Many identify the Stonewall Riots as the beginning of community organization in North America. In 1969, tired of police harassment, the patrons of the Stonewall bar in New York City, led by a handful of drag queens and transgendered people, rose up in protest at the arrests and humiliation. Political activity was sparked by the event, and the first organized Pride march was planned the year following by the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee to remember the Stonewall riots.
In the early 1970s, not everyone in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (“glbt”) communities wanted to remember Stonewall. For some, the violence had been an embarrassment. Nor was it obvious that a march would necessarily be the best way to observe whatever Stonewall represented.
From that first march in 1970, the visibility of the glbt movement has increased dramatically. Many milestones in the history of glbt acceptance have occurred in and around Pride marches: the Anita Bryant protest, AIDS awareness, and demonstrations for same-sex relationship recognition. In Canada, protests around police raids on gay bathhouses in the 1980s are considered by many to mark the Canadian equivalent of Stonewall.
Has Pride actually changed its focus since the early days after Stonewall? Debates continue about whether Pride should be political or celebratory, while increasing corporate sponsorship and the growing size of the festivals have brought other changes.
Nonetheless, Pride events remain one of the few times of the year when the community comes together in all its diversity, a time when all types, flavours, and styles of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people along with straight friends and family, rub elbows with each other. In the midst of this challenge of large-scale diversity, Pride Committees across the country work on the daunting task of putting on an event that will be relevant to all, and which will celebrate and strengthen the pride and health of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, their families and the community as a whole. The aims of Pride celebrations include:
- To develop personal pride in gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people;
- To enhance pride and involvement in our communities;
- To foster a greater awareness and acceptance of our diversity;
- To strengthen the ability to deal with different health issues that are facing our community, i.e. HIV/AIDS, breast cancer etc., and
- To increase public awareness of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in the wider community.
Adapted from the ‘EGALE Pride Kit 1999.’