June of 2020 was celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the LGBTQ+ Pride traditions starting from the first official Pride parade in 1970. Past years of Pride celebrations have seen workshops, art festivals, marathons, and parties where people discuss topics related to identity politics, build awareness for LGBTQ+ rights, and provide support for one another. The Pride Parade, often in late June, is the culmination of the month’s celebrations, with people singing, dancing and partying. Although this year, with the pandemic still haunting many parts of the world, people in some cities can’t march together, online Pride events were held featuring speeches, musical performances and more.
Why are Pride events often associated with such celebratory dancing, singing, and jubilant partying? In this article, the authors provided us with an overview of the history behind the Pride Month. The analysis presents what the jubilant nature of the Pride celebration connotes: a way of showing rebellion, a self-expression of LGBTQ+ identity as being a pride, a de-construction of social norms. In the context of current #BlackLivesMatter movement, this overview of the Pride Month sheds light on the roles Black activists played in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and how celebrating the Pride Month is related to the liberation of not only LGBTQ+ communities, but all the marginalized and the suppressed as well.
Note: LGBTQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning) and other sexual identities including pansexual, asexual and omnisexual, etc. The article was originally written in English.
Writers | 作者: Jiara Sha, Ryan Hoover, Ariel Tan
Translators | 翻译: Maggie, Xiaoyu, Joyce
About a half century ago, the term “LGBTQ+” was unheard of – queer individuals were forced to remain “in the closet” because non-heteronormative behaviors or identities were unacceptable by the general public, let alone the government. Queerness had long been considered as illegal and shameful. Gay bars were the only few places where queerness could be expressed openly and genuinely under the ambiance of fun and excitement. On June 28th, 1969, a riot took place in the Stonewall Inn that changed the narrative of gay bars and queer expressions forever. As a rebellion against long-term oppression and violence, the Stonewall Riots also ignited the LGBTQ+ movements and the establishment of Pride Month that we know today.
From the Stonewall Inn to Christopher Street
The Stonewall Inn is a gay bar nestled in the Greenwich Village of New York City. Police raids in gay bars during the 1960s were common since homosexual expression was considered illegal, but places like Stonewall Inn were relatively safe from police interference, since business owners could bribe the New York Police Department (NYPD) . As a result, Stonewall Inn was a popular refuge for gay and gender-non-binary folks, where couples, drag queens, homeless youth, and dancers could have fun without suppressing their identities .
Beside its significance for social gatherings, what really added a political mark to a bar like this was the Stonewall Riots of 1969. On the dawn of June 28th, NYPD raided the bar all of a sudden, disrupting the party and arresting 13 people, including bar employees for selling alcohol without license and patrons for crossdressing . But instead of remaining silent or running away, gradually the gay communities and patrons stood up and protested against the police. Hundreds of people formed a mob that erupted into disorder, physically and actively fighting against the police assault. Before you know it, the Stonewall Inn riot led to an ongoing protest on Christopher Street for over six days .
Fed up with years of invisibility, misrepresentation, humiliation, and harassment, the Stonewall Riots quickly became a turning point and symbol in which LGBTQ+ rights surfaced as a public concern instead of a closeted issue. This week-long protest was seen not only as a form of rebellion, but a demand for justice, a change in consciousness, and a claim for personal agency and empowerment.
“Say It Loud, Gay Is Proud”
The Stonewall Riots did not end after its protests, but served as a catalyst for the LGBTQ+ rights movement even until today. Within weeks after the initial riot, activist groups were formed to promote rights for gays and lesbians . Organizations like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance were quickly formed to continue the momentum of LGBTQ+ rights activism.
Out of the famous Stonewall Riots came the first Gay Pride parade. Led by Brenda Howard, a bisexual rights activist and New York native, this parade became an affirmation and declaration for reclaiming queerness as an identity with pride. As one of the first highly visible and public events that dismantles heteronormativity, the parade turned the narrative of “shame” to that of “pride”, “private” to “public”, and “anger” to “celebration” .
By claiming public spaces and personal agency, protests and parades have become a vehicle for political expression and involvement, as politicians and lawmakers are made to address civil rights violations against queer communities.
The Pride parades have also been an opportunity for community building and genuine expression. Representation matters, because the visibility of queerness leads to connection among those with shared experiences . By chanting “Say it loud, gay is proud”, the feeling of being in the closet was removed and replaced with the feeling of self-affirmation.
