Pride's Proud Roots in Riot
June marks the beginning of Pride—a month dedicated to honoring LGBTQ+ people, places, and things that affirm queer existence. Past years have bathed the world with colorful streams of rainbows and glitter to celebrate social progress and self-acceptance.
This year, Pride is perhaps more profound than ever as it coincides with the ongoing protests against police brutality and riots fighting against systemic racism deeply rooted in the United States. The synchronicity calls back to the radical roots of Pride itself: the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which serve as a stark reminder that Pride began not as a party, parade, or celebration, but a riot.
Tommy Oliver @producertommy
In the early morning of June 28, 1969, lower Manhattan descended into chaos as the police raided the New York City gay bar known as the Stonewall Inn. Black transgender and queer patrons like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major were on the frontlines of protesting against the police, effectively mobilizing the modern day LGBTQ+ rights movement. A year later, the first annual Pride Parade wound its way through the city’s streets to commemorate this seminal uprising, marking the month of June as the month of Pride.
Yet, like other movements fighting for equality, Pride has been marred in classism, elitism, and racism. Within four years of Pride’s inception, “drag queens,” as transgender individuals were called then, were banned from the annual “gay” pride parade that Johnson and Rivera helped launch, the “BTQ+” community and architects of the movement were all but erased.
Despite being led by gender nonconforming people of color, the Stonewall Riots (and the subsequent LGBTQ+ rights movement we know today) have been whitewashed throughout history, its present focus on white gay-centered events far removed from its not-so-humble beginnings.
Marsha P. Johnson
This revisionist history of shamelessly downplaying the role black queer people played in leading the riots further sediments the fact that the privileges white queer people benefit from in a white supremacist society will always outweigh the marginalization they experience due to queerness.
Although LGBTQ+ issues and racial justice are not mutually exclusive, the month of Pride has never truly embraced pride for queer Black people. LGBTQ+ people of color must navigate a complicated network of systemic oppression on all sides, pushed to the fringes of both equality movements in the fight against homophobia and transphobia in Black communal spaces in addition to racism in all spaces.
White queer people and allies should be as loud and as proud about supporting Black liberation as LGBTQ+ liberation. We are all interconnected, but none of us can be truly free until everyone is free. Pride is, after all, a celebration of the right—and freedom—to live and love as we choose. No justice—no Pride.
Trans Equality Action Centers provides a comprehensive list of funds to donate to and bills under consideration where you can submit letters to state legislators or sign a petition)