June is Pride Month
Lisa Rigstad, Program Manager, Art Practice Department
When & Why Did Pride Marches start?
The one event that galvanized the movement of gay pride started after the police raid on June 28, 1969, at Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, NYC. After the raid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people rioted, setting the stage for the modern LGBT+ movement. Brenda Howard – “the Mother of Pride” was a radical and fierce activist for gays, transgender, and bisexual people.
To mark the first anniversary of the raid and riots, Brenda and a committee organized Gay Pride week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970. The word “pride” was suggested by committee organizer, L.Craig Schoonmaker. “A lot of people were very repressed, they were conflicted internally, and didn’t know how to come out and be proud. That’s how the movement was most useful, because they thought, ‘Maybe I should be proud,’” Schoonmaker said in 2015. This was the first gay pride march in New York and is now known as the New York City Pride march, which helped to start the Pride Marches worldwide.
Local Pride Events
The Rainbow Flag
The first Rainbow Flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978. Baker was an openly gay man and a drag queen. He was encouraged by Harvey Milk, an openly gay elected official in San Francisco, to make a symbol of pride for the gay community. Baker chose a flag because he felt a flag was a powerful symbol of visible proclamation of,“This is who I am.”
Baker selected the rainbow because he saw it as a natural flag of the sky and adopted each of the colors into the stripes of the flag each with their own meaning. Hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit. The first flag was flown on June 25, 1978, at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day. Because of mass production problems with colors, pink and turquoise were removed and indigo was replaced with basic blue.
TOM BOY — A LIVED LIFE
I knew I was a little different than the rest of the girls on the block.
Dresses were not for me, they got in the way of having real fun.
Loved searching for that perfect stick that worked the best as a toy gun to play army with the boys. And always the first one to suggest antics on the roof of the garage — secretly hoping I’d fall off because having a cast was cool.
I grew up with a twin brother and an older brother, but my twin was my constant companion, well him, and Chris who lived down the street. Chris was cool, because he had a pool and could do flips off the diving board. We spent many days running the neighborhood repurposing “garbage” for our backyard fort.
Barbara was my other friend. She lived across the street. And before she got too cool to hang out with a little kid, we would sometimes play board games in her bedroom. Her bedroom was filled with posters of boys from the magazine Teen Beat — boys with boy names like David, Tom and Michael. She spent hours looking and cooing over the boys. I never quite understood why you would sit in your bedroom looking at boys in magazines when you could be outside playing football with them. After she became a teenager, we didn’t hang out much anymore.
My family seemed fine with me tackling the boys, getting stitches and cutting my hair, never to be upset when I was called a boy, my mom would shrug it off, “she’s a tomboy.” But there was always that underlying silent disapproval. David Bowie was strange, Boy George was a weirdo, Craig, my older brother’s best friend said you should listen to Barry Manilow, now rather ironic. Despite pleading with my parents, I wanted to play tennis like my idol, Billie Jean King. My folks said we don’t have the money for such things.
I muddled my way through my teens, just never really fitting in, but fitting in by being the talented art kid and star high school soccer player. Sexuality or displays of affections was not commonplace in my house. Anyone attracted or interested in me always made me uncomfortable, so I never really dated anyone. If any boys happened to be interested, it was scary and well back then you didn’t date girls, and if a girl was interested in me that was even scarier.
I wanted to go away to college but with a full-ride to Wayne State University, that is where I was going, it was still in the big city, and a little exciting. Wayne art school is where I met Jerome, the man that made me feel safe. Safe to feel love. It felt normal to be with him, we had the same interests, he was patient, loved listening and took a genuine interest in me, which is something I had never felt before. We dated for a long time. I put my feelings behind me. Jerome was a beautiful and loving man, why would I not love him?
Years went by, Jerome and I married, bought a house, got some dogs, living the American dream of normal, but I knew something was missing, and he knew it too. By now, being gay although not widely accepted, it was becoming more in the mainstream of the culture. There were gay characters on TV, Ellen was out, Equal Right stickers were the norm and there were parades of celebration.
The day came that Jerome unselfishly let me go, encouraging me to discover and hopefully to finally find myself, or my identity. To course my way through a new way of being, it was scary at first but as I moved through my world, I discovered many just like me, who had yet lived a life.
The tomboy finally found herself, again living the American dream with love, laughter, happiness and still no broken bones.
“What long-fought battles, tragic losses and hard-won triumphs have brought us as a country from the days when a much loved and gifted professor could be disgraced, thrown in jail and hounded out of his profession as soon as his private life was revealed, to the days when a military officer could marry the woman she loves in broad daylight and be promoted, in a very public ceremony, to the rank of general with her wife by her side?”
Interested in Learning More
Heroes are found in all walks of life. For the LGBTQ + community, it was those who fought in 1969 Stonewall Riots, lost their jobs because they no longer could stay silent or came out in office because they knew they could create change even if it meant losing their lives, or at the age of 84 take on the Supreme Court to pave the way for same-sex marriage rights. Below are some of their stories.
- Harvey Milk
- 15 LGBTQ Activists of the Past and Present You Should Know
- USA TODAY – Edith Windsor – A relevant read on Edith Windsor – Equal Rights for Marriage from 2012
- Windsor V. United States – The ruling on the ACLU website.
- A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir Hardcover by Joshua Lyon (Author), Edie Windsor (Author)
- The Matthew Shepard Story
The Struggle for Equity Continues
Though there has been some progress for equality for the LBGTQ + community there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
- The State Equality Index is an annual comprehensive state-by-state report that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LBGQTQ + community people and their families.
- The State Equality Index – click here- Interesting although Michigan has Marriage Equality, we fail on every other mandate protecting the LBGTQ+ community.
- 2021 Slated to Become Worst Year for LGBTQ State Legislative Attacks as Unprecedented Number of States Poised to Enact Record-Shattering Number of Anti-LGBTQ Measures into Law
Violence against the transgender community and the law
There are many articles and news stories of violence against the transgender community. These incidences are increasing at an alarming rate. Below are a few that have been in the news this year.