June is Pride Month! It’s a time to honor the LGBTQ+ community – its history, its present, and its future. While this year is a bit different because there will be no parties or parades, we can still celebrate with virtual or social distance get-togethers, car parades, and rainbow masks.
I know a history lesson is sometimes boring, but in order to really understand why this community is worthy of the festivities, it is important to know where we came from. Here are a few highlights, and I will post links at the end of this post if you want to learn more:
1924: The first gay rights group, the Society for Human Rights, is founded.
1969: The Stonewall Riots – During this period, raids were the norm at any establishment that was thought to cater to the gay community. Police would come in and shut down any place they deemed inappropriate, and on the night of June 28th, the community had enough and the riot began. It is thought that the two that were the “leaders” were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both trans women of color, and what followed was days of protests. This is an event that is often thought of as the first real civil rights movement for the LGBTQ+ movement.
1973: Homosexuality is removed as a “mental illness” from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
1973: PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) is founded.
1978: The first rainbow flag is sewn by Gilbert Baker. (DYK that on the original flag there were eight colors: hot pink stood for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for nature, turquoise blue for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.)
1978: Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official (mayor of San Francisco), is murdered on November 27th. During his 11 months of mayor, Milk fought for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in regards to fair housing, job security, and a stop to banning based on sexual orientation, among other things.
1980: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a political action committee, is founded.
1985: GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is started.
1998: Matthew Shepard, a 21 year old gay man, is beaten and left to die on a fence post on October 6th. He was found on the fence post by a cyclist that though he was a scarecrow (check out the song by Melissa Etheridge called Scarecrow - it is very powerful). Matthew died 18 hours later.
1998: The Trans Day of Remembrance is started (November 20th).
2000: Vermont becomes the first state to legalize “civil unions”, a first step in a long battle for same sex marriage rights.
2015: Love wins! Same sex marriage is officially legal nationwide!
There is so much more history, so many personal battles fought, so many both happy and heartbreaking stories to be told, and even more to come. We live in a world now that is much freer, but there are still sad statistics: according to the Trevor Project, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+, and 60% of that population will attempt suicide. In a 2015 study, The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that people that identify as LGBTQ+ are more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs than heterosexual folks (39.1% vs. 17.1%).
How can we help? There are so many ways! Do research, talk to children and teenagers about the community, donate time and/or money, and most of all, LOVE. If someone chooses this month to come out, celebrate them! Remember that they are the same person that you loved 30 seconds before they told you that they belonged on the big, beautiful rainbow, and they trusted you enough to tell – what an honor! Remember, it is their story to tell, and confidence should be kept, but being there for someone that is coming to terms with their sexuality with love and not judgment is the most important thing you can do to help. Those of us at Art & Soul are here to help as well. If you are someone that is questioning your sexuality, someone that has a loved one that is LGBTQ+, or someone that just wants to learn more, we are here. We accept you, just the way you are.
In the words of Mayor Milk, “I know you can't live on hope alone; but without hope, life is not worth living. So you, and you and you: you got to give them hope; you got to give them hope.”
Be kind to yourselves, friends. Be proud of who you are.
Resources for more information:
The Trevor Project
Matthew Shepard Foundation