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The Importance of Pride Month

LGBTQI+ rights are human rights, but unfortunately, that still isn't status quo.

Key points

  • The first recorded march for LGBTQI+ rights in the United States was in 1969 in New York City. Now, 150 cities host Pride events.
  • In the U.S., LBTQI+ youth are almost five times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual, cisgender youth.
  • Pride Month and pride parades continue to be important for the solidarity, fight for human rights, and visibility of the LGBTQI+ community.

This month is LGBTQI+ Pride Month. In the US and other countries, many places display rainbow flags, companies have promotions, events, or products “in honor of LGBTQI+ Pride,” and there are cities around the world that have a parade sometime in the month of June.

That said, many people don’t know or understand why Pride Month exists and/or the purpose of the parade. Some react with fear and prejudice, some are puzzled as to why it’s necessary, while others think of it as just a big excuse to dress up and party.

But LGBTQI+ Pride Month actually has a very specific history and purpose. For many, if not most, in the LGBTQI+ community, it’s a deeply meaningful and moving day that has great significance.

Understanding the history of Pride

In order to understand Pride Month and why there are pride parades, it’s important to understand the history. The first recorded march for the rights of LGBTQI+ folks in the United States was in 1969 in New York City. The regular, systematic, and violent oppression of people in that community reached a boiling point, at a time when other social movements — the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Liberation movement, Disability Rights movement — were gaining momentum and fighting for oppressed groups to have a voice and demand for equal human treatment.

At that time, the police, and individuals felt it well within their rights to oppress and cause bodily harm to people within the LGBTQI+ community. The march was a response to that treatment — it was a demand that people within the community be treated with the basic rights, respect, and dignity afforded other human beings in the country.

Those first marchers were courageous. They risked their lives by exposing themselves to the public as part of the community and in doing so, they made the community visible and empowered. After this first march, it became an annual event. The next year there were also marches in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Today, there are 150 cities around the world that host Pride events during the summer.

So why are these events still happening?

Prejudice, oppression, violence, and death are still, unfortunately, common for people in the LBTQI+ community in the United States and across the globe. Many states in the US are continuing to pass legislation to deny the rights of people in this community. In the US, LBTQI+ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual, cis youth because of the continued deep prejudice, hatred, and lack of acceptance they perceive around them.

Around the world, there are laws specifically being passed to deny the rights of LBTQI+ people to live, love, work, receive medical care, go to the bathroom, exercise, and even simply exist. People in this community continue to be subjected to rejection, prejudice, violence, and death.

For this reason, Pride Month — and the pride parades — continue to be deeply important in the continued solidarity, fight for human rights, and visibility of the LGBTQI+ community. Additionally, and equally important, is the label “pride.” For a group of people who are told continuously — through laws, religions, media, bullying, and directly — that LBTQI+ people are less-than or should not exist, it is deeply psychologically important that there be counter-messaging. Shame is debilitating and can lead to mental illness, addiction, isolation, and death.

It is deeply important that there be a visible, supported, and joyous event telling people of the LBTQI+ community that it is a beautiful, diverse, supported, and welcome community, and one to be proud to be a member of, and one that deserves the rights and dignities of every human.

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