If you’ve come across more rainbows than usual in the past few weeks, there’s a good reason: June is internationally recognized as LGBT Pride month, a time when LGBT groups celebrate with events and parades bedazzled in colorful memorabilia. With the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality expected later this month, many people are asking if Pride is still as important as it was in decades past. The answer is absolutely yes. As we head into the final week of festivities, here are four reasons Pride matters more than ever:
1. Pride commemorates our history.
In 1969, it was illegal for LGBT people to congregate at a bar, or for bars to serve LGBT people. The Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, was one of the few places LGBT people could get a drink or hang out. Even there, life wasn’t easy: Police frequently raided the bar, issuing fines and violently arresting patrons. In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, a black trans woman named Marsha Johnson struck back by throwing a shot glass at police officers. This act of resistance, known today as the “shot glass heard around the world,” kicked off days of rioting as LGBT people rose up against the police system’s brutality and bigotry. A month later, Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, helped plan the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March near the site of the riots. And while the LGBT civil rights movement has made great strides in the decades since then, we’re still far from true freedom and equality – which is why we should never forget where and how Pride celebrations started.
2. Pride celebrates our accomplishments.
As a community, LGBT people have a lot to be grateful for this year. For the first time in history, a standing President said the words “bisexual” and “transgender.” Legal wins against reparative therapy in New Jersey and California have brought us one step closer to a federal ban against the harmful pseudo-science practice. Last February, the LGBT community celebrated our first openly bisexual governor – the only openly LGBT governor in our nation’s history. We’ve also dominated Hollywood with historic magazine covers, accurate TV depictions of same-sex sex, and transgender awareness. Pride is a time to celebrate all of this and more.
3. Pride allows us to celebrate our sexual and gender identities in public.
Despite these signs of progress, many Americans are still against same-sex PDA. In 2014, GLAAD commissioned a Harris Poll measuring attitudes about LGBT persons. Surprisingly, even those who said they supported marriage equality also said that they felt uncomfortable seeing same-sex couples kiss or hold hands. Due to this public discomfort, in many parts of the country it can still be unsafe for LGBT persons to express same-sex affection. Hate crimes against LGBT individuals – or even just against people who appear LGBT to hateful eyes – are still occurring. Large-scale Pride events are a safe place for LGBT people to express affection in public without worrying.
4. Pride reminds us that we still have a long way to go.
As we head toward historic wins on marriage equality, it’s crucial to remember that many other victories are still needed for real equality. When it comes to basic civil rights, LGBT people are still second-class citizens in the eyes of the law. In 29 states, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, lesbian or bisexual. In 32 states, the same is true for being trans. LGBT people also face widespread housing discrimination with no protection under the law: 33 states don’t include protections for sexuality under housing discrimination laws, and 35 states lack those protections for trans identities. And it could get worse, with conservatives scheming up “religious freedom” bills aimed to deny basic services to LGBT people. Marriage equality is far from the final frontier for LGBT civil rights. It’s only the beginning. Pride is the ideal time to remember our past while recognizing our long road ahead.