Fast forward to today, the Pride parade has become a month-long celebration embraced by countries around the world and recognized by the U.S. government. In 2016, the Stonewall National Monument was established in memory of this historic initiative of queer liberation. Moreover, two U.S. Presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have both officially acknowledged and recognized Pride Month, a jubilant time for celebrating the queerness.
到今日，骄傲游行演变为持续一个月的狂欢，世界各国为之庆祝，美国政府予以承认。2016年，石墙国家纪念碑在抗议原址建立，以纪念在此发生的这一历史性举动。比尔·克林顿（Bill Clinton）和巴拉克·奥巴马（Barack Obama）这两位美国前总统也曾公开认可过骄傲月这一庆祝酷儿性的狂欢。
Glitter, Parade, Music, and Dance: Partying as Protesting
While protesting and revolution often strike images of austere violence, the Pride month often conveys a sense of celebration: glitter, parade, music, and dance. Queerness is empowering and unique in the sense that it curates a narrative full of life, arts, and freedom. While organized and institutionalized events like the Pride parade often took the spotlight for LGBTQ+ celebrations, people have been creative in finding accessible, innovative, and ongoing ways to show celebration and solidarity as both a self-preserving empowerment and anti-establishment weaponry.
In 2017, about 200 people attended a unique dance party hosted in a neighborhood of the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s residence, a political figure with a history of strong anti-LGBTQ+ stance. The physical aspect of the event, such as the dance and music seems not too different from other social engagements. But what’s more liberating and encouraging, was the symbolism and community impact of this small gathering: the event took place shortly after Pence’s inauguration as the new V.P. Masked as a celebration, the level of resilience and resistance this dance represented were both entertaining and vocal. Moreover, as quoted in a news report, neighbors ended up watching the event from afar, even cheering protestors . Similar to when protestors joined each other’s hand to stand against the police at the Stonewall Inn, the dancers on the lawn of the Chevy Chase neighborhood showed their disapproval towards a representative of the government.
Although the Pride month we know of today has been controversial in the commercialization of a civil rights movement , the concept of pride has been rudimentary to the development of gay rights and its sequential civil liberations. Within the political and social development of LGBTQ+ civil rights, the Queer Theory was developed as a more academic analysis on gender, sexuality, and society. As an umbrellaing and expansive school of thought, one of the strongest tenants of the Queer Theory is the fight against socially constructed identities. For many, the critical consciousness of recognizing social norms as fabricated truth means the liberation of self-identity. The term “pride” itself has become symbolic to both continuing to advocate for human rights as well as to redefining oneself. In the fight against heteronormativity, queerness’s focus on being non-conforming and deconstructing social norms inspired solidarity across different identities. Perhaps one of the reasons why celebration is often associated with the Pride month, aside from its branding, is the massive application of the “self-liberation” concept as part of the queer theory [10, 11].
“Gay is Good,” Inspired by “Black is Beautiful”
June of 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in New York City, highlighted by two social events: the COVID-19 pandemic and #BlackLivesMatter. The COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably be a core component of 2020, resulting in a new form of lifestyle called “social distancing”. While virtual programs and streaming events such as “Global Pride”, “Denver Virtual PrideFest”, “Out Now Live”, and “Dublin Digital Pride Festival & Parade” were launched to continue the spirit of the Pride month, many utilized this opportunity to reflect on other impactful ways to uphold the spirit of pride, such as solidarity .
Following the death of George Floyd in late May of 2020 in the U.S., many people from different backgrounds and locations joined in solidarity for the #BlackLivesMatter movements . The discourse of #BlackLivesMatter focuses on the ongoing racism and police brutality in the U.S. and beyond. As a result of this, the Pride parade this year was dedicated to bringing awareness and supporting the Black community.
However, what many people overlook is the historical connection between Black Activism Movement and LGBTQ+ Activism. The Stonewall Riots, at its core, was the defense towards the ongoing criminalization, harassment, and police brutality towards LGBTQ+ people – a disheartening but paralleling experiences for black communities. As the momemtum of the Civil Rights Movements of 1960s swept several different marginalized groups, the Black Panther Party, the Gay Liberation Front, and feminist organizations also joined in hands to tackle the oppressive system and their shared struggles. These historical connections resulted in inspirations and strategies: for instance, the famous LGBTQ+ rights slogan “Gay is Good” coined by Frank Kameny, was inspired by the cultural movement “Black is Beautiful” , both standing as a counternarrative to the sense of shame and marginalization under white supremacy.
