Aug 5, 2013

The Modern LGBT Community: Why We Celebrate Pride

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pride1Early on the morning of Saturday, 28 June 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street, New York City. This riot and further protests and rioting over the following nights were the watershed moment in modern LGBT rights movement and the impetus for organizing LGBT pride marches on a much larger public scale.

On November 2, 1969, Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy, and Linda Rhodes proposed the first pride march to be held in New York City by way of a resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) meeting in Philadelphia.

pride2The proposal; “That the Annual Reminder, in order to be more relevant, reach a greater number of people, and encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle in which we are engaged, that of our fundamental human rights, be moved both in time and location.

“We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. No dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration. We also propose that we contact Homophile organizations throughout the country and suggest that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day. We propose a nationwide show of support.”

Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970 marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots with an assembly on Christopher Street and the first Gay Pride march in U.S. history, covering the 51 blocks to Central Park. The march took less than half the scheduled time due to excitement, but also due to wariness about walking through the city with gay banners and signs. Although the parade permit was delivered only two hours before the start of the march, the marchers encountered little resistance from onlookers. The New York Times reported (on the front page) that the marchers took up the entire street for about 15 city blocks.

pride3Fast forward forty four years and we see the fruits of those disenfranchised pioneers. We now have incredible Pride Events in most major cities throughout the US and the world. My reasons in bringing up the concept of a modern LGBTQ group to be reckoned with are twofold.

First, we need to understand that things were a lot different forty four years ago. The idea that gay people could have rights was a new concept. Before the movement began LGBTQ people were the scum of the earth, creeps, un-godly, and other terms of depravity. As the movement progressed, people realized that we were a huge portion of society, that we lived in all aspects of the community, and that we were also part of their own families. That’s when respect began to grow.

pride4Second, we have made enormous inroads getting the message out to the big cities, but our rural areas are still suffering. As LGBTQ people, with the help of family and allies, we need to begin attending the out of the way places and show support for the growing number of heroes who risk everything by displaying themselves, their businesses, and their families. While there is still plenty of discrimination dangerously lurking in the background, we need to help Rural Virginia take a stand for equality.

Creating equality for LGBTQ folks in a small town isn’t always easy. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome; among them is fear, shame, stigma and all the old standbys. Small communities don’t have armies of organizers, and often the same people are the ones organizing every event. Burnout is common. Sometimes they just need some encouragement.

The fight for LGBT Equality is not going to be won in the cities. It’s already won there for the most part. It’s going to be won in small-town America, where people need to see LGBTQ people as human, normal, and neighbors. It’s going to be won when the casual onlooker comes to the parade hoping to see “freaks” and walks away disappointed, when he sees families and friends laughing and cheering.

We need to see more of your support in the rural pride events that we plan to attend this year. If you live within reasonable driving distance of a Pride event, make it a day trip and come out to support those who really could use your help.

Pride Festivals we will be attending:

  • Out in the Park, Town Pointe Park, 333 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, 08/10/22013;
  • Charlottesville Pride, TBA, 09/14/2013
  • Roanoke Pride, River’s Edge North, 302 Wiley Dr. SW, Roanoke, VA, 09/21/2013;
  • Virginia Pride, Kanawha Plaza, Richmond, VA, 09/28/2013;
  • State Fair of Virginia, Caroline County, VA 09/29/2013;
  • Elkton Pride, Merck Grounds, Elkton, VA, 10/06/2013
  • Fairfax Pride, TBA

Happy Pride!

– Don Davenport
Vice Chair for Outreach