Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is currently celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.
We celebrate in June to coincide with the catalyst of the Gay Liberation Movement that was the Stonewall Uprising. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided a popular gay bar in N.Y.C.’s West Village, The Stonewall Inn. This was commonplace for the time, but on this particular evening, the patrons of the bar fought back, starting the Stonewall Uprising, which went on for days. Many important figures within the LGBTQ+ community were present and continued the fight well after the uprising had ended through speeches, campaigns, and public outcries.
The roots of the gay rights movement go back to the early 1900s, when a handful of individuals in North America and Europe created gay and lesbian organizations such as the the Society for Human Rights, founded by Henry Gerber in Chicago in the 1920s. Despite some progress in the postwar era, basic civil rights were largely denied to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people—until one night in June, 1969, in an event that would be known as the Stonewall Uprising. In June 2000, President Bill Clinton officially designated June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, in recognition of the Stonewall Uprising and gay activism throughout the years. A more-inclusive name was chosen in 2009 by President Barack Obama: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
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The Society for Human Rights, established in Chicago in 1924, is granted an official State of Illinois Charter on December 24, 1924, making it the oldest documented homosexual organization in the nation.
A secret Los Angeles organization was founded by a force of like-minded men in 1950. This organization, formally known as the Mattachine Society, was one of several prominent organizing groups during the period of early LGBTQ+ activism. It served as a social group where members could air their grievances about the discriminatory policies that plagued their community at the time.
The Daughters of Bilitis was formed in 1955 in San Francisco by Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The Daughters of Bilitis was one of the first lesbian organizations ever established in the U.S. Chapters spread across the country and even Australia as the 50s went on.
The Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The Stonewall Uprising served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Important Figures in LGBTQ+ History
He was born Henry Joseph Dittmar on June 29, 1892 in Bavaria, and changed his name to “Henry Gerber” upon immigrating to the United States, where his family settled in Chicago. In 1917, he was briefly committed to a mental institution because of his homosexuality. He served in the U.S. Military for around three years in Germany during WWI and, while there, learned about Magnus Hirschfeld and the work he and his Scientific-Humanitarian Committee were doing to reform anti-homosexual German law. Gerber traveled to Berlin, which supported a thriving gay subculture, and absorbed Hirschfeld’s ideas. Inspired by Hirschfeld’s work, Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago in 1924. The organization produced the first American publication for homosexuals, Friendship and Freedom.
Hart was a physician who studied and treated tuberculosis, notably developing the X-ray technique to identify cases, which saved countless lives. He also raised funds for TB research and for TB patients who couldn’t afford treatment. Hart was also a novelist on the side. He was assigned female at birth and became one of the first known people to have gender-reassignment surgery, when he had a hysterectomy in 1917. He lived the rest of his life as a man. He was married to his wife, Edna, from 1925 until his death, and the two were prominent members of their community in Connecticut.
During the Second World War, Alan Turing worked at Britain’s code-breaking center where he was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Using the computational “Turing Machine” methodology he invented in 1936, Turing is credited with breaking the Nazi “Enigma Code” which had been used to coordinate the U-boat juggernaut that sank hundreds of ships in the North Atlantic ferrying vital supplies to the European theater of the war. With supply lines finally opened, the stage was set for the successful D-Day landing at Normandy, turning the war to the Allies favor, leading to the defeat of Adolf Hitler. In 1947 Turing began to muse publicly about the concept of “machine intelligence” and, in 1950, published “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” where he first set out to devise what would come to be known as the “Turing Test” for Artificial Intelligence.
Ruth Ellis was born in Springfield, Illinois to parents who were conceived in the last years of slavery. Her life spanned through moments of great turmoil and upheaval – from the Springfield Riot of 1908 to the Detroit Riots of 1967 – an endless backdrop of conflict from which Ellis managed to extract an exuberance for life that was incandescent. Ellis became a fierce advocate for African Americans, senior citizens, and the gay and lesbian communities. She offered assistance to lesbians of color researching their history and their roots; she proposed a variation on Big Brothers/Big Sisters, where younger gays and lesbians would be matched as social companions with gay and lesbian seniors according to similar interests; and the Ruth Ellis Center, founded in 1999, continues to provide shelter and aid for GLBTQ youth in Detroit.
On the forefront of A. Philip Randolph’s efforts to end segregation in the Armed Forces, Bayard Rustin was instrumental in obtaining President Harry S. Truman’s July 1948 order to integrate the U.S. military. As a leading proponent of non-violence in the face of racial injustice, Rustin used his influence to strengthen Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, eventually becoming one of King’s chief political advisors, strategists and speechwriters. Rustin mentored King to make Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent “Civil Disobedience” the strategic centerpiece of King’s activism and the hallmark of his legacy.
Bronx-born Army veteran George Jorgensen struggled for years “feeling like a woman trapped in a man’s body.” He resolved to begin his transition by taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol, and in early 1952 traveled to Copenhagen to quietly pursue sex-reassignment. But any hopes for anonymity were shattered when the letter he wrote to his parents was leaked to the Press. In her 1967 book, Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography, she proffered “The answer to the problem must not lie in sleeping pills and suicides that look like accidents, or in jail sentences, but rather in life and the freedom to live it.” Charismatic and photogenic, and known for her directness and polished wit, she was featured on numerous television talk shows and toured extensively on the college lecture circuit.
Ride was the first American woman to go to space. She was a physicist by training and was hired to be in the first class of NASA astronauts to ever include women. After two missions to space on the Challenger shuttle, during which she operated the robotic arm to set satellites into orbit, Ride left NASA. She used her fame from her time as an astronaut to promote science education, founding Sally Ride Science to encourage kids to go into STEM fields and writing several books for kids about space travel and the solar system.
Born in 1946 to Bombay-born Parsi parents living in Zanzibar, Farrokh Bulsara’s musical talent first revealed itself during his early years as a pupil at an English-style boarding school in India. His adoration of Jimi Hendrix led him to join a series of bands. The most promising, Smile, metamorphosed into Queen. His distinctive baritone voice, his ability to extend his three-octave vocal range with a variety of vibrato and distortion techniques, his strutting, seductive showmanship and his ability to connect with his audience made him one of the most thrilling rock performers of all time.
Stormé DeLarverie (pronounced “Stormy”) was born on December 24, 1920 in New Orleans, LA to a black mother and a white father. She worked security at Henrietta Hudson, a popular lesbian bar on Hudson Street as well as security at The Cubby Hole. More than merely a bouncer, DeLarverie considered the bar patrons as her “babies” and patrolled the streets as their defender with a straight-edge razor in her sock. At the Stonewall Uprising on June 27, 1969, DeLarverie reportedly threw the first punch. As the story goes, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn that night, DeLarverie witnessed three officers ganging up on one young man so she sprang to the victim’s defense. In June 2019, DeLarverie was one of the 50 inaugural “pioneers, trailblazers and heroes” who were inducted into the Stonewall National Monument’s National LGBTQ Wall of Honor.
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Peaceful Paths will be holding two LGBTQ+ Support Groups at Pride Community Center in June.
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