What Is Pride Month And What’s An Ally?
June is the LGBTQ+ pride month and it’s celebrated across the planet every year. If you weren’t sure LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer. The plus represents all others of different gender identities and or sexual orientations. Today’s blog is all about pride month from it’s painful origins to modern celebrations as well as its importance and significance in 2021.
How did pride month begin?
Pride month is held in June to mark the anniversary of The Stonewall Riots of New York City in 1969. In the early hours of June 28th, 1969 police raided a popular gay bar, The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. Greenwich Village is a popular gay area in the city with many gay bars, clubs and businesses were members if the LGBTQ+ community could socialise amongst friends.
On the night in question, police violently hauled employees and customers from the bar. This raid sparked a riot which continued for 6 days in and around Greenwich Village. The Stonewall Riots acted as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.
Why did Stonewall happen?
The 1960s and preceding decades were not a comfortable time for LGBTQ+ individuals with same-sex relations being illegal in most places including New York. Because of this, thriving gay bars, clubs and establishments sprung up as a place where LGBTQ+ individuals could express themselves and socialise without fear, judgement or persecution. The New York State Liquor Authority targeted and shut down establishments that served alcohol to LGBTQ+ patrons arguing that gathering homosexuals were ‘disorderly’.
By 1966 these regulations were thankfully overturned meaning people could be served alcohol but at this time it was still illegal to engage in any sort of gay behaviour such as kissing, dancing or holding hands with someone of the same sex meaning police raids of gay bars and establishments was commonplace.
The Stonewall Riots
The Stonewall Inn was very popular in Greenwich Village partly because of its size (a big club with plenty of room) and it’s affordable pricing but also because they welcomed trans, drag queens and homeless gay youth with a home for the night (many of these individuals were not so welcome in other establishments at the time). They were also one of the only (if not THE only) gay bar in the Village that still allowed dancing. Like mentioned previously, raids of gay bars was commonplace including The Stonewall Inn (they were actually raided a few days prior to the night of the riots) but as the bar was owned by the mafia (as was most of the Greenwich Village) the bar was usually tipped off in advance meaning they could hide any alcohol (they didn’t posses a liquor licence) and stop any illegal activity. The night of the infamous raid, they were not tipped off.
The police came armed with a warrant and began tearing through the bar, roughing up employees and patrons. Female officers led suspected cross dressing people (either transgender or drag queens) to the bathroom to strip so their sex could be checked, as this was also a crime at that point. They arrested 13 people. Officers used disproportionate force, even hitting one customer over the head when leading her to the police van. She shouted to onlookers for support in response they began shouting at and throwing bottles and stones at the officer. The crowd grew and within minutes it was a full blown riot. The police barricaded themselves into the bar which the mob attempted to set on fire. The riots and protests continued over the course of the next 5 days through The Village.
Why is pride month important?
Thankfully we have come a long way since the 1969 Stonewall Riots but this doesn't mean pride month isn't needed or isn't important. Pride marches in celebration of pride month began in 1972 in the UK, taking place almost every year since (Covid-19 restrictions has meant that 2020/21 celebrations have been largely cancelled). Homophobia and ignorance is still unfortunately rife in our society. There are 71 countries where same-sex sexual activity is a crime. 11 of those have a death penalty for same-sex sexual activity.
A study by The Stonewall Charity and YouGov in 2017 found that 1 in 5 LGBT people experienced a hate crime incident due to their sexual and or gender identity. 81% of these did not report it to the police. 29% of them said that they avoided certain streets because they do not feel safe there as an LGBTQ+ person.
Pride month aims to bring communities together in celebration, protest, unity and solidarity and this message is just as relevant today as it was in New York in 1969.
How to be an LGBTQ+ ally
Allies are proud, strong people outside the community who advocate and support those part of the LGBTQ+ community. If you agree in equality and fair treatment for all then you are already an ally (good job!). Being an ally in any capacity is great but it’s far better to be an active ally. The Stonewall Charity outlines how to become a great active ally here, let’s take a look at what they suggest…
1. Familiarise yourself with the language
You could begin with doing something as easy as reading a glossary of terms and teaching yourself the right language to use when talking with LGBT+ people. It’s a tiny but crucial step you can take to educate yourself and make sure you are using the terminology to be respectful to everyone around you, and help yourself to feel more confident when discussing LGBT+ issues.
2. Educate yourself on the history of LGBT activism
While you’re already on Google getting to grips with every letter of the LGBT+ alphabet you can explore the history of the LGBT movement. Getting to know the history of LGBT activism is an empowering act in becoming an LGBT ally. As well as honouring the effort and sacrifices of those that have come before, it’s important to appreciate how far we have come in the struggle for equality to fully understand how far we have left to go.
3. Discover the challenges facing the LGBT community today
Once you know the history you can help to shape the future. Do some research into the specific battles that are being fought now, and find out the obstacles that the LGBT community is facing. Discover specific campaigns that resonate with you so you can get active and focus your support to help really make a difference.
4. Get involved in the community and show your support
Sitting at home on the internet is the tip of the ally iceberg. If you really want to get involved in the cause it’s important to get out there and active in your community. With Stonewall season approaching it’s easy to find LGBT events near you that welcome allies. Let the LGBT community know that you stand with them because your presence at events is a significant show of solidarity and support. Joining the conversation and listening to the experiences of the people you meet will undoubtedly broaden your understanding of what it means to be an ally and better your awareness of how to help to achieve equality for all.
5. Stand up for what you believe in
It’s easy to imagine that when you come across discrimination or hateful language you will whir into action, righting wrongs and effortlessly challenging the behaviour and views of people speaking and acting in a hurtful manner. The reality can be very different and truthfully, sometimes standing up against discrimination can be an intimidating experience. The important thing is to let your voice be heard and although it’s not always easy, these are situations where being an ally really counts. It’s important to let those with bigoted views know that they are not in a world where they can marginalise or bully those that need our support - and this is really the essence of what being an ally is all about.
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