Starting with the Stonewall Riots, in 1969, June became also known as Pride Month, celebrating the history of the queer rights movement. Though Pride Month is definitely still a celebration, I feel as though a lot of people, both queer and not, forget what got us to where we are in the first place, which was a lot of very brave people, before, after and during the Stonewall Riots.
According to LGBTQhistory.org, the term lesbian was used as early as 1732, although 1649 was the first time two women were punished for displaying lesbian behavior in what is now the U.S, being charged for “lewd behavior.” There are other interesting figures who were queer, or possibly queer, such as James Buchanan, who had a long term relationship with William Rufus King, living with him until 1853, when King died.
Of course, there was plenty of queer history after the Stonewall Riots as well. The first gay pride marches took place in 1970, and in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association reclassified homosexuality as not being a mental disorder, though it wasn’t until 1987 that the APA completely removed it from its list of mental disorders. And in 1974, Elaine Noble became the first openly gay person to be elected as a state legislator, in Massachusetts.
The AIDS crisis, one of the biggest parts of queer history, began in 1981. There were a total of 583,298 U.S. men, women and children who would die from AIDS through 2007. Many things were created for the support of those with AIDS throughout this time period, such as the San Francisco AIDS foundation, the AIDS quilt and ACT UP, an organization to impact the lives of people living with AIDS, to advocate for legislation, medical research and treatment, and to bring an end to the disease. The organization is still active today. The first World AIDS day took place on Dec. 1, 1988.
Some other key events that took place were in the ‘90s, like Ellen DeGeneres coming out (1997), or, more significantly, Matthew Shephard’s murder in 1998, which eventually led to the federal law, the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act” being passed in 2009, a federal law against bias crimes directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
And, most recently, the Supreme Court decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015 said that same-sex couples have the right to marry. The fight for equal rights among queer people is still going on today, and though being queer is more widely accepted now than it was in even the early 2000s, there’s still a lot of pushback against us, including the rights we currently have.
So, this Pride Month, please remember that while we should be celebrating the vibrant existence of queer people out there, we need to also remember those who were loud and proud before us, when it was much more dangerous, and how they got us here. And we need to remember those who weren’t so loud and proud, but still loved as fiercely as those who were. Each and every one of them were brave.