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Updated on Jul 22, 2020. Posted on Jul 22, 2020

14 Essential Facts About The History Of Gay Pride

When it comes to Gay Pride, there's a lot to understand. Let the first thing be this: The celebrations that exist today are exclusively linked to the courage exhibited by trans and femme women of color who fought for queer rights in 1969.

1. Gay Pride as we know it today is a commemoration of the historic Stonewall riots, which began on June 28, 1969 and lasted until July 3, 1969.

2. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, is a central figure to the Stonewall riots of '69. Without Johnson, Pride as it exists today would not be the same.

3. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, a fellow member of the Gay Liberation Front, created the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, in order to foster support for marginalized LGBTQ members who were left unsupported and vulnerable by organizations that favored privileged white members of the community.

4. At the time of the Stonewall riots, police officers were legally allowed to arrest men they perceived to be participating in drag. Police would often use this 19th-century masquerade law as an excuse to raid queer spaces in search of anyone "violating" anti-drag mandates. These raids were consistent, a clear demonstration of successive police brutality and discrimination against queer people — especially those who were most vulnerable.

5. During this time, the Stonewall Inn was known for providing sanctuary to drag queens and homeless LGBTQ youth. The violent (and routine) attacks on this place of refuge that night in 1969 proved the final straw for the queer inhabitants and activists of Stonewall.

6. On the night of June 28, 1969, patrons at the Stonewall Inn fought back against the police raids they had become so accustomed to. Those who took a stand were led by trans and femme women of color.

7. The first Pride march occurred a year after the events at Stonewall, on June 28, 1970. It was referred to as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.

The Rainbow flag and the Transgender Pride flag fly high as the sun peaks through
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8. That year, marches were held in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

A Black hand adorned with rainbow-colored nails forms the Black power symbol over a rainbow background
Getty/iStock

9. In anticipation of the first march, for which leaders and organizers had no permit, would-be participants attended self-defense classes.

10. Organizers in Los Angeles were told by the police chief that their march for equality would inconvenience the public, and that they'd have to let "thieves and burglars" organize their own parade next.

11. Brenda Howard, a Bronx-born bisexual woman, is responsible for organizing the first Pride parade.

12. The National Historic Landmark nomination for the Stonewall Inn was drafted in 1999. It wasn't until 2016 that the site was named a national monument.

13. The term "gay pride" was derived from a common phrase used during the riots, which was "gay power" — in and of itself a derivative of the "Black power" movement happening around the same time. The word "power" was ultimately replaced with "pride" as the author of the slogan believed gay people possessed little to no actual power at the time.

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A series of multi-ethnic hands are raised, including Black fists forming the Black power symbol

14. Ultimately, it is imperative to remember that while many celebrate Pride today, the fight for equality is far from over. Consider making a donation to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and/or other essential resources for Black trans people to support the most vulnerable members of the queer community today.

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