There’s way too much information to cram into one post, so here’s a quick overview of the history of GAY PRIDE and where it all began.
Pride Commemorates the Stonewall Riots
The history of the gay rights movement in this country is usually dated to 1969 when the patrons of a New York City bar fought back against a discriminatory police raid. At the time, homosexuality — or “sodomy,” as it was referred to in the legal books — was still a crime. Men could be arrested for wearing drag, and women faced the same punishment if they were found wearing less than three pieces of “feminine clothing.” The harassment continued for years, infuriating the gay community. On June 28, 1969, the police arrived at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. However, the 200 patrons inside didn’t just sit down and wait to be arrested — they resisted, then rioted, sending the police a loud and clear message about their frustration with the status quo for LGBT individuals.
If you ever wondered why Pride month takes place in June, now you know that it’s not just because of the generally pleasant weather. It’s historically relevant, too!
“Gay Pride” Was Coined in 1970
Gay communities around the country immediately latched on to the Stonewall riots as an event that brought attention to their cause. Just a year later, in 1970, a committee was formed to commemorate the riots. The problem? The committee didn’t have a name for the series of events it wanted to hold in honor of LGBTQ rights. It tossed around the slogan “gay power” for a bit, but when committee member L. Craig Schoonmaker suggested “gay pride,” everyone else agreed on the phrase right away.
Origin of the Gay Pride “Rainbow” Flag
The first Rainbow Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, who created the flag in response to a local activist’s call for the need of a community symbol. (This was before the pink triangle was popularly used as a symbol of pride.) Using the five-striped “Flag of the Race” as his inspiration, Baker designed a flag with eight stripes. Baker dyed and sewed the material for the first flag himself — in the true spirit of Betsy Ross.
The design may have been influenced by flags with multicolored stripes used by various left-wing causes and organizations in the San Francisco area in the 1960s. The Rainbow Flag originally had eight stripes (from top to bottom):
hot pink for sex,
red for life,
orange for healing,
yellow for sun,
green for serenity with nature,
turquoise for art,
indigo for harmony, and
violet for spirit.
Handmade versions of this flag were flown in the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade.
Use of the rainbow flag by the gay community began in 1978 when it first appeared in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Borrowing symbolism from the hippie movement and black civil rights groups, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag in response to a need for a symbol that could be used year after year. Baker and thirty volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed two huge prototype flags for the parade. The flags had eight stripes, each color representing a component of the community.
After the November 1978 assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk and the subsequent lenient sentence given to their killer, former Supervisor Dan White, the Rainbow Flag began to be used in San Francisco as a general symbol of the gay community. San Francisco-based Paramount Flag Co. began selling seven-striped (top to bottom: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) flags from its Polk Street retail store, which was located in a largely gay neighborhood. These flags were surplus stock which had originally been made for the International Order of Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic organization for young women. When Baker approached Paramount to make flags for the 1979 Gay Freedom Day Parade, Paramount informed Baker that fabric for hot pink was not available for mass production, and Baker dropped the hot pink stripe.
After Harvey Milk
Supervisor Harvey Milk’s untimely death struck a major blow to the momentum of the Gay Rights Movement. However, a young man by the name of Cleve Jones, who had worked tirelessly on Milk’s campaign for Supervisor, stepped up to fight for Milk’s dream. Jones went onto establish several Gay organizations and was instrumental in keeping Milk’s dream alive still today.
Greater detail of the Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones, Gilbert Baker, and schedules of PRIDE events around the world, can be found online. Please, take some time to research and read more about PRIDE. Let us celebrate DIVERSITY and PRIDE.
Milk (Harvey Milk Story)
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