In the last more than 50 years since the first Pride Month was celebrated in the United States, the month-long celebration of love, acceptance, diversity, and self-pride has become a global phenomenon. Let’s take a look back at how it started
Come June, there is a different hue in the sky that spells freedom as flags of rainbow colours become more prominent in public places. Come June, proud voices retell stories of courageous people for it is Pride Month, the month that became a thriving memorial of struggles and victories of the LGBTQ+ community.
What started from the United States in 1969 has since become a global symbol of celebrating and accepting identities. The month also commemorates the sacrifices made by the LGBTQ+ community in becoming a legally and socially accepted people from being considered criminals who were imprisoned, treated with chemical castration, social ostracisation and labeled as sex offenders for life.
In the last more than 50 years since the first Pride Month was celebrated in the United States, the month-long celebration of love, acceptance, diversity, and self-pride has become a global phenomenon. Let’s take a look back at how it started and what is its history:
How a police raid on a bar ignited the modern LGBTQ+ movement?
It wasn’t unusual for police to raid gay bars in Manhattan in the 60s and almost all the raids followed the same template. Police officers would enter, threaten and beat the bar staff and clientele. Customers would then pour out into the street, line up and wait for the police to arrest them.
But the morning of 28 June, 1969 was to be different and entirely unexpected from the police’s point of view as they raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street.
The gay club in New York City was raided on the pretext of operating without a liquor license. During those years, the city administration wouldn’t allow bars to serve gay people. That day police entered Stonewall and arrested at least 13 people.
According to a USA Today report, a majority of those people were “were either drag queens or gay men of colour”.
It was not new for queer people to be harassed by the police but on this night, members of the LGBTQ+ community stood up for themselves and fought back for several days to come in what came to be known as Stonewall Riots and is now known as the Stonewall Rebellion.
Even though it wasn’t the first gay uprising in the United States, it helped spark the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement.
What happened in the Stonewall Inn and the uprising thereafter has long been considered to have fundamentally changed the dialogue surrounding the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.
According to the National Geographic, each June, Pride Month honors the history of Stonewall with parades and events. In the years since the uprising, LGBTQ activists pushed for—and largely achieved—a broad expansion of their the legal rights, and in June 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry.
The impact of an increased visibility and firm voices of the LGBTQ+ community also raised awareness in India as on 6 September, 2018 the Supreme Court legalised consensual gay sex, abolishing a Britsh era law under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
The role and meaning of the rainbow flag
Long before the LGBTQ+ community started being recognised by the colours of a rainbow, the Greek alphabet ‘lambda’ and also a pink triangle were used to symbolise the community. However, no other symbol has gained such popularity and recognition as the rainbow flag, which is also known as the pride flag.
The pride flag, which has become the universal symbol of the LGBTQ+ movement, wasn’t in use before 1978 when late artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker designed and hand-sewed it.
Baker was hired by San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official, to create a new emblem for the city’s first Gay Pride Day.
The US politician’s life and assassination and the struggles the LGBTQ+ community faced in the 60s and 70s was depicted in 2008 film ‘Milk’.
In designing the flag, Baker may have thought of the vibrancy of a rainbow but he also thought of meanings behind every strip of the colour – hot pink represented sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for harmony, and violet for spirit.
According to Britannica, turquoise and pink colours were dropped from the then-eight colour flag since they were hard to find at the time for mass production. The flag has since retained six colours.
Baker, in a conversation with CNN, said that he designed the flag in a way that it could convey his community’s happiness, splendour, and mightiness.
With inputs from agencies
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