June is officially here, and that means Pride Month is officially here! Throughout the month, organizations throughout the country will celebrate the history of the LGBTQIA+ community. As we reflect and look ahead to the future, let’s look back at the pioneers who paved the way for the progress we enjoy today.
For decades, activists and other allies have worked tirelessly to achieve equity and dismantle the historical barriers that have kept the LGBTQIA+ community from achieving equal rights under the law. Although the modern iteration of the Pride movement is widely regarded as beginning in 1969, when the first bricks at Stonewall were thrown, activists have been fighting for centuries to achieve equality in civic and social life. For generations, LGBTQIA+ individuals were barred from public life and forced to live in the shadows of broader society. In response to this bigotry, LGBTQIA+ individuals formed clubs and other affinity groups to connect with other members of the community. These conditions catalyzed the Stonewall Inn’s founding, which many regards as the ground zero for today’s Pride movement.
The Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, NYC, was and still stands today as a beloved social club for the LGBTQIA+ community. Throughout the 1960s, clubs faced several roadblocks and were often the subject of police raids. Typically, clubs would be tipped off if the police were planning an attack, but no warning was provided on June 28th, 1969. In total, 13 patrons were arrested. Hundreds were fighting back within just minutes, and the Stonewall Riots were officially underway. This movement was led by trans women of color, often regarded as some of the most critical figures in LGBTQIA+ history. This event was regarded as a turning point for many activists, and the momentum from this event would drive the movement for many years. Like many riots throughout history, although violence is never ideal, these acts can often serve as a passage to ringing in actual progress and growth.
Since the happenings at the Stonewall Inn, the LGBTQIA+ rights movement has only continued to grow and prosper. Over the 20th century, although the LGBTQIA+ community undoubtedly endured excellent discrimination, attitudes slowly began to shift surrounding the community’s presence in broader society. As acceptance grew, the push toward marriage equality began, and in 2010, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. New Jersey followed suit shortly after that, and on October 21st, 2013, the right to marry officially became law in the Garden State. New Jersey has a rich history of LGBTQIA+ activism and history, so it is no wonder that much progress has been made in the state we call home.
Same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015, granting every American the right to marry who they love. With marriage equality officially achieved, immense progress was made, but the fight is far from over. This is why initiatives like Pride Month and LGBTQIA+ education are vital in achieving equity. New Jersey is certainly no stranger to Pride month celebrations, with festivals and parades occurring throughout the state. Trenton held its very first Pride festival in 2019. These celebrations allow community members to shine, offering perhaps the most excellent tool in achieving a better world: visibility.
Visibility in a world that tells you to hide away is one of the most impactful mechanisms a person has in making their voices heard. By better understanding our history and having a deeper understanding of those society has fought to keep on the margins, we can better forge a brighter future for each of us. This is why New Jersey has made LGBTQIA+ history a priority, denoting Garden State as just the 2nd in the country to mandate LGBTQIA+ history in schools. This historic move assures the next generation a fuller, more accurate view of our past. It paves the way for a generation prioritizing equality, understanding, and love.
Pride isn’t just a month-long celebration but a way of being. To fearlessly own who you are and fight to help others embrace themselves is perhaps one of the noblest things we can do during our time on earth. So, as we gear up for this year’s celebrations, may we never forget to look back and appreciate just how far the fight for love and acceptance has come.
Happy Pride Month!