28 June 1969. New York City. Stonewall Inn, a bar located in Greenwich Village, frequented by the gay community, was raided by the police. Patrons within the establishment were taken outside in order to be arrested. The tension caused by the raid continued increasing with patrons resisting arrest and a growing crowd becoming more and more animated. Soon coins and bottles were being thrown at the police officers. The underlying energy that had been building up in the New York gay community, after years of harassment by the authorities, exploded and resulted in three days of protest.
These protests became the spark for the rise of emerging gay rights movements. This led to the formation of organisations, meetings with politicians, and more positive conversations in the public with regard to the gay community. The original organisers decided to make June, Pride Month as a means of paying homage to the Stonewall protests of 1969. The Pride name came from Brenda Howard, a bisexual activist from New York. She was nicknamed “Mother of Pride”. She is credited for organising the first Pride parade as a way to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall protest. The rainbow flag and colours are other highlights of Pride Month. The flag was designed by artist and designer Gilbert Baker after being commissioned by Harvey Milk, an openly gay elected official in the USA. Baker, who was also a gay rights activist took inspiration from the diverse interests within the queer community and used the colours of the rainbow to represent that diversity.
June is Pride Month. This is the month in which the world’s LGBTQIA+ communities come together in order to celebrate themselves and their freedom to be. LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, intersexual, and asexual. Here’s a breakdown of the LGBTQIA+ community:
• Gay people and lesbians are people attracted to people of the same sex. Lesbians are women in this instance.
• Bisexual people are attracted to people of their gender as well as other genders.
• A person is transsexual when they feel emotionally and psychologically as if they belong to the opposite sex.
• Queer is an umbrella term referring to non-straight people.
• Intersex refers to those whose sex is not clearly defined because of genetic, hormonal, and biological differences.
• Asexual describes those people who do not feel any sexual attraction. The plus is for the people who recognise themselves as gender-fluid, whose gender identity shifts according to the situation or time.
Pride gatherings came about as a fightback against continued prejudice that resulted in the loss of dignity, opportunities, and even death. This was a decades’ long fight for the LGBTQIA+ community to be accepted as who they are. Pride events are geared towards being an inclusive space in which all people are allowed to be present, even people who identify as heterosexual. It should be noted that a greater emphasis is placed on people who feel that their sexual identity falls outside the boundaries of the mainstream.
Pride events usually take place in June but it is a common place for different cities around the world to host them during different periods of time. For example in 2020, the Cape Town Gay Pride was largely held during the month of February, from the 14th of February until the 1st of March. The first Lesbian and Gay pride march in South Africa was held in Johannesburg on 13 October 1990. It was the very first march of its kind to be held in Africa. One of the outstanding facts about that march was that it was both a pro-queer and anti-apartheid protest. The Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) was the organiser of the march and it attracted a sizable crowd of around 800 people. The march was attended by Beverly Ditsie, Simon Nkoli, and Judge Edwin Cameron. Simon Nkoli, who was an anti-apartheid, gay rights and AIDS activist, spoke at the march and the following are his words, “I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into primary or secondary struggles. They will be all one struggle.” These were still dangerous times in South Africa so a large portion of the crowd was wearing masks. There was a notable presence of religious groups and onlookers who described the march as “disgusting”. The event was an important foundation for Pride marches as each province in South Africa currently hosts one.
South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was also the fifth country to legalise same sex marriage. Same sex couples are allowed to adopt children. LGBTQIA+ community are protected from discrimination due to constitutional and statutory protections. South Africa is one of the most accommodating countries in Africa, however, the LGBTQIA community still suffers from homophobic violence such as corrective rape. On the 21st of March, a lesbian teen was stabbed 13 times for accidently bumping into a man. The young female died a painful death due to homophobia. South Africa still has a long way to go.
Pride Month is an important institution in the LGBTQIA+ community. It is an important platform that can be used for many reasons to improve the lives and livelihoods of people within its community. It should be supported and allowed to span its wings even further.