Every year the month of June marks the calendar of Pride Celebration. However, ever wondered why June? There is a deeper social history attached to such remembrance which we must take note of, while engaging in the colorful celebration of the spectrum of identities.
OF PAST AND THE FUTURE: LENS OF REMEMBRANCE
It was in New York, dated June 28, 1969 that the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, which resulted in bar patrons, staff, and neighborhood residents rioting onto Christopher Street outside. Among the many leaders of the riots was a black, trans, bisexual woman, Marsha P. Johnson, leading the movement to continue over six days with protests and clashes. The message was clear — protestors demanded the establishment of places where LGBT+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest. Thus began the eventful marker to the month of June.
In what was to subsequently follow, Brenda Howard organised Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year after the Stonewall Uprising. This eventually morphed into what we now know as the New York City Pride March and was the catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches across the world.
However, it was only in the year 1999 that President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. President to officially recognize Pride Month in 1999 and 2000. Then, from 2009 to 2016, Barack Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month.
WHY CELEBRATE THE PRIDE MONTH?
While the social history leading up to the observance of June as the Pride Month is set in place for a context, the question however remains- what purpose does the celebration of Pride Month serve?
Memory and remembrance are central to any History and politics of identity that provides the scope for a long struggle. Pride month while exactly serving the reminder to not forget the long struggle that the LGBTQI+ community had to undertake in achieving whatever rights today they exercise, also serves a remembrance of the lives lost in this struggle. Therefore, the month is planned eventful with a set of workshops, parades, public marches, film screening, seminars and lectures to foster an environment of learning and sensitization aimed at creating safe spaces for coexistence. To that effect many campaigns and public rallies are organised to reaffirm their rights and freedom of self-expression in the public spaces as well as in the private domain.
This is often symbolized through the pink triangle and the rainbow flag, which are two most widely recognized queer symbols. Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow Pride flag for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day celebration. He designed the flag as a “symbol of hope” and liberation, and an alternative to the symbolism of the pink triangle. In the similar vein, a combination of different color stripes is used to denote or symbolize different communities within the LGBTQI+ community. The Pride Month epitomizes the celebration of different identities, each day, corresponding to the play of different colors and flags. For instance, there are Agender Pride Flags, Ally Pride Flags, Asexual Pride Flags, Bisexual Pride Flags and separate days assigned throughout the Pride Month to celebrate different identities, like in the initial week there are days of celebration and assertion for the gay people, bisexual and omnisexual people to mention a few.
VISIBILITY, PRIDE AND THE PANDEMIC
The New York Pride Parade is one of the largest and most well known parades to take place, with an estimated 500,000 people participating in it by the time it had reached its 25th anniversary. However, the global landscape for LGBTQ+ rights, protections and acceptance vary tremendously by location, with some destinations attracting millions of visitors to their events like Madrid Gay Pride, Sao Paulo Gay Pride or San Francisco Gay Pride, while more than 70 other countries have laws that allow discrimination or persecution of LGBTQ+ people. Pride events, including gay pride parades and festivals were started in major urban centres to improve the visibility, acceptance and legal protections for LGBTQ+ people living in those communities. 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.
However, in the wake of the pandemic these events had to be confined to virtual world which in ways does hamper the question of visibility. Despite this, several organisations and groups managed to organise webinars and hosted virtual events. A calendar was accordingly designed for the month, corresponding with various dates of remembrance and events of relevant significance.
LONG ROAD TO FREEDOM
However, the month should also serve as a reminder of the struggle that is long drawn. While in some nations people can exercise their right to self-expression and freedom and therefore take to participation in the celebrations openly, on the other hand there remain nations where holding a pride march seems like a remote possibility. In many parts of the world, people are forced to live a closeted life and cannot claim their space for the issue of security and safety. Pandemic has made things more difficult for the queer community in many parts of the world on this account. So while Pride celebrations are a reminder of the key struggles culminating in freedom for so many, we must remember at the same time that the struggle is far from being accomplished and complete yet and one cannot really enjoy freedom until everyone is free.
Sana is a research scholar, currently pursuing her research in Liberal theory. Apart from that, she her interest lies in Feminist theory and she has been writing on related areas for a long time now.