June is National LGBT Pride Month. But what does that really mean?
Happy Gay Pride Month. What are you doing to celebrate? Anything? What does Pride Month even mean to you?
Surely, we all know why we designate June as our LGBT Pride Month, right? It all goes back to that fateful night in 1969 — June 28, to be exact — when the gays and the lesbians and the drag queens and the transgender folk at Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, decided they were fed up with being harassed and arrested simply for who they were.
So when the cops raided the bar that night, the patrons fought back, setting out a series of riots that lasted several days. It was, as is generally acknowledged today, “the birth of the modern gay rights movement.”
And in a decade-and-a-half, a series of most propitious Supreme Court rulings have been handed down in June, advancing the cause of LGBT by leaps and bounds and cementing June’s status as Pride month. And all of them came on the same day of the month, too!
On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that overturned the Texas sodomy law and declared all such antiquated statutes unconstitutional. Ten years later — June 26, 2013 — SCOTUS ruled in United States v. Windsor, overturning the section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages from local jurisdictions where they were legal.
That set the stage for the court’s ruling two years later, on June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges that declared marriage equality to be the law of the land.
And we can’t forget what happened in Fort Worth on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of Stonewall — when Fort Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents raided a newly-opened gay bar called The Rainbow Lounge. That set off a new wave of activism in Fort Worth and has been a rallying cry for advocates of equality ever since. It was just 15 days ago, in the wee morning hours of June 1, that the Rainbow Lounge went up in smoke, victim, it seems, of faulty electrical wiring to the ice machine.
So yeah, it’s easy to see why June is our Pride month — the month when cities paint the crosswalks in their gayborhoods in rainbow colors, and rainbow flags pop up everywhere. It’s the month when Facebook adds a rainbow emoji to its “like button” options, and when Skittles, the “taste the rainbow” candy, goes white because “there’s only room for one rainbow” in June.
June is the month of parades and festivals and marches. It is the month of Pride.
But what is Pride, really? What does it mean? How should we really be celebrating Pride? Does every body have to be proud the same way?
Sometimes it seems like there are people who think that yes, there is only one way to celebrate and if you aren’t doing it their way, you aren’t a good gay at all.
Think about the rainbow flag, for example. It’s a rainbow and it’s a flag — easy-peasy, right? Umm, no. Turns out it may not be so easy-peasy after all.
Apparently, the city of Philadelphia has just debuted a new rainbow flag, one that adds a brown stripe and a black stripe to the red-orange-yellow-green-royal blue-violet stripes as a way to expand its inclusivity and acknowledge the racial diversity of the LGBT community.
The response came fast and loud. And people were not happy! Good lord, you’d think the city of Philadelphia had issued a decree declaring that the Baby Jesus was actually a girl!
What I want to know is, what difference does it make, anyway? It’s not like our modern six-stripe flag is the original rainbow flag. When Gilbert Baker originally designed the rainbow flag in 1978, it had eight stripes — hot pink atop the red and instead of today’s one royal blue stripe, there was one indigo stripe and one teal stripe. The next incarnation was without the hot pink stripe, because they couldn’t find any hot pink fabric!
And even now, while the six-stripe flag may be the norm, it’s not the only one. We have rainbow versions of the U.S. flag, circular rainbow pinwheel banners, pastel rainbow flags. We have a leather Pride flag — black and white and blue — and a trans Pride flag — light blue and light pink and white.
If Philadelphia wants to add a black stripe and a brown stripe to their rainbow, I say more power to ’em. It doesn’t bother me, because it doesn’t mean I have to do it, too.
And then there is the question of Pride parades. Lots of places — most, I guess — that have Pride parades hold their parades in June. The Dallas Pride parade, though, is always the third Sunday in September. Tarrant County Pride Week is the first weekend in October. Same with Dallas Southern Pride, our local black Pride celebration. Houston still holds its Pride parade at the end of June — and always on a Saturday night — but in Austin, the Pride celebration happens in August.
Lately, I’ve heard a lot of folks here in Dallas calling for the parade to be moved back to June, back to the roots of Pride. Why? Why can’t we have our Parade in September? Does it make Dallas any less gay proud?
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the whole corporate sponsors-no corporate sponsors debate! I understand the desire for a more grassroots Pride event that harkens back to the birth of the movement, when Pride was more riot than celebration. And I also understand the need for a celebration.
As for corporate sponsors, who says corporate-types can’t be proud, too?
It’s not like Dallas doesn’t celebrate June as Pride Month. I mean, thanks to QueerBomb, and this year, the Equality March organizers, we have Pride events in June, too. But why should we limit ourselves to just June? Why can’t we spread our Pride out throughout the year?
Hell, I think we ought to have a Pride event every month of the year. Why not? I’m not just proud of my community and my LGBT family and myself just in June.
Here’s the crux of the matter, at least for me: We are not all the same, and we don’t need to be. That is, perhaps, the single most important tenet of our community, our identity: Diversity and inclusiveness. We all have the right — the responsibility, even — to be ourselves, to let others be themselves, and to celebrate and honor the beauty of us all.
So happy LGBT Pride everybody, this month and every month.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 16, 2017.