2020年6月是纽约首次骄傲游行的50周年纪念月。在这个月中，还有两件备受瞩目的社会事件：新冠肺炎疫情和“黑命攸关”运动。新冠肺炎疫情使得人们不得不大规模践行“社交疏远”，于是人们推出了各类庆祝骄傲月的线上活动，例如“全球骄傲月”、“丹佛线上骄傲节”、“‘Out Now Live’直播”和“都柏林数字骄傲节和游行”。同时，许多人借此机会思考其它发扬骄傲月精神的方式，例如与非裔社群保持团结【12】。
其实，黑人权利运动与LGBTQ+权利运动之间本身就存在历史联系。石墙暴动的核心是抵抗长期存在的污名化、骚扰和来自警察的暴力。这一切对黑人社群而言是足以共情的经历。1960年代的民权运动影响了多个被边缘化的群体，其中就包括非裔和同志群体。当时，黑豹党、“同志解放阵线”和一些女权组织联手合作，共同反对压迫性制度。这些历史性合作中涌现出了一些灵感和策略：例如，弗兰克·卡梅尼（Frank Kameny）提出的著名标语“同志为善”（Gay is Good)，即受到了文化运动“黑人为美”（Black is Beautiful）的启发【14】。两者都旨在对抗白人至上主义文化带来的污名化和边缘化。
Three black women – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi – created the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Two of them identify as queer. What people often forget is the fact that the oppression resulting from being black is even more multi-layered for those who are also women, trans or other non-binary folks. In the Stonewall riots, although transgender activists such as Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were important figures, their contributions were once rejected by cisgender groups [15,16]. Today, the murder of Black trans women continue to rise . These realities serve to remind us: the intersection of multiple marginalized identities comes with intersectional oppression; in the struggle against injustice, institutionalized hierarchy does not automatically recede, but continue to operate in the supposed “liberating” spaces. Only when we address discrimination and oppression with an intersectional approach can liberation be truly possible.
“黑命攸关”运动由三位黑人妇女发起——爱丽丝·加尔萨（Alicia Garza）、帕特里索·卡洛斯（Patrisse Cullors）和欧帕·托梅蒂（Opal Tometi）。不为大众所知的是，她们中有两位自我认同为酷儿。人们也常常忽视了，同样身为黑人，女性、跨性别人士和其ta非二元性别者遭受着更多重的压迫。当初的石墙暴动中，尽管跨性别活动家玛莎·约翰逊（Marsha Johnson）和西尔维亚·里维拉（Sylvia Rivera）作出重要贡献，但却长时间不被顺性别群体认可【15, 16】。而至今，针对黑人跨性别女性的谋杀仍旧频频发生【17】。这些事实提醒着人们，多个边缘化身份的交织伴随着多重的压迫；在反对不正义的抗争中，体系化的等级制度不会自动消解，而是在所谓“解放性的”空间中继续运作。我们只有用交叉性的视角和策略去攻破各类交织作用的歧视和压迫，解放才有可能。
From the Stonewall Riots to the Pride Parade, to a global movement on LGBTQ+ rights, and to solidarity for #BlackLivesMatter, what we are witnessing for the past few decades are narratives of liberation, challenges of social movements, and lessons of exclusions in civil right spaces. People need to reflect on the ways that institutionalized and internalized oppression continue to operate within an action for justice and love. In reviewing the history of Pride Month, one cannot forget how much further we have to go to truly be “freed” from systematic injustice.
How have you been there for others this year?
Apart from joining the large public celebratory events such as the Pride March, people around the world have found in their personal arena various ways of showing solidarity during the month by wearing Pride t-shirts, changing their instagram profiles using the Pride filter or using the rainbow flag emoji. We’d also like to know more about how you celebrated Pride Month this year, and how you have been there for others, especially the marginalized ones.
If you’d like to share with us your experiences during the past month, or your take-aways from reading this article, please leave a WeChat message, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editing: Lili, Ariel Tan, Joyce
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