Pride Month: Our History and Why is it Still Important to this Day?
Throughout this month, it’s almost impossible to miss the many Pride Month store promotions, ranging from rainbow shoes to shirts and even to salads. But what is Pride Month? Where does it come from, and how did we get here? Whether you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community or you are an ally, these are all important questions to consider and understand. A deeper comprehension of the history of oppression and revolution within this movement can help provide context for Pride Month, as well as for the LGBTQIA+ rights movement every month of the year!
So, what exactly is Pride?
To celebrate Pride Month is to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ+ group, while promoting visibility and allowing their voices to be heard. There are celebrations of Pride all over the world. In fact about 150 cities around the world hold Pride Parades. The people that Pride celebrates include lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queer people, intersex people, asexual people, and those who are gender fluid. It is awesome to think of all the ways Pride visibility can empower more and more communities of diverse sexuality and gender to come together. Our community is continually growing. While we are always learning more about the diversity of sexuality gender we can find ways to continually make space at the table for everyone under the rainbow. There is enough room at Pride for everyone. Even while it celebrates these groups, it also allows for straight allies to celebrate alongside the LGBTQIA community.
How did Pride originate?
The gay rights movement, as well as Pride, were largely sparked by the Stonewall Riots in the 1960s, in which policemen assaulted and harassed members of the LGBTIA+ community who were at a Stonewall in New York City. In fact, the scene escalated over the course of weeks or even months. Due to this increased agitation and tension in the community, repeated incidents of this nature, and physical and verbal harm/discrimination, this assault resulted in a riot that lasted six days.
What Changes Came from the Riots
While these riots did not create the gay rights movement, they allowed for the creation of many gay rights groups, such as GLAAD (formerly Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). It also allowed for the first Pride parade in New York City one year after the riots.
So, Pride and the gay rights movement were sparked due to courageous people who no longer wanted to allow mistreatment and oppression to befall their communities. By operating with a working knowledge of the gay rights movement history, we can better understand the challenges the community has overcome and the obstacles that still stand in the way of the movement.
What about mental health in the LGBTQ+ community?
While this movement has made considerable progress since it was sparked in the 1960s, members of the LGBTQ+ movement are still facing a large number of social marginalization and prejudice. For instance, members of this community are more likely to have mental illness than those who are not in this community which is a product of the minority stressors faced by LGBTIA+ people. LGBTQ+ people are also more likely to have depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues.
Further startling statistics include the fact that LGBTQIA+ youth have high rates of being kicked out of their home, of self-harm, of suicide ideation, and of being terrorized or hurt. Also, according to an article written by Dr. Smithstein, a psychologist, “prejudice, oppression, violence, and death are still, unfortunately, common for people in the LBTQIA+ community in the United States and across the globe.” Improving and maintaining mental health in this group is critical. Therefore, Pride is important because it sheds light on the issues in this community, while also celebrating diversity and inclusion.
How can Pride improve LGBTQ+ individuals’ mental health?
Pride can also be seen as a form of mental health support for a community that faces prejudice, marginalization, and pain. . Pride parades and festivals, as well as Pride Month as a whole, helps to lobby for rights and “visibility” for the LGBTQ+ group. What is meant by “visibility” is awareness of the group and their specific struggles. Another issue that this group often faces is a lack of access to and/or an inability to feel safe at mental healthcare facilities. Thus, Pride Month is a time in which this community can feel more heard to both celebrate their identities and to discuss their struggles.
Pride Month also promotes feelings of pride about the LGBTQ+ community, which is often a stark contrast to the shame and discrimination exists in the media, in religion, and in the day to day world. Those factors can result in serious mental health issues, including addiction, isolation, and, even, death and a key reason pride is still important not just in June but all throughout the year! Pride Month and other Pride events are important because they discourage discrimination and promote pride, even in the face of struggles or obstacles. Pride Month can also be a sort of “safe haven” of expression and visibility for members of this community who may often feel marginalized by the rest of society.
Understanding Pride and its history helps to understand how the movement has made progress, as well as what progress it still has left to make. Pride is also important because it promotes better mental health within the LGBTQ+ community. Understanding the aspects of Pride that are so impactful to both the community and to allies may help to promote similar safe havens and make important changes to improve the mental health and visibility of this group. Go ahead and get involved this month and all throughout the year. Tons of amazing events are happening this month in Lexington and also join the amazing festival that will take place in September this year in downtown Lexington.
Special thanks to our summer intern, Marisa Busquets for researching and writing this article.