June 26, 2018
At 15, I was a proud bisexual girl, even if I wasn’t vocal about it at school. Living in Georgia, I was pleased that the kids in my high school seemed progressive about LGBTQ rights. Until one day, a classmate said, “Why do the gays even need a pride month? If they want to be considered normal, why don’t they just act like it?” Several people chimed in. Even my teacher!
After I left class that day, I felt paranoid. I thought for sure that everybody knew I was bisexual, and they were disgusted by it. I started to question my pride, my identity. Little did I know then that this was an experience all too familiar to members of the LGBTQ community.
The story of LGBT Pride Month started on June 28, 1969, when a raid—led by the Public Moral Squad, a now-defunct section of the NYC Police Department—occurred at a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. These raids were common at gay bars across New York City and getting arrested could have dire consequences for those outed, including losing jobs and being kicked out of homes or assaulted.
This raid was like any other until a trans woman named Marsha P. Johnson changed LGBTQ history forever. As one story goes (and there are many different stories about what happened), Johnson threw her shot glass at the mirror as officers fought with the people in the bar and shouted, “I got my civil rights!” People threw rocks, bricks and whatever else they could find at the police. Soon, there were hundreds of people standing up to the police. The now-called “Stonewall Uprising” or “Stonewall Rebellion” lasted for days. After the uprising, LGBTQ activist groups were formed, and the modern-day LGBT liberation movement was born.
In spite of calls to be “out and proud,” my insecurities surrounding my sexual identity remain with me, and I battle with internalized homophobia every day. But when I think about the story of how far we’ve come, the barriers we have broken and the strength that comes from even being able to admit to ourselves that we do not fit the template set out for us, I feel hope. Even if we can’t always be loud, we can be proud. We deserve to be.
In other words, this is our heritage, my story and our story, and the reason why we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. Every year, on June 28th, we celebrate more walls broken; we celebrate the marriages, the love, the pride, the courage and everything else that comes with being a part of the LGBTQ community.