This time of year isn’t typically the season for rainbow flags and colourful parades down the main streets of cities and towns across Australia.
Elsewhere around the world, particularly in the United States and across Europe, June is Pride Month, a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBT+) communities join together and reflect on how far they have come and to acknowledge how much more there is still to do. Sometimes it is a celebration, sometimes it is a political statement, and often it is a mixture of the two.
If you have ever wondered “Why is there Gay Pride?”, you are not alone. It is something that even I, as a gay man, was under-educated in growing up.
Pride is about spreading hope: that being LGBT+ does not mean being alone and that things are getting better. Pride matters because it is not always obvious that our world is often built around the privilege of the majority, where it is fine for a professional sportswoman to kiss her boyfriend but one of our gay sporting heroes, someone like Erin Phillips, is doing something wrong by kissing her wife on television.
It is easy to get lost in the parties and fun of Pride. It is often easy too for those of us fortunate to live in countries where we have equal basic human rights, or who work for organisations that support us, to lose sight of those around the globe who are not in the same fortunate position as us. We must not forget those countries where same-sex relationships are illegal or punishable by death, or those which criminalise any “propaganda” interpreted as promoting LGBT+ communities or identities.
When Pride parades, events, movies, parties and discussions happen, LGBT+ people are seen for more than just a caricature of who we are. We are seen as real people: brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, the person who sits next to you at work.
There is pride in being able to express your freedom. There is pride and joy in being with your community, no matter how diverse it is. We want to show that we care for our community and to celebrate the lives that we are living. We want to take pride in our relationships, take pride in our community, and take pride in ourselves as individuals.
Gay Pride is the celebration of life, human rights and ultimately the right to love whoever we want. That has to be worth celebrating.
A few interesting facts about Pride Month:
The event that inspired the Pride parades we know now was a march to commemorate the “Stonewall Inn riots” in New York City in June 1969. That uprising was in response to persistent raids by police on the bar and the harassment of its mainly LGBT patrons.
The first rainbow flag made its debut at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker (who died last month aged 65), the original flag was hand-dyed and consisted of eight symbolic colours, including ‘hot pink’ and turquoise. But the ‘hot pink’ was dropped due to a lack of dye availability at the time, and turquoise was also dropped to keep an even number of stripes, resulting in the six-stripe flag that is commonplace today.
Pride Parades weren’t always called Pride Parades. Early marches often used ‘Gay Liberation’ and ‘Freedom,’ in their names. With cultural change and decreased political militancy in the 1980s and 1990s, these words became less frequent, and the term ‘Gay Pride’ became more commonly used.
The largest Pride Parade is in Sao Paulo, Brazil with around 3 million attendees. The New York and San Francisco parades have about half that number.
Europe has a pan-European Pride event called “Europride” which is hosted by a different European city each year. Amsterdam hosts the only Pride parade whose floats literally float on water as the decorated boats travel through the canals.
South Africa used to have the only Pride Parade in Africa which began in Johannesburg in 1990. Since then, Mauritius and Tunisia have also held annual events, and even Uganda has made attempts at holding a parade over the past 2 years.