June is Pride Month. A month to celebrate, support, and promote acceptance of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
In this article, I discuss some of the history of how the LGBTQ+ community emerged and gained the following it has today. I also honor a hero of this community, Harvey Milk. Be sure to check out the links to education, events, and community support at the bottom. And don't forget to mark your calendar for the return of the Seattle Pride Parade on June 26.
LGBTQ+ History: A Quick Primer
Pride Month presents a great opportunity to look back on LGBTQ+ history that impacted queer culture around the nation and allowed our modern rights and pride celebrations to come to fruition.
Doing a bit of research in preparation for this post I discovered that during the summer of 1970 in New York City, there was clearly a collective shift in attitude from the queer community following the events of June 28, 1969 at Stonewall.
It was a moment in time that began to reflect the new attitude spreading among the community. The fear of persecution from colleagues or neighbors, just from knowing you were gay, was over. People were tired of sitting back quietly, and started standing up for what is right, even if it cost them their jobs. It was a tremendous strain leading a double life; so, in growing numbers they were publicly identifying as gay, and taking a measure of pride in their identity.
While that all seemed joyful, there was still plenty of resistance. In 1970, homosexuality was still considered a psychiatric or emotional illness. Additionally, since being out during those times was not acceptable or legal, many queer people worked very hard to be accepted by straight society and didn’t want to ruin their safety net.
It wasn’t until three years later in December of 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association made history by issuing a resolution stating that homosexuality was not a mental illness or sickness. This resolution helped shift public opinion, and also marked a major milestone for LGBTQ+ equality.
Timeline of Prominent Groups + Events
The Society of Human Rights, 1924 | First gay rights organization in the country and first gay rights newsletter: Freedom & Friendship
The Mattachine Society, 1950 | Provided a space to gather and discuss their experiences. This organizing was radical at the time.
Daughters of Bilitis, 1955 | One of the first lesbian organizations established in America; held public education forums, and provided support to partnered, single, and parenting lesbians.
Compton Cafeteria Riot, August 1966 | Recognized today for its importance as one of the first queer uprisings against police brutality.
Stonewall, June 28, 1969 | A riot that broke out at a popular bar in New York City after the patrons were fed up with the frequency of police raids, this event was the catalyst for the gay rights movement across the United States.
Gay Liberation Front, Immediately after Stonewall 1969 | First group to publicly advocate for equal gay rights.
Honoring Harvey Milk
Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the US when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He began his political movement in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco and coined himself the Mayor of Castro Street.
Harvey Milk [1930 – 1978], visionary civil and human rights leader.
He rose in popularity by fighting against Prop 6 in California, a initiative that call for a public school teacher, teacher's aide, administrator, or counselor to be fired if the employee was found to have engaged in either (1) "public homosexual activity," which the initiative defined as an act of homosexual sex which was "not discreet and not practiced in private, whether or not such act, at the time of its commission, constituted a crime," or (2) "public homosexual conduct," which the initiative defined as "the advocating, soliciting, imposing, encouraging or promoting of private or public homosexual activity directed at, or likely to come to the attention of, schoolchildren and/or other employees. Milk and Prop 6 opponents prevailed with a 58.4% No vote against 41.6% Yes.
Just 20 days after this victory he was assassinated at City Hall alongside the San Francisco Mayor George Masconi. Both were murdered by Dan White, an ex-board member who always butted heads with Harvey. Harvey Milk's death was a huge tragedy, but his legacy lives on.
This Pride Month I encourage everyone to participate by remembering the past, and honoring the LGBTQ+ revolt by offering your support to this community.