LGBT Rights

History in the making: the origin of Pride and one way to support LGBTQ+ rights

Jun 12, 2019

Each week of June during Pride Month at Change.org, we send a company-wide email sharing stories, experiences, and history. To celebrate the start of Pride Month, we decided to share this email externally. Nic Holas, Campaigns Director for Change.org Australia, offered a snapshot into the rich history behind the origin of Pride. While this list is not exhaustive, it’s a compilation of some of the events that have brought us to where we are today with regards to LGBTQ+ civil liberties.

If you want to show your solidarity for LGBTQ+ rights, you can sign a petition created by one of our many incredible campaign starters to ban conversion therapy.

Welcome to this week’s Pride Month storytelling email. All throughout June, Change.org will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising with a series of activities aimed at creating the space for storytelling, education, community engagement, and more.

“Out of the bars and into the streets!”

It was the call heard around the world. Fifty years ago, fed up members of the LGBTQI+ community came out, literally, and told the world that they were here, they were queer, and they were not going to take it any more.

Lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, trans people, drag queens, and other queers were criminalized by society, often brutalized by police, and cast out of their homes, churches, workplaces, and essential services.

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Marsha P. Johnson handing out flyers in support of the Gay Liberation Front in New York. (Image via New Museum)

For many people, “Pride” as we know it began 50 years ago on June 28, 1969, with the famous Stonewall Riots in NYC. We’ll hear more about the story of Stonewall later this month, but no single moment can claim to have started Pride. The history of LGBTIQA+ identities and the fight for our rights is a long, complex one – as long as human history itself.

From the same-sex attractions that flourished in Ancient Greece, to the many Indigenous cultures that respect and have names for third genders, or a gender fluid experience, LGBTIQA+ people have always been here. Sometimes, we have been valued. Other times, we have been feared.

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Examples of Native American Two-Spirit: We’wha (left), Osh-Tisch (Finds Them and Kills Them) (center) and Dahteste (right). (Images via: John K. Hillers, Smithsonian Institute/John H. Fouch/F.A. Rinehart, Omaha Public Library)

By the time the late 1960s rolled around, the pendulum had swung back to fear. Puritanical thinking and colonization had imposed sodomy laws around most of the “settled” world, but that social conservatism was clashing head-on with an unstoppable wave of social change in the Western world: feminism, civil rights, and pride.

It all came to a head at Stonewall, and the ensuing coverage helped inspire a series of demonstrations across the US and around the world. By 1971, marches for “Gay Pride” (as it was known then) were taking place in Chicago, San Fran, Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. By 1972, Atlanta, Brighton, Buffalo, Detroit, Washington D.C., Miami, and Philadelphia were all out in the streets.

In 1978, Sydney’s first Mardi Gras took place. Fifty-three people were bashed and arrested by officers. Today, it is one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the world.


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Sydney Mardi Gras, then and now. (Images via Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras)

For LGBTIQA+ people to march out of the underground bars and secret societies, and step out publicly and take on police to demand social and legal change took courage. These early protests were violent, with members of our community hospitalized and thrown in jail. Newspapers would publish the names of the arrested, outing people which lead to job losses, families ostracizing them, blackmail, and other forms of discrimination.

You might think this is all part of history, with Pride events happening around the world that looks more like Carnival than a political rally – but for many, Pride is still a protest. In 2015, police dispersed the Istanbul LGBT Pride Parade using tear gas and rubber bullets, and the event has been canceled ever since. In Uganda, infamous for its anti-queer laws, a triumphant Pride took place in 2015…but was violently suppressed in subsequent years.


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Uganda Pride participants (Image via Africanews.com)

Globally, we are seeing the return or persistence of anti-LGBTIQA+ rhetoric that has a sharp focus on trans and gender diverse people. As members of the LGBTIQA+ community, Pride is a priceless opportunity to remind the world that we are here, we are queer, and we’re not going anywhere. For our allies, it is a chance to stand with us and be reminded of the work many of us do every day to keep our community safe and thriving.

While some of our rights have been won, we have much work to do. Pride is a chance to celebrate our wins, to take stock of what we still must fight for, and above all – to come out into the streets, into the light, and shine a little rainbow onto the world.