Pride and Peace- the Past, Present and Future
By Sanshita Vij
A river of colours, a huge display of quirky signs and a sea of smiles- this is what a pride parade looks like. A pride parade is essentially a celebration of choice, autonomy and identities of people who do not fit the ‘normal’ as we know it. In modern-day, it is a prime example of how peaceful displays can be powerful. Powerful enough that the entire month of June is dedicated to honouring the will of the LGBTQIA+ community (hereby called ‘the community’). But the history behind Pride Month did not start this way.
While the fact is not hidden that people from the community have been a part of human society since the very beginning and their presence is evident in various ancient texts from Greek, Egyptian and Hindu mythology. Yet, over centuries, they have been kept marginalised from civil society often by laws restricting homosexuality, calling it unnatural and immoral. Transgenders and intersex people are attached with stigma and taboo even today and are openly discriminated against. While the community had started to organise itself as much as a century ago, the movement was small-scale with negligible impact. Then came the day of 28 June 1969, which was the origin of Pride Month. In those times, homosexuality was criminalised in the eyes of law and the places harbouring the community were actively raided. One such place was Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York, which was raided by USA’s Public Morals Division. On this particular occasion, however, the people fought back. Marsha P. Johnson, a gay rights activist called out that she was well within her civil rights and smashed a shot glass into a mirror (which is now called “the Shot Glass that was Heard Around the World”). People from neighbouring bars and hundreds joined in to protest the police. The fight continued for 6 more days and violence ensued as more and more people joined in each consecutive day. This protest turned a lot of eyes towards the oppression against the community due to higher media coverage.
The very next year and for years to come, 28 June saw demonstrations taking place across New York (as “Christopher Street Liberation day”), Chicago (under Gay Pride Week), Los Angeles and San Francisco (by the name of Gay Freedom Marches). The issues that had only been talked behind closed doors were openly talked about, including LGBT rights, sexual and bodily autonomy, awareness against AIDS- which affected the community the most and marriage equality.
From that time until now, the world has come a long way. In 1999, June was declared as the LGBT Pride Month to honour the Stonewall riots and to raise awareness. In 2000, the Netherlands became the first country to decriminalise same-sex marriage and 26 countries have followed suit till now. In 2003, homosexuality was decriminalised in the US. In India, the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 decriminalising homosexuality which was a criminal activity under Section 377, first formed in 1861. In recent days, not only homosexuality is more widely accepted, but trans rights are discussed more and more with their identities being widely recognised.
While we are much better off from where we started, there still many legal, social and economic bottlenecks to complete acceptance and integration of the community into the mainstream society around the globe. On the legal front, there are still more than 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal, out of which 8 may subject LGBT people to death penalties. Same-sex marriage and adoption are still highly stigmatised. Considering the social aspect, in many of these countries the public themselves is largely opposed to same-sex marriage, one such being Russia, where only 5% of people wish to decriminalise same-sex marriage. Moreover, many people in the society around us are commonly found using homophobic and transphobic slurs. It is even found that transgenders are at a much higher risk of committing suicide. Economically, the community is at a higher risk of homelessness and poverty and find it much harder to be employed.
As is evident, the world is not as tolerant and accepting as it should be and we have a long way to go. There exist some ways where we, as individuals can do our part. The first and foremost responsibility is to educate ourselves about the LGBT community, starting from the basics like what is homosexuality, how it is normal, what are gender identities, gender dysphoria to what are the inequalities in the how they are treated. Secondly, we should realise that we might have internalised homophobia and transphobia and correct our own selves when we are wrong. After this, we must stop the ones around us from making such slurs and having these difficult conversations to educate the others around us. The next time we meet a person from the community, we should be more accepting. To work more actively, we can donate to organisations supporting the community. As businesses and employees, we must normalise recruiting people from the community and be more open to their needs. There are many more ways for us to help and as allies, we can be a part of the peaceful pride parades that we started this conversation with.
- Ogles, Jacob. “52 Queer Gods Who Ruled Ancient History” Pride, September 11, 2017. Accessed June 21, 2020.
- Thompson, Brian. “The History Of Pride Month And What It Can Teach Us About Moving Forward Today” Forbes, June 1, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2020.
- “How HIV Impacts LGBTQ people” Human Rights Campaign. Accessed June 21, 2020.
- Hutt, Raymond. “This is the state of LGBTI rights around the world in 2018” World Economic Forum, June 14, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2020.
- Hutt. “The state of LGBTI rights”
- “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons & Socioeconomic Status” American Psychological Association. Accessed June 21, 2020.
- Photo by Teddy Österblom on Unsplash