What Is Pride Month and How Did It Begin?
Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ community or an ally, here’s everything you need to know about Pride Month.
If you’re new to the LGBTQ community or you’re looking to become an LGBTQ ally, chances are you have a few questions. You might have heard about Pride Month, for example, but aren’t entirely sure what it means or what it entails. You may even be asking yourself, “When is Pride Month?” or “What is the meaning behind LGBTQ pride flags?” Or perhaps you’re still at the starting point on your journey and wondering what LGBTQ stands for—not to mention how and why the acronym has evolved over the years from LGBT all the way to LGBTQIA2+, depending on who you ask. So, let’s start with the basics.
“Pride Month presents an opportunity—and an obligation—to reflect on why our LGBTQ+ community matters,” says Joe English, founder of Hope in a Box, a nonprofit that brings inclusive LGBTQ books and curriculums to public schools around the nation. Essentially speaking, it’s not only good to ask questions and seek out answers, but it’s also necessary in order to create a more inclusive, equal future. While we can do this all year long, of course, designating a specific month that focuses on the LGBTQ community makes sure that it gets the attention that it deserves.
So, what now? Start by learning more about the LGBTQ heroes you probably missed in history class, and take a look at these LGBTQ books, LGBTQ movies, and LGBTQ quotes that will inspire, entertain, and give you a more thorough understanding of the community, no matter how you identify. And of course, read our primer on Pride Month below and get ready to celebrate and join the fight toward equality.
What is Pride Month?
To outsiders, Pride Month might just seem like a month of glittering parties and parades, but it’s so much more than that. The catalyst for Pride is actually a riot—the 1969 Stonewall Riots, to be exact. (We’ll get into more of that in a bit.) These days, however, the LGBTQ community around the world uses it as a time to get together and celebrate how far we’ve come. “It’s a time to recommit to the work that must still be done to achieve equality,” says English. “It’s a time to reflect on the progress we’ve made as a community and celebrate those who made this progress possible.”
Since the uprising, LGBTQ folks and allies have fought hard to give the community the right to marry, to start families, to fight discrimination, hate speech, and hate crimes, and to simply allow queer folks to exist. During this month, we acknowledge the progress we’ve made—sometimes loudly and always proudly—while also being realistic about how far society still has to go. “Most of all,” adds English, “it’s a time to amplify the voices that urgently need our support, especially rural, Black and Brown, and transgender communities.”
When is Pride Month?
Now that you know what Pride Month is, you might be wondering: When is Pride Month? All around the world, Pride Month is celebrated in June. It can be a little confusing for those new to Pride because not all major queer events actually happen in June. Some, like the multiday lesbian-centric music festival Dinah Shore Weekend, usually takes place in April—though it’ll happen in September this year. Key West’s WomenFest is also held in September. In general, though, the major parties, parades, and other festivities generally take place in the month of June or somewhat close to it.
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When did Pride Month begin?
The Stonewall Uprising took place on June 28, 1969, in New York City. At the time, police would frequently raid gay bars and harass the queer community, as there were still many laws on the books banning homosexuality. Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn was among the most popular gay bars, and while it had been raided before, on that particular day in June, the queer community fought back and protested hard for several days. After that, things were never the same again—and this was a very good thing.
The first official Pride parade began the following year on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, with Christopher Street Liberation Day. “It included a march stretching from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park,” says English. “The next year, in 1971, cities around the United States, and the world, held their own Pride marches from Boston to London to West Berlin.”
How is Pride Month celebrated?
There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Pride, as long as you’re being safe and inclusive in your festivities. Some folks attend picnics with queer friends, while others spend time in the community via Zoom events, and still, others simply donate to their favorite LGBTQ organizations. (If you’re looking for a place to donate, check out the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, and The Trevor Project.)
Another idea: “Encourage people who aren’t in the LGBTQ+ community to explore your favorite LGBTQ+ stories: books, TV shows, theater, movies,” suggests English. “Through these stories, they can experience the joys, challenges, hopes, and humanity of LGBTQ+ people and, as a result, become stronger allies.”
Over the years, more events have also centered around queer youth and young allies, and you’ll often find entire families celebrating together—which, in turn, helps to promote more accepting and inclusive future generations. Whether you choose to learn more about LGBTQ history, go to a local drag event, attend a queer film festival, raise money for your local LGBTQ center, or wave flags with your family at local Pride parades, it’s the perfect time to learn, grow, and, yes, party!
What Pride Month events will take place this year?
While many Pride events were canceled last year due to the pandemic, things are looking a bit more optimistic this year since vaccinations are on the rise and restrictions around the country are easing. The NYC Pride Parade will remain virtual in 2021, but there’s a chance of some smaller, in-person events. There will also be L.A. Pride events, though as of press time, it hadn’t been announced whether most or all events will be virtual. Some San Francisco Pride events, including Pride Movie Nights, will be happening in person, but there will be limited attendance and social-distancing rules in effect. And there will be many other virtual events you can access from anywhere, including Hope in a Box’s celebration of LGBTQ-inclusive literature on June 24, which will feature readings and Q&As with LGBTQ authors, panel discussions with queer advocates, and more.
Some other Pride events have opted to postpone until later this year, however. Miami Beach Pride, for example, has shifted its festivities to September, and so far, they appear to be happening in person. London’s Pride events have also moved to September, with more information yet to be announced.
- Joe English, founder of Hope in a Box
- AMA Journal of Ethics: “The Decriminalization of Sodomy in the United States”
- IGLTA: “International Gay Pride Calendar”