The month of June is widely recognised as Pride Month in the UK and around the world, a month in which cities hold a variety of activities celebrating LGBTQ+ identity and raising awareness of the social and political inequalities surrounding sexuality.
This weekend marks the 48th year of the London Pride Parade, which is the most well-known of the events that take place during Pride Month within London and has been held on a Saturday as near to June 28th as possible every year since 1972. However, due to COVID-19, this year the celebrations that take place every year to coincide with the Pride Parade have moved online. Pride In London, the charity responsible for coordinating the Pride Month activities every year, has gathered together an amazing array of online events on their website https://prideinlondon.org/events which you should check out, whether you are part of LGBTQ + community or just interested in learning about the contributions they have made to making society a more tolerant and vibrant place.
The origin of Pride celebrations around the world are usually attributed to 2 events that occurred within the gay community of New York City: the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and the Christopher Street Liberation Day held a year later in celebration of the Riots. The Stonewall Riots occurred on June 28th, 1969 and were in response to police harassment of LGBTQ + communities in and around the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village in New York. Bars acted like community centres for the LGBTQ + community. They were one of the few places where gays and lesbians at that time could go and express their identity openly and receive protection.
It was illegal in the 1960s in the United States and in the UK for same-sex couple to express any affection openly and the LGBTQ + community were regularly arrested and imprisoned because of this. Although the law supported police officers in arresting gays and lesbians who were displaying affection in public, it did not support them verbally harassing and beating members of the LGBTQ + community, and these types of activities were perpetrated by the police frequently.
Police regularly raided bars like the Stonewall Inn in a violent fashion, beating patrons even if they weren’t breaking the law (there was no law against LGBTQ + people gathering peacefully). On June 28th in 1969, during one of those regular raids, the patrons of Stonewall Inn decided to fight back against the police’s use of violence and a riot occurred in Greenwich Village. Amongst the LGBTQ+ communities, this act of defiance, although illegal, was deemed necessary in order to further the civil rights struggle of the LGBTQ + community. It was the spark that led to the Gay Rights Movement which has been responsible for widespread reforms within the law, within education and healthcare, and within societal opinions towards members of the LGBTQ + community.
To celebrate the beginning of the Gay Rights Movements, one year on from the Stonewall riots on June 28th, 1970, citizens in New York held a day-long celebration entitled the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which included a parade. It is widely believed that this parade was the precursor to similar parades around the world in recognition of the Gay Rights Movement and in celebration of the creativity, uniqueness, nerve and talent of LGBTQ + community, including the Pride Parade in London, the first of which was held on the first Saturday of July in 1972 (this date was picked because it was the Saturday closest to June 28th).
The UK Gay Rights Movement is a fascinating history and should you wish to learn more about how the LGBTQ + community has fought and continues to fight for equality, you should start by checking out these websites:
Should you be struggling with your sexual or gender identity and wish to speak to someone, there are a number of charities who operate free, confidential helplines:
Samaritans: 0845 7909090
24 hour helpline support for those experiencing distress, despair and/or suicidal feelings
LGBT Foundation: – 0845 3 30 30 30 or 0161 235 8035 (10am-10pm, daily)
Helpline run by Lesbian and gay health charity. Email: email@example.com
Childline: 0800 1111
Free, 24-hour helpline for children and young people in trouble or danger. If the lines are busy, please keep trying
Allsorts: – 01273 72 12 11Free helpline, 10am-5pm, Monday – Friday
Allsorts is charity which supports young people under 26 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or unsure (LGBTQU) of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity
Pace Youth: – 0207 700 1323
Free and confidential counselling for LGBTQ youth under 19. PACE is a LGBTQ mental health and wellbeing charity
National Lesbian and Gay Switchboard: – 0300 330 0630
Support and information for LGBQ people across the UK (10am to 11pm)