June is celebrated all over the world as Pride month – and it is certainly a cause for celebration for the LGBTQIA+ community worldwide. How did pride start, and what does it mean? Read more to find out.

A brief history of Pride

In the earliest known published defence to homosexuality- Ancient and Modern Pederasty Investigated and Exemplify’d – Thomas cannon wrote- “Unnatural desire is a contradiction in terms; Downright nonsense. Desire is an amatory impulse of the innermost human parts; Are not they, however constructed, and consequently impelling, nature?”

‘Love does not discriminate’. This is a universal fact that has been acknowledged since the beginning of time. It is only in recent years that society has evolved to become more sensitive and accepting towards those who truly believe this statement. Although this movement has been gaining momentum by garnering support with every passing year, the earliest organizations to support LGBTQIA+ rights were formed in the 19th century.

Apart from a few exceptions like actors in performance, cross dressing and same-sex sexual behaviour was considered to be socially unacceptable to such an extent that it was regarded as a serious crime under sodomy and sumptuary laws in 18th and 19th century Europe.

From the late 19th century, social reformers began to defend homosexuality, however it was rather controversial at the time and they were forced to remain anonymous. A British society called the “Order of Chaeronea” campaigned for the legalisation of homosexuality and the renowned playwright Oscar Wilde was one of its members. Jeremy Bentham wrote the first known argument for homosexual law reform where he argued that homosexuality was a victimless crime, and therefore not deserving of social approbation or criminal charges. He regarded the general hatred and non-acceptance towards homosexuality as being perpetrated largely by religious teachings. However, his powerful essay was not published until 1978 as he feared reprisal. 

Although the members of this community faced their ups and downs, their voices didn’t go unheard. With a tremendous amount of effort, they managed to reason with the government about their rights. The introduction of the Napoleonic Code in 1808 and USSR’s Criminal Code of 1922 resulted in the Duchy of Warsaw and France, along with the USSR to become one of the first nations to decriminalize homosexuality. This was a remarkable step at the time because these narrow-minded laws were done with in a society where many conservative attitudes towards sexuality prevailed. But the fight had only just begun. Sweden became the first country to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness after a unique protest that saw many people calling in sick because of having come down with a case of “being homosexual”. The country also saw protests in which activists occupied the National Board of Health and Welfare, which ultimately led to the declassification.

With the passage of time, society became more accepting towards people with sexual orientations that were not regarded as ‘conventional’. Moreover, the people of the community started standing up for each other and carried out several peaceful marches to spread awareness and happiness amongst the common folk. Initiatives like the ‘Homophile Movement’, ‘Gay Liberation Movement’ and the ‘LGBT rights movement’ accelerated this process.

June 28, 1969 was a historic day because of a spontaneous incident which is now marked as the beginning of the gay rights movement in the United States. Police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village, but bar patrons — gay men and drag queens — fought back. Brenda Howard, commonly referred to as the “Mother of Pride”, organized a march and other events to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the riots. Today, Pride Month features marches around the country, educational and awareness events, and parties to celebrate gay pride. Therefore, the Pride month is celebrated in June in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, which kicked off the first major demonstrations for gay rights in America.

The pride flag.

The original gay pride flag was designed by activist Gilbert Baker. Today the rainbow flag is widely recognized as a symbol for LGBT pride and members, activists, supporters wave it alike in the month of June.

This is how pride started, how it has evolved over the years and how it continues even today to spread hope, positivity and love throughout the world.

But what does pride mean for people?
We asked some people here, and here’s what they had to say:

“Pride, for me, is about awareness and acceptance. It is knowing that there are people with me; a worldwide community, raising our collective voice to create change. And above all, it is a celebration; of my own as well as others’ identities, of ourselves and our love.”

“Pride is freedom, pride is me being ME. Pride is about being comfortable and proud about however I am and whatever sexual preference I have, without having to care about what other people think or say. Pride is about living freely in a world full of gender norms and boxes where I don’t fit in.”

“Pride for me is being who I am truly – without having to fear what others will think about me. There have been so many times in my life where I’ve been told by others to tone myself down, to be less emotional, expressive and sensitive – but where’s the fun in that? My pride for who I am enables me to be true to who I am, and honestly, it helps me live my life the way I want, love whoever I want regardless of their gender and live happy.”

