As a frequent viewer of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I am familiar with the saying which has made “mother” legendary. I’m reminded, as we prepare for Pride, of her telling the contestants to “Know your HERstory!” Although I’m no supermodel, it feels essential that we know our history and reminded who provided our ability to celebrate freely.
So, how did it all start? The Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 is widely considered the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. The six-day riots began inside the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. It was the breaking point of years of tensions between police and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender street youth, and pedestrians.
On the morning of June 28, the NYPD First District raided the bar. The drag queens and street youth fought back. There were reports of stilettos, bottles, coins, bricks, and debris thrown. The altercation finally spilled out into the streets and as word spread, more LGBT people from surrounding neighborhoods joined the riot. So, the rebellion marked the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement.
After Stonewall, many LGBT people — including those who didn’t witness the rebellion — felt inspired to contribute to the cause. Gay rights had entered the national spotlight. LGBT people began organizing, protesting, and mobilizing. As for Utah, “Pride” began in 1977 when the Salt Lake Coalition for Human Rights sponsored a three-day conference. On June 27, 1990, the first Pride parade in the state took place at the Utah State Capitol Building. It began on the steps of the capitol, moved down Main Street, and ended on South Temple at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.
Despite the many difficulties we face as LGBT people, especially in Utah, the past has been one of progress, and the future of LGBT equality has changed from the improbable to the inevitable. Progress is evolutionary, and when the force of LGBT activism is at its greatest heights then we achieve full equality. The diversity within the LGBT community is more known today than when the first transgender street youth threw her stiletto at an oppressive police officer.
As Pride approaches, it’s time to celebrate the diversity within the ranks of LGBT people — to build a true community. We must be representative of the entire rainbow, of different likes, ideals, and hues, linked as a common colorful thread. Just as RuPaul says, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love someone else” — I extend this to accepting all the colors in our LGBT rainbow.
Take this month to celebrate our Pride history and involve everyone who plays a vital role in securing our future. We know the past, let’s write a better future.