ensure students feel safe, secure, accepted, and eager to learn in class. In addition, the school division would continue doing its part in creating an open and transparent environment with LCPS partners, community members, and stakeholders.
  • However, some did not want to pass the policy. School Board member Jeff Morse spoke out against the guidelines. He believed Loudoun County schools did not need Policy 8040; in addition, it would not solve the issues it wants to. Morse also claimed the policy forced members’ focus out of education and, thus, could not support it.

“From years past… our teachers, administrators, and counselors are well trained to identify issues and provide emotional support to students,” said Morse.

  • In response, Ian Serotkin, another School Board member, encouraged Morse to hold more conversations with gay and transgender students. Serotkin claimed Morse implied that bullying against members of the LGBTQ+ community no longer occurs in Loudoun County. Therefore, he believed Morse needed to hear more perspectives from students in that community.
  • Supporters of Policy 8040 began celebrating after the board posted its decision on Aug. 11. Equality, Loudoun President Chris Candice Tuck thinks that implementing the new policy in schools this year will allow LGBTQ+ students to learn at their fullest potential.
  • The Loudoun County School Board’s acceptance of this policy comes months after physical education teacher Tanner Cross denounced it. He told the board he would not affirm preferred pronouns because it went against his religion. A debate on free speech and identity began quickly after the Board suspended him for his comments on the policy.
  • The board first publicly considered Policy 8040 in June. Like the Aug. 10 meeting, hundreds attended the meeting.

Policy 8040 additionally permits transgender students to access school facilities that correspond to their “consistently asserted gender identity.”

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Crime

Three People Arrested in Connection to Homophobic Killing of 24-Year-Old

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Three people were arrested by the Spanish police over the killing of a 24-year-old gay male.

What We Know:

  • Samuel Luiz, a nursing assistant, was beaten to death outside of a club in A Coruña on Saturday. Two of Luiz’s friends, Lina and Vanesa, told reporters that Luiz was outside on a video call when two men and one woman attacked him. The three individuals thought Luiz was taking a video of them, and though he and his friends told them he was on a call, one of the individuals began to shout homophobic slurs towards him.
  • Vanesa, who was on the video call with Luiz, stated that the video went dark, but she could still make out the audio. She heard one of the men yell, “either stop recording, or I’ll kill you, fag.” Although she couldn’t make out what was happening, she heard Luiz getting beaten up and Lina yelling to leave him alone. The man eventually stopped, leaving Luiz bruised but alive. He then returned with about 12 others to kick and punch Luiz. Despite emergency services efforts, Luiz later died at the hospital.
  • The killing of Luiz has prompted protests all over Spain, in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and A Coruña. Members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies protested for the arrest of those connected to Luiz’s murder and for protection from LGBTQ+ violence in the area. Many were seen holding signs that said “Justice for Samuel” and rainbow flags with black ribbons on them.
  • Jose Minones, the government’s chief delegate over the area where Luiz was killed, stated in an interview that the incident being ruled a hate crime is not off the table. Minones stated that the investigation is ongoing and that the judge over the case will ultimately decide how to classify this heinous attack.
  • Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called Luiz’s murder a “savage and depraved act.” He has faith in the country’s justice system that all those involved in Luiz’s murder will be captured. Spain has made some efforts to protect the rights of those in the LGBTQ+ community, and Sánchez said he would not tolerate the country moving backward. He showcased his solidarity with those protesting via Twitter.

  • Homophobic attacks have increased over the past few years in many European countries. Two male doctors were attacked in Hungary for kissing in the club. Their attack came weeks after the country decided on an anti-LGBTQ+ law that removed all “educational materials in schools or content on children’s TV that displays diversion from one’s biological sex, change of gender, or portrays homosexuality.”
  • A lesbian couple on a London bus was left bruised and covered in blood after being attacked by teenagers. The group harassed the couple, trying to force them to kiss, and beat them up. This attack resulted in the arrest of five teens between the ages of 15 and 18.

Social rights minister Ione Belarra said she stood with the LGBTQ+ community and voiced that everyone should be free to be who they are. Minones claimed that future arrests may be made as police are still going through footage from security cameras and cell phones, as well as witness statements.

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Headlines

Supreme Court won’t overturn ruling against business that refused service for gay weddings

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The Supreme Court on Friday declined to wade into the contentious issue of whether businesses have a right to refuse service for same-sex wedding ceremonies despite state laws forbidding them from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

The court dodged the wedding question three years ago in a case involving a Colorado baker who said baking a cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage would violate his right of free expression and religious beliefs. The issue came back in an appeal brought by Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts in Richland, Washington.

The court said Friday that it would not take up her appeal, leaving the state court rulings against her intact and again ducking the hot-button issue. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said the court should have taken the case.

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