Pride has so many meanings for people all over the world, and it enables every single one of them to live with hope.

How is pride in real life?

Rarely do people find friends or people around them that willingly accept who they are and allow them the space to be true to themselves. Places like pride parades enable a person to be true to who they are, and it is essential that more such places and safe havens be created for people of the community.

Self-acceptance can be a very tricky thing, even when you’re straight. For a person who is not, however, it adds a whole new dimension of acceptance – and if they do not find the right people to confide in, to discuss things with, it may lead to internal turmoil. This makes it very important for each and every one of us to be kind, patient and most importantly accepting of people, however different to us they may seem.

Self-acceptance leads to growth, and it is from this self-acceptance that pride is also born. Pride in who you are; pride in every little quirk you have, and pride in the fact that you’re different.

Allies here play a very important role. Allies are people who do not belong to the LGBTQIA+ community, but express their support for and acceptance of the same. Allies are crucial, and their contribution to the movement must be noted – for without having people to confide in and without having support from them, the movement would not have reached where it is today. Ask yourself – do you support the idea that everyone has the right to love freely? That everyone deserves the same rights regardless of sexual orientation? That everyone deserves happiness, regardless of who they are? If yes, you are an ally too!

Acceptance around the world

A pride parade in NYC

Many countries today allow people of the LGBTQIA+ community every civil right, as they well should. For example, civil union between two persons of the same gender is allowed in many countries such as Canada, the US, Ireland and so on.

Only recently have countries like India and Botswana banned colonial-era laws that are discriminatory in nature against people of the LGBTQIA+ community. This does help hope balloon in other nations where the laws may not be as accepting, and certainly are a source of happiness for people living in these countries. Taiwan also recently legalised marriage between people of the same sex, which is a huge leap forward.Pride parades serve as a medium through which people of the community can express freely their existence, and celebrate a key aspect of who they are. Even in countries where acceptance towards people of the community may not be as widespread, the fact that pride parades still take place show that there is a shift of attitude taking place. Pride therefore is not merely a celebration of identity, but an important tool in the fight against bigotry, discrimination and injustice.

Pride in India

There are various organisations and events in our country that celebrate pride. Pride parades are organised in many cities all across the nation which are a cause for celebration, and which symbolise the growing acceptance towards the community in the country.

Several queer film festivals also celebrate the diverse LGBTQIA+ community, and it is indeed heartening to see initiatives by many organisations that provide safe spaces for the community. These include the inclusion of an LBGT-friendly indicator for restaurants on Zomato, the Times of India Out & Proud initiative which aims at providing a platform for the LGBTQIA+ community to express support, put forth advertisements and be themselves, and Indigo airlines coming out with a special Pride month edition of its in-flight magazine that includes guidelines on how to be more LGBTQIA+ friendly.

These show that India has chosen the path towards openness, integration and has rejected bigotry.

Hope for the future

As human beings, we have the tendency of being afraid of what does not appeal to our immediate thought processes, and in doing so, we tend to reject any idea, or person, that is different.

Why must we today, in the 21st century, be afraid to accept what’s new for us? Decades of harassment, decades of discrimination and decades of segregation later, equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community are finally starting to show up. While this certainly invokes a feeling of hope and happiness, the fight is not yet over – much is to be done, still.

SO many countries remain that still outlaw homosexuality and transsexuality as being “unnatural”; so many people exist who still cannot wrap their minds around the idea of people loving people of the same gender, or not feeling comfortable with the gender they were born with. So many people still exist that instead of inculcating a rational thought process, choose to outright reject the LGBTQIA+ community. What can be done to change this?
Any movement that occurs requires that changes be made at the grassroots level, and we, the educated and rational people of today, must have it in us to create safe spaces for people of the community. It helps a lot to have a kind, listening ear and an understanding heart in whom you can confide; and it costs nothing to be more human.

The fact that a person has a different sexual orientation doesn’t make them any different, or difficult to understand. They’re just like us – the same nuances, quirks and characteristics that define human beings, with only one, tiny change. In fact, it opens up a whole new world of stories, of discovery and enlightenment once you get to know a person from the community. Life must be colorful at all times, and the more variety of people there exist, the more joy can be spread.

Dweeja and Ashutosh