PRIDE - From 1969 to Now

By Ranojoy Saha

Photo by Sara Rampazzo on Unsplash

Pride is a time to recall the trials, injustice and stigma that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community has been subjected to and to rejoice the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought and continue to fight for equality. It is also the time to bring attention to the unjust laws and acts that continue to function to date. Beyond this month, the concept of pride in its essence is an unabashed celebration of one’s self-identity and coming out of the closet.

'The Stonewall Uprising’ of June 28, 1969, acted as the catalyst for an emerging gay rights movement as organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance were formed, modelled after the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Rights Movement. The celebration of Pride is rooted in the onerous history of minority groups in a struggle that have lasted for decades to overcome the prejudices against the community and to be accepted for who they are. June is celebrated as the pride month after Brenda Howard, nicknamed as “Mother of Pride”, a bisexual New York activist organized the first-ever Pride parade to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. This paved the way for the modern gay rights movement.

The LGBTQ+ community, in the global context, has achieved remarkable progress since Stonewall. Historic Supreme Court rulings in recent years have struck down regressive laws in several countries. Individuals from the LGBTQ+ and the community as a whole have made advancements in several ways. It is worth mentioning that in the U.S.A., Nevada became the sixth state requiring schools to offer an LGBTQ+ inclusive school education from kindergarten through to graduation. The assembly bill calls for the board of trustees and governing bodies to “ensure” students from kindergarten through to graduation are offered an education “on the history and contributions to science, the arts and humanities”, Native American history, marginalized LGBTQ+ communities, as well as marginalized racial and ethnic backgrounds.⁠

In 1978, San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the US, called upon artist and designer Gilbert Baker, a gay rights activist, to design a flag for the city's upcoming Pride celebrations. The colours of the LGBT flag each have a meaning, namely, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony and violet for spirit. In June 2021 the Pride Flag was updated to be more progressive and inclusive in nature. A new design has surfaced acknowledging and supporting the inclusion of the intersex community.

On 6th September 2018, the Supreme Court of India made a landmark decision by striking down the highly constrictive and regressive ‘Section 377’ of the Indian Penal Code that has been in place since the colonial rule in India. The striking down of this unjust section has ushered a ray of hope on millions of queer folk who, now, do not have to live their lives in constant fear of the largely hetero-normative society.

Recently, on June 6, 2021, the Madras High Court, Tamil Nadu, India, paved the way for active allyship by accepting their limited cognizance in the matters dealing with LGBTQ+ issues. In the case of ‘S. Sushma and others v. Commissioner of Police’ and others the court stated that ‘Social acceptance and sensitization is a crucial step to protecting the lives and dignity of queer folks’. In an 8-point guideline issued by the Madras HC, the bench not only sought to protect queer people from police harassment but also highlighted the necessity of legislative intervention to bring constructive changes.

The political and judicial scenario, across the world, is also witnessing the inclusion of queer people in positions of power and responsibility. Securing over 60 per cent votes, the 26-year-old, Jalen Mckee Rodriguez made history as the first gay black man to be elected as the representative of the second district of Texas.

Kajal Kiran, a trans-woman from Kanpur’s Bidhanu district in India, became the first transgender woman to contest the Panchayat Elections. Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan is India’s first openly transgender civil servant working for the Odisha Financial Services. Shabnam Bano was the first transgender person in India, who was elected as a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the state of Madhya Pradesh as early as 2003.

But it is pertinent to mention here that these positions were not presented to the queer individuals as decorating opportunities. Rather, the journey remains arduous for them even after the aforementioned amendments in various countries.

Instances like, "Ministers have ruled out changes to make it easier for transgender people in England and Wales to have their gender legally recognized." under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) are seen as events that hinder the progress of the LGBTQ+ community.

Despite all the setbacks the community is more determined than ever to realize their rights and opportunities. Pride has a deeper meaning and resonance than the shallow actions of capitalist corporates. It’s never too late to educate oneself on the injustice that the LGBTQ+ community has been bearing for decades. It’s never too late to pause and reflect on why the community continues to be discriminated against and why individuals are not taking a stronger stand to protect and look out for each other.

Society at large should not allow inequality to breed in the face of lack of education, and years of ignorance on understanding what people truly entail, outside the social constructs, conditioned behaviors and accepted definitions of human identities.