I am a happily married, gay male.
The fact that I can write this for my company is predicated on a rich history of bravery and battle by men and women who came before me. I have simply benefited from their sacrifice. June is recognized as Gay Pride Month on a global level—and “Gay” in the title is meant to be inclusive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and ally communities. It is indeed a month of celebration, gratitude, and reflection that goes beyond parades, rainbow flags, balloons, and tea dances. It is a month dedicated to stamping out the stigma associated with being part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is a month of validation of our shared experiences as part of the community and a month of reaching out to others to provide education.
Why do we need a Gay Pride Month, you may wonder? For many in my community, we have experienced and continue to experience hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and violence at the hands of individuals, businesses, churches, institutions, and legislation. Micro-aggressions happen all the time (eg. “I would have never guessed she was a lesbian.”) as do “macro-aggressions” (eg. the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016—the largest mass shooting in American history purposely carried out during Pride week). Some states allow for discrimination of the LGBTQIA community in housing, jobs, programs, and social institutions. Currently there are dozens of anti-LGBTQIA legislation up for vote which threaten to roll back progress that has been made around basic human rights for the LGBTQIA communities. Do you know that I have never been able to donate my blood? Despite critical blood shortage supplies, the very fact that I am gay prevents the American Red Cross from taking my blood. They actually ASK the question and then turn you away if you answer honestly. Talk to anyone in the LGBTQIA community, and you will hear stories of this nature.
And yet, our community CELEBRATES every year in June. June was selected as Pride Month due to the bravery of a transgender woman named Marsha P. Johnson, and hundreds to thousands of angry drag queens, lesbians, transgender women, and gay men who fought against police brutality outside of the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City on June 28, 1969. This riot which lasted for five days was both the culmination of over one hundred years of the American Gay Rights Movement as well as the catalyst for the gay rights movement across the globe. It was a response to the reality of the time when police were given open license to regularly raid suspected gay bars, brutalize the patrons, arrest them, publicly shame them, and financially and socially ruin them.
But the social movement to acknowledge LGBTQIA rights in America long preceded Stonewall…
The Society for Human Rights was founded in 1924 by Henry Gerber in Chicago as the first gay rights organization documented in the United States.
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey published his groundbreaking research on the continuum of sexuality which found that human sexuality does not exist as a bifurcated branch of straight or gay, but a fluid continuum of sexuality.
In 1950, the Mattachine Society was established in Los Angeles as America’s first sustained gay rights organization aimed at eliminating discrimination and exclusion.
In 1955, the Daughters of Bilitis was formed in San Francisco as the nation’s first lesbian rights organization.
In 1962, Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality.
In 1966, the National Transsexual Counseling Unit formed in San Francisco—the world’s first peer-run support and advocacy organization.
In 1970, the Christopher Street Liberation Day honors the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots through a march through Central Park in NYC—considered the very first gay pride parade.
In 1970, the Lavender Menace formed as a response to the exclusion of lesbians and lesbian issues from the feminist movement at the Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM as a mental illness.
In 1974, Kathy Kozachenko was the first openly gay American elected to public office in Michigan.
In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and helps to pass ordinances protecting gay and lesbians from being fired from their jobs and from being prohibited from being school teachers.
In 1979, 75,000 individuals participated in the first National March On Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
In 1980, the Democratic party became the first major political party to endorse a gay rights platform at their National Convention.
In 1987, ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) was formed in response to the devastation of the AIDS crisis and the draconian governmental policies that all but ignored or perpetuated the crisis.
In 1993, the Department of Defense prohibited the denial of applicants based on sexual orientation through the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
In 2000, Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions between same sex partners.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage.
In 2009, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum allowing same sex partners of federal employees to receive some benefits.
In 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard Act which expanded the hate crime law to include crimes of perceived gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
In 2015, the US Supreme Court declared that same sex marriage is legal in all fifty states.
So, in June, the global LGBTQIA community takes time to honor these accomplishments and to reinvigorate itself for the battle that continues. We are a diverse community made up of your friends, family members, elected officials, entertainers, health professionals, civil servants, and others who strive for the same things that we all want—the ability to live a fully authentic life of inclusion. I am thankful for the heroes of my heritage who were part of the beginnings of a social movement to change American society, and even more thankful for my “LGBTQIA family” both within and outside the Center who choose to live out loud and proud today. After all, the “world only spins forward.” Happy Pride!