Pride is a Rebellion!: How Stonewall Birthed Pride

What comes to mind when you think of Pride month? Do you think of friends, family (chosen and otherwise), and your community that uplifts and supports you? Or do you find yourself thinking of the rainbow-washing from corporations desperately competing to get your precious Queer dollars? For many of us, it’s a bit of both. It can be both a joyous time to feel and be seen, and yet also feel like your identities are being turned into someone else’s profit. This begs the question: what is Pride really about? To look for the answer to this question, one must look at what it meant to the Queer elders that came before us and paved the way for us to be ourselves. Let’s talk about the Stonewall Rebellion. Written by Carrie Chen

Pride was born out of riots that took place in Greenwich Village, New York City in the Summer of 1969.  In those days, it was illegal to be openly homosexual (homosexuality was still considered a mental illness by the American Psycatric Association until 1974).  It was commonplace for the police to target gay bars by raids, harassment, arresting and outing its patrons.  But, in the early hours of June 28th at the Stonewall Inn Bar, there was something different in the air.  This time, when the police came to once again brutalize its patrons, the community fought back.  Instead of submitting to the forces of oppression, LGBTQ+ patrons stood up for themselves throwing bottles and bricks at the police, and would continue to riot for several days.  This was the first major LGBTQ+ rising in American history, and remains extremely impactful.

Among those part of the Stonewall Riots were:

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

She was a Black transgender woman, drag queen, sex worker, survivor and mentor to Sylvia Rivera.  The “P.” stands for “Pay it no mind,” which she would say in response to questions about her gender.  Johnson was a founding member of Gay Liberation Front, co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STARS), and activist in ACT UP NYC.  Dubbed the “Mayor of Christopher Street” for her welcoming nature in Greenwich Village, Johnson was a prominent advocate for gay rights, until her suspected murder in 1992, which is unfortunately still unsolved.

Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002)

A Latinx, bisexual, drag queen, activist, and transgender woman; Rivera co-founded alongside close friend and mentor Marsha P. Johnson “STAR” or Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.  Not only did she dedicate her activism to helping homeless youth, drag queens, and transgender women, but Rivera and other transgender women had to fight to be included gay activism and spaces.  Her legacy remains as the “Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement.”

Stormie DeLaverie (1920-2014)

A bi-racial, Black, butch lesbian, entertainer, and activist; DeLaverie is believed to be the center of the events at Stonewall in ‘69.  She was known for her dapper style, donning “male” suits during performances, and eventually off stage as well (ground-breaking because it was illegal to “masquerade” or wear clothes that were not your assigned gender).  DeLaverie was very passionate about protecting her community, and often would work as security guard in Queer spaces.  Stormie would continue to protect and uplift her community until her death in 2014.

Miss Major (1940-present)

Miss Major is a transgender community leader and activist, feminist, original Executive Director of the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and a veteran of The Stonewall Rebellion.  In her activism, she is especially critical of the prison-industrial complex and how it disproportionately incarcerates transgender people of color.  Being a living Queer elder at 80 years young, Miss Major continues to put her energies into advocating for the transgender community.

On the one-year anniversary of the rebellion, a march was held on Christopher Street to commemorate the event, named “Christopher Street Liberation Day.”  Every year after that marches and parades were held to remember the impact and need for the LGBTQ+ community to continue to be visible and to fight for their rights.  According to Ellen Broidy "The core message was 'We're here. We're queer, get used to it.'  The marches would turn into parades and event, and then eventually to Pride month we know today.  While, the original intent for the events at Stonewall was to create radical change for LGBTQ+ people to be themselves openly, in more recent years it has become more of a celebration of LGBTQ+ music, culture, and involves corporations that are conveniently absent in their support, 11 months out of the year.  The impact of Pride has spread globally, and now over 60 countries partake in celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.  In June 2016, weeks after the horrific Pulse Orlando shootings, President Obama made The Stonewall Inn bar a national monument, making it the first LGBTQ+ monument in the country.

This year is the 52nd Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, I invite you to not only honor our Queer elders (passed and still with us), but to also ask yourself what does Pride mean to you?  It cannot be overstated that there would be no Pride without the tireless work and sacrifices of Black and Brown Transgender Activists, Drag Queens, and Sex Workers.  Let us all imagine a future where all generations, races, gender spectrums of the LGBTQ+ community can truly be free, and let’s continue to do the work!  Happy Pride!!<3

For those interested in a Pride with no sponsorships or corporations involved, check out: