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What’s the Tea? A 101 on Pride Month History

When is Pride Month? What about Pride Month history facts? We cover all that and more right here.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
June 5, 2024
June 22, 2024
8
min. read
Table of Contents

Every June, millions of LGBTQ people and allies march through cities across the world to celebrate Pride Month, meaning it’s time to come together to say, "We're here, we're queer, and you better be fucking used to it by now!"  

But when it comes to Pride Month history, do you think of yourself as more of a Derrick Barry or a Willam? Do you know all the specifics about what happened at Stonewall and why we celebrate Pride in June, or do you just sort of make it up as you go along? If you're the latter, don't worry; we got you.  

First things first: June’s summertime festivities are fun and all, but there are actually two months when we recognize and celebrate the LGBTQ community. (What can we say? We love a little attention.)

While June is Pride Month and commemorates the Stonewall Riots on Christopher Street (more on that in a sec), October is officially recognized as LGBTQ History Month. It’s when we honor the 1979 March on Washington for Gay Rights, one of the largest protests in U.S. history. It’s also when we celebrate National Coming Out Day, on October 11, honoring the bravery it takes to fully and openly embrace who you are.

For now, we'll focus on Pride Month, but keep in mind there's more than one month a year to "officially" celebrate LGBTQ pride. And on that note, we encourage you to let your pride shine each and every mothertuckin’ day. Our rights depend on it!

Why is Pride Month important?

We all love the month-long rainbow-clad party that comes every June, but beyond all the dancing in the streets, it's crucial to know our history and the origins of the gay rights movement in the United States. And it’s fundamental to ensuring we never go backward. Remember, knowledge is power. That said, let the Pride Month history crash course commence: 

1969: The Stonewall Riots 

Once upon a time, nearly half a century before it would become a national monument, the Stonewall Inn was just another little unassuming dive bar on Christopher Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. More importantly, it was a place where LGBTQ folk could escape the outside world and openly be themselves. At a time when homosexuality was still a criminal act, “incognito” gay bars like Stonewall served as a safe space for queer people to relax and connect (not to mention if we're being completely honest, a place to hook up). 

On June 28, 1969, police stormed the Stonewall Inn. This wasn't their first raid; such actions were a regular tactic driven by discriminatory laws criminalizing homosexual behavior and gender nonconformity at the time. However, on that night, the patrons of Stonewall had had enough. Instead of submitting, they decided it was time to fight back.

The Stonewall Riots lasted six days and became a pivotal point in the fight for LGBTQ equality in the U.S. and beyond. Although it wasn't the first time queer and trans people had stood up against police brutality, the Stonewall Riots marked a new era, inspiring the creation of groups like the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. Building on the foundations laid by older organizations like the Mattachine Society, these groups organized the first Pride March the following year, the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.

Approximately 2,000 people participated in that first march, and subsequent installments in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and elsewhere in New York eventually led to hundreds of Pride Marches worldwide. 

2000: Gay and Lesbian Pride Month

Because so many of us have been celebrating Pride Month for as long as we've been out, it's easy to think that Pride has been around since Stonewall. But that’s anything but the case. Although gays have been throwing some of the best parties and parades since the beginning of time (Sodom and Gomorrah, anyone?), Pride Month has only officially been recognized since the year 2000. 

In June 2000, former President Bill Clinton declared June to be Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in recognition of the Stonewall Riots and the long fight for equality that followed. Although there's still a long way to go in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, this monumental step sparked annual Pride Month celebrations worldwide. Today, some of the largest outside the U.S. happen in São Paulo, Brazil, with approximately 3 million attendees, and Madrid, Spain, with around 2 million attendees.

2009: LGBT Pride Month

As the years passed, we continued to grow, learn, and achieve more as a community. Our language shifted and evolved, and we became better at celebrating all members of the LGBTQ family. In 2009, former President Barack Obama renamed Gay and Lesbian Pride Month to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, ensuring everyone knew they had a seat at the table. And rightfully so, as many of the first to fight back at Stonewall were trans women of color.

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Who was at Stonewall?

Now that you know the what, where, when, why, and how of Pride, let’s dive into the who — specifically, the heroes who fought back at Stonewall, leading us to Pride Month as we know it today? 

Marsha P. Johnson

If Pride had a mother, it would undoubtedly be Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman credited with throwing the first brick at Stonewall. At only 25, she proved that you're never too young to stand up and make a difference. Marsha was, is, and will always be a monumental pillar of the community, and her relentless advocacy and unstoppable spirit are foundational to the Pride we know and love today.

Sylvia Rivera

Along with lifelong friend Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), an organization dedicated to finding housing for LGBTQ youth living on the streets. Rivera was just 17 on the night of the Stonewall uprising, but despite being a minor, she refused to escape, declaring, "I'm not missing a minute of this—it's the revolution!"

Stormé DeLarverie

If Marsha P. Johnson is credited with throwing the first brick at Stonewall, Stormé DeLarverie allegedly had the honor of throwing the first punch. "It's rumored that she did, and she said she did," said friend Lisa Cannistraci in a 2014 interview with the New York Times. Known as the self-proclaimed butch "guardian of the lesbians in The Village," DeLarverie was, along with Johnson, one of the first instigators of the Stonewall uprising.

Pride symbols

Humans have used symbols for millennia to strengthen our sense of identity and deepen our cultural connections. In ancient Egypt, the ankh symbolized life, while in ancient Greece, the olive branch represented peace. For the LGBTQ community, two prominent symbols are the rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, and the pink triangle, reclaimed from its dark history during World War II. Let's take a closer look at both:

The pink triangle

First used by the Nazis to denote gay prisoners in concentration camps during World War II, the inverted pink triangle was later reclaimed by gay liberation movements in the 1970s as a symbol of pride and remembrance for queer people worldwide. Since 2001, a 1-acre-wide pink triangle has been erected atop a hill overlooking San Francisco's Castro District every June to commemorate Pride Month.

The rainbow flag

Arguably the most omnipresent and universal symbol of the LGBTQ community, the rainbow flag made its debut in 1978 at San Francisco's Gay Freedom Day Parade. Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, the original design featured eight stripes, each representing a different meaning:

  • Pink: Sex
  • Red: Life
  • Orange: Healing
  • Yellow: Sunlight
  • Green: Nature
  • Turquoise: Magic and art
  • Indigo: Serenity
  • Violet: Spirit 

In 2018, nonbinary artist Daniel Quasar created the Progress Pride Flag, which incorporates elements of the trans flag along with black and brown stripes to highlight the discrimination faced by queer people of color and to honor those who have lived and still live with HIV/AIDS.

Flaunt your pride with Grindr

From the first brick thrown at Stonewall to the most recent wig reveal by your favorite local drag queen, Pride Month has always been both protest and party. It’s a time for us to celebrate, love each other, and throw some (biodegradable) glitter in the air. More importantly, it’s to honor those who fought for us to be where we are today and a chance to continue the fight for ourselves and those who will come after us. 

While Pride Month is officially celebrated in June, its spirit can — and does — live on all year. With more than 10 million monthly active members, you’ll find plenty of community to connect with on Grindr. Download the Grindr app and profess your pride every day!

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