Reflection: The Evolution of Pride

Every year the LGBTQ+ community awaits the month of June: Pride month. Today, Pride go-ers are guaranteed celebrations accessorized with rainbow flags, celebrity appearances, and parade floats. However, fifty years ago, Pride was without the fame, floats, and flags. Instead the event was solemn, quiet, and conformed to a sexist society. Over the years, Pride has frequently been interjected by trial and error which ultimately created the current, and the most familiar, Pride Parade.

The 1970’s became the ultimate time to utilize activism and drive change especially to promote LGBTQ+ rights and universal awareness.  Annual Reminder, the first LGBTQ+ rights rally, was the first step towards today’s Pride Parade. 

(Image: CNN)

The Annual Reminder acted as a silent rally where lesbians and gays picketed Liberty Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Compared to today’s Pride, this rally was anything but the ‘Come as you are’ mantra. Instead, men and women were expected to wear gender normative clothes. Women wore dresses and men wore suits and ties. Nowadays, Pride encourages decorated drag ensembles, “Gay Pride” shirts, and personally comfortable clothing. 

Although Annual Reminder stood for LGBTQ+ rights, it was quiet, and the men and women involved were unable to be their authentic selves in the public eye. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough. People were tired of waiting for a big, bold, brazen gay pride event and partners Craig Rodwell and Fred Sargeant were tired of waiting for someone to step up. No one took charge and people were waiting, so they finally took matters into their own hands. 

After months of planning alongside LGBTQ+ activist groups, Pride debuted with five thousand people within the New York streets, five times more than expected. After Pride tore up the town in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles soon adopted their own Pride Parades.

Politics and pride: two unique worlds that constantly clash and converge have instead created a foundation of the original purpose of Pride. During the first Pride, one year after the Stonewall riots, where the LGBTQ+ community fought violently against police raiders who frequently visited in order to shaken morale, harass, and even arrest gays. People chanted, “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.” The chant acted as a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ+ community of receiving decent human rights. 

(Image: World Pride NYC)

A powerful chant proved to be necessary after spending years being discriminated against in all realms of life: relationships, career, and unique family dynamics with same sex couples, adopted children, or IVF babies. The chant lifted people’s spirits into believing that the LGBTQ+ commuity is powerful, and that it’s okay to be gay. 

The chant, although meaningful, was somber. It was a political stance to create waves in the media. Today, Pride is famous for housing an atmosphere of chaotic liveliness. Even though most LGBTQ+ members are engaged in politics, protest, and vote for the most inclusive candidates, chants are no longer necessary to be politically aware. 

Pride fifty years ago compared to Pride 2019 is nearly unrecognizable. However, the week long events have stayed consistent since the beginning. “The Mother of Pride,” Brenda Howard organized a whole week to feature dance and drag competitions, which still run to this day. Even the day of the parade has stayed the same since the 70’s. Every parade falls on the last Sunday of June to commemorate not only the Stonewall Riots but recent community advancements and a renewed sense of self acceptance and most importantly the acceptance of others. 

Since the late 60’s the LGBTQ+ community have consistently fought for rights in various aspects of life. Even though every decade’s cause changes, there’s always a new issue to fight for. In the 80’s it was the HIV/AIDS crisis and in the 90’s it was deep rooted homophobia within the workforce. Most recently, marriage and family laws have been at risk. These generational dilemmas share an unspoken bond with the first Pride Parade in 1970. Even though it’s a different time with different issues, it’s the same community celebrating and advocating at the same place: Pride.

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