We often take our free expression of sexuality for granted in our Western society. However, more than 50 years ago, being gay put you at serious risk of being prosecuted by the law in the USA or in Germany. Gays were thought to be criminal, marginal, etc. and formed a danger to the society.
To express themselves in some way or another, few bars tolerated an LGBT audience. Law enforcers very often shadowed know individuals and as a consequence Gay bars were raided and shut down all the time. The famous Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York was previously known as a nightclub, but was ultimately transformed into a gay bar due to the mafia.
It was not only the most known bar for gay people, it was the only place where they were allowed to dance. Under the veil of “Illegal alcohol, drugs and prostitution”, raids by policemen were common. This all took a very violent turn on the morning of June 28 in 1969. A raid normally comes and goes quickly, but that day there was a problem with the patrol wagons to transport seized alcohol and arrested people. They didn’t arrive on time, thus outside of the bar a crowd started to grow. As the situation got more and more heated, officials got very nervous and when a woman got arrested, riots broke out.
The explosive fights and demonstrations continued in the following days and it didn’t take long before organized activist groups emerged. Supported by media, the groups grew in numbers and power and ignited many other movements across the USA. Exactly 1 year after the initial Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1970, the first real Gay Pride was born. Nowadays, Prides are organized all over the world.
The initial violent nature has subsided to a more festive meaning, but don’t be fooled. The initial message from the first Pride keeps resonating. Equality for LGBTIQ people remain an issue to this day and even though homophobia, biphobia , transphobia, etc. are less visible, they still exist. In many other countries still to this day, LGBTIQ people are arrested and sentenced to death. So even though a lot has changed over the last 50 years and awareness has increased significantly, a Pride remains essential.