Pride Parades are some of the most exciting events of the year, but a lot of people don't understand the rich and often untold history behind the movement.
From the creation and meaning of the rainbow flag to the modern-day acknowledgment of LGBT Pride Month from political leaders, here are 13 facts about Pride that may have flown under your radar.
1) The event that inspired the Pride parades we know now was a march to commemorate the Stonewall Riots.
In 1970, a year after the Stonewall Inn rebellion thousands of LGBT New Yorkers gathered for the Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD) March along Sixth Avenue from Greenwich Village to Central Park, chanting, “Say it clear, say it loud! Gay is good, gay is proud!” The success of the CSLD March inspired local organizers across the United States and around the globe to start their own LGBT marches.
At the 1973 CSLD march, transgender activist Sylvia Rivera called out transphobia in an epic speech, proving that transgender people have been part of our community's activism forever.
In an essay for The Village Voice, Fred Sargeant recounted his experience at the CSLD March: "This was long before anyone had heard of a “Gay Pride March.” Back then, it took a new sense of audacity and courage to take that giant step into the streets of Midtown Manhattan. […] There were no floats, no music, no boys in briefs. The cops turned their backs on us to convey their disdain, but the masses of people kept carrying signs and banners, chanting and waving to surprised onlookers." Photo via YouTube.
2) There was a gay rights movement prior to Pride Month
Prior to the Stonewall riots that led to Pride Month becoming Pride Month, Henry Gerber, a German immigrant, founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago in 1924. This became the first group in the United States to campaign for gay rights. In 1955, the first lesbian rights group formed in the United States called the Daughters of Bilitis, founded by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons.
Although June is widely known and regarded as “Pride Month,” other places like San Diego, Atlanta, and Orlando celebrate at different times. While San Diego Pride takes place in July, Atlanta and Orlando Pride come closer to National Coming Out Day (October 11), and Atlanta Black Pride is held during Labor Day Weekend.
5) The "Mother of Pride" was a bisexual woman.
Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman and lifelong militant activist, was known as the "Mother of Pride" for her work in organizing the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Howard was also credited with laying the foundation for the weeklong celebrations of Pride leading up the modern day Pride parades. She also cofounded the New York Bisexual Network in 1988. Photo via Facebook.
6) Every color of the rainbow flag means something.
Have you ever wondered what the rainbow gay pride flag flown at Pride parades means? The original flag few at the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco in 1978, and was designed by Gilbert Baker. Thirty volunteers hand-dyed and stitched the first two flags for the parade.
Baker assigned different meanings to each color. Hot pink represents sexuality. Red represents life. Orange represents healing. Yellow represents sunlight. Green represents nature. Turquoise represents magic and art. Indigo represents serenity and harmony. Violet represents spirit. Stripes were eventually dropped from the design for mass production, resulting in the six-stripe flag that’s popular today. Photo via Wikipedia.
7) For a period of time, the world’s largest flag was super gay.
For the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1994, Gilbert Baker was commissioned to make the world’s largest rainbow flag. The flag used the six-stripe design that’s popular today, and measured thirty feet wide. The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it as the largest flag in the world, but it has since lost the title. Baker made another giant rainbow flag in 2003 that stretched a mile and a quarter across Key West, Florida. Photo via YouTube.
8) The first Dyke March wasn’t until 1993.
While the first U.S. Pride event can be traced back to 1970, the first Dyke March didn’t happen for 23 more years. Dyke Marches, which usually happen on the eve of Pride parades, were first organized by the radical activist group, The Lesbian Avengers.
Frustrated by lesbian invisibility, The Lesbian Avengers organized direct action protests. On April 24, 1993, the evening before the LGBT Pride March on Washington, D.C., 20,000 women marched to the White House where a dozen Lesbian Avengers ate fire. Photo via YouTube.
9) Pride wasn’t always called Pride.
Pride parades weren’t always called Pride parades. When early Pride events started, they were more militant, and were more often referred to as marches. “Gay Liberation” or “Gay Freedom” were more common names for those marches. As militancy slowly decreased in the 1980s and 1990s, events moved toward a parade-structure and the “Pride” language. The photo above is from the 1983 Lesbian Strength March in London, where militant language is being used alongside the language we commonly see at Pride parades today. Photo via WikiCommons.
10) Pride Month has only been acknowledged by two U.S. presidents.
While LGBT people have been claiming June as Pride Month for decades, only two U.S. presidents have officially acknowledged June as LGBT Pride Month. President Bill Clinton was the first to recognize Pride Month in 1999. George W. Bush (surprise!) never issued a proclamation commemorating LGBT Pride.
President Barack Obama has issued an official proclamation declaring June Pride Month since 2009. In 2015, he stated in his proclamation: “All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.” Photo via WikiCommons.
11) The Pentagon has an LGBT Pride event.
Just don’t expect floats or celebrity appearances at The Pentagon’s Pride. The Pentagon’s first Pride event was held in 2012. Gay members of the military talked about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the importance of being able to discuss their families and loved ones with fellow servicemen and women. Photo via YouTube.
12) The largest Pride Parade is the world is in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade started with a humble 2,000 attendees in 1997, but has since grown to millions. In 2006, the Guinness Book of World Records named Sao Paulo's parade the largest Gay Pride celebration in the world, with 2.5 million attendees. They haven’t lost that title since. Other major Pride parades aren’t too far behind, with New York at roughly 2 million participants, and San Francisco at roughly 1.7 million. Photo via WikiCommons.
13) Companies drop a lot of dough on Pride events.
At some point, you may have wondered if you were at a Pride parade or an Absolut Vodka parade. With rising LGBT acceptance, and a lot of LGBT dollars at stake, companies are less afraid to cater to the LGBT consumer. Some of the largest corporate sponsors are Wells Fargo, Macy’s, and TD Bank (who spend approximately $1 million annually on parades).
For many Pride organizers, corporate sponsorship means they can continue hosting a massive, free weeklong festival. Some former Pride participants have started organizing their own events as an alternative to corporate sponsored Pride parades. Photo via Flickr.