When the first Gay Pride March was held in New York, on 28 June 1970, it was not so much a fun celebration, but rather a protest against what happened a year earlier at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, when the LGBT community spontaneously rioted against reoccurring police raids at the Stonewall Inn.
A few months after the riots, at a meeting for the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO), Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy, and Linda Rhodes (in all earnest, the Founders of Gay Pride) proposed the first Gay Pride Parade to be held in New York City.
In Atlanta and New York City the marches were called Gay Liberation Marches, and the day of celebration was called Gay Liberation Day. It was the birth of the Gay Pride movement, which, at the time, served to inspire the growing LGBT activist movement and gradually more and more annual marches started up in cities across the US and throughout the world.
In an article in 2012, UK human rights campaigner, Gay Rights activist and the organiser of the first London Pride, Peter Thatchell said: “My most memorable Pride was Britain’s first one, in July 1972. I helped organise it and we had no idea what to expect. We were surprised to have 700 people turn up, but not surprised to be subject to heavy-handed policing. The reactions of the public were an eye-opener: about a third was overtly hostile — we got pelted with beer cans and coins, but the majority of onlookers seemed just confused and bewildered to see so many openly gay people declaring their sexuality and marching for freedom.”
It’s 44 years since the first Gay Pride marches took place in the streets of New York and Atlanta and we now celebrate Pride Month in June every year across the globe. In 2011, US President Barak Obama said: “I call upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists.”
Times certainly have changed and in particular for the younger LGBT generation in countries like the UK, US, Israel, The Netherlands and France (to mention but a few where Gay Pride is celebrated freely), experiencing heavy-handed hostility and being pelted with beer cans during the celebrations will be unthinkable.
However, many people will be forgiven for feeling that Gay Pride is no longer a march, but that it has turned into a parade of sexual hedonism taken over by wig-swinging Drag Queens, roller-skating nuns and men with their backsides hanging out.
This begs the question: Why do we still celebrate Gay Pride?
HotSaltBeef&Mustard took to the streets and asked a few members of the Jewish LGBT community what their sentiments are over Gay Pride celebrations:
“… I Wouldn’t miss it for the world. Pride is my LGBTQ Rosh Hashanah — a day to celebrate together, to catch up with old friends and make new ones; a day to mingle with those one may otherwise never meet. A couple of years ago the Jewish and Moslem groups accidentally agreed to meet up at the same coffee shop. We got talking and they hung one of our T-shirts on their bus during the parade. When the English Defence League threatened, they came to us and asked if we would join together to face the haters. We did! Last year, sporting a Magen David and a kippa, I marched with Imaan. Seeing us put aside our differences and work together gives me great hope!”
— Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander
“Pride to me personally means diversity, equality and a genuine sense of pride of who I am — an out proud Jewish Lesbian… and combining those two bits of me is the best bit.
There is definitely a need for a Pride march because sadly some members of our community still don’t recognise us — not only our community but in life in general.”
— Peggy Sherwood, Retired Children’s Nurse
“I am and have always been against the idea of the pride events in their current form. On one side, it does not reflect the values of the majority of gay people and certainly does not reflect mine, therefore creating a false impression in people who do not identify themselves as part of the LGBT community. On the other side, and also as a result of the previously mentioned, I do not think that Pride is serving its advocated causes.”
“I’m going to pride this year as I’ve done every year. To me pride is mostly a day of celebration of difference and individuality, to celebrate that it’s ok to be different. There still is a need for Pride today, as always, if not for here, then to keep people aware that equal rights are missing in a lot of countries.”
— Maurice Ticciati, Finance Consultant
“I will be going to Pride but on the march only as the get-together in Trafalgar Square is not as good as it used to be years ago. Pride means less than it used to, but I still think it is essential to make a statement and show our presence… We cannot become complacent as homophobia is still widespread. The participation in the march of the Police, the Fire Brigade and the Armed Forces, all still very reactionary bodies, is both moving and important and I admire the courage of these individuals to come out publicly.”
— David Rubin, Retired Head of Modern Languages
Early next week, we’ll conclude this article with Part 2, Gay Pride: Celebrating The LGBT Spirit Worldwide. In the meantime, if Pride celebrations have already kicked off in the city where you live, have fun, hold your head high and be PROUD.
** Written by Francois Lubbe and Shiraaz Chaim Sidat