June is the time of year when many communities celebrate gay pride – many with a parade that features the best and most outlandish displays of pure joy at the opportunity to loudly and publicly proclaim our LGBTQ identities. The June dates commemorate the June 1968 riots that occurred in New York City following brutal police raids on Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. If we could re-play those riots, they would probably not seem very different from today’s protests and riots that follow police brutality that is disproportionately directed at Black and Brown men. Like today’s protests, the riots that followed the Stonewall Inn police raids quickly spread across the country, as other LGBTQ
communities recognized that they too were being punished for simply being who they are – for daring to live openly.
But there is a significant thing about the riots that occurred after Stonewall – more and more the public gatherings that were initially motivated as protests against brutality and homophobia began to transform into joyous celebrations – public assemblies that had an air of demonstration against hatred, discrimination and denial of human rights, but that also proclaimed the thrill of being free to openly declare LGBTQ identities. Now, year after year, gay pride celebrations declare in no uncertain terms – we are here! They provide a context in which we can all take the brave steps to join our LGBTQ sisters and brothers in living openly and proudly – the most important single thing we can all do in seeking a world free from discrimination.
The transformation from angry riots to joyful celebration happened very quickly – by 1970 the tradition was firmly established — check out the vintage photographs from early Pride events in this tribute to Stonewall. Of course outrage and anger directed at hatred and brutality never went away — it is a vital energizer that moves us forward. But it is vitally important that we also come together to celebrate, to form constructive strategies for change, and to mourn each and every instance of injustice. So this June of 2015, I hope that you are finding a space to celebrate our diversity – and to openly acknowledge LGBTQ people and communities everywhere!