Gay History

A Liberal’s Conservative View of Gay Pride Celebrations

This last weekend was our Gay Pride Celebration here in Minneapolis. Ever since I came out, I have always found a solidarity when Gay Pride comes around. I do take issue with a few things that happen that I’m sure will upset some people but this is the Internet and my opinion is there.

Since when did Gay Pride become an excuse to get completely wasted, dress like a complete slut and think that is the history of Gay Pride. Gay Pride started because of the Stonewall Riots. Here’s a brief explanation of what went on and gives some idea on this website’s name origin:

From Wikipedia: The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The demonstrations are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

American gays and lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s faced a legal system more anti-homosexual than those of some Warsaw Pactcountries.[note 1][2] Early homophile groups in the U.S. sought to prove that gay people could be assimilated into society, and they favored non-confrontational education for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. The last years of the 1960s, however, were very contentious, as many social movements were active, including the African American Civil Rights Movement, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and antiwar demonstrations. These influences, along with the liberal environment of Greenwich Village, served as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. The Stonewall Inn, at the time, was owned by the Mafia.[3][4] It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.[5]

The people that walked before us have made the community we’re a part of what it is. We have the responsibility to hold their work in a respectable way. We want to honor the people who have helped us so far and give encouragement to those who are trying to make history.

Are Gay Pride Celebrations more about sexual revolution and public drunkenness or about celebrating the history of those who’ve come before us?

I know this is a very conservative take on Pride Celebrations and I’m actually surprised by my own views on this. It seems that some Pride Celebrations have become more about what free stuff can you get versus learning about the non-profits and what local businesses are doing for the community.

It’s supposed to be a party and it’s supposed to be fun. If we are just partying and having fun, when do we realize that things around us will never change if we just ignore them? In my opinion, we in the LGBT Community are “Accidental Activists”. We didn’t ask to be LGBT and we didn’t ask to be treated as Second-Class Citizens of our own countries. Let’s look at our past, learn from our previous leaders, and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

If we just party and have fun, we’ll never see the change that we want. We can’t be apathetic when it comes to laws that discriminate against us. We can’t rely on others to make these things happen. We must do it ourselves.

Celebrate Gay Pride everyday that you can by showing people that you are JUST like them and want the exact same things they do. Stand-up for the rights that are denied to you and kick and scream till you get them!

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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3 thoughts on “A Liberal’s Conservative View of Gay Pride Celebrations”

  1. The last Twin Cities Pride Fair I attended was in 1994. Afterwards, I wrote an article very similar to yours. Alas, it sounds like little has changed in the intervening 18 years.

  2. I hear your frustration. I wish that our community was more focused on activism and acknowledging our history, but I reconciled the opposite some time ago. I’ve come to view Pride as a chance for people to blow off steam. So many spend their days feeling “less than”, Pride gives them a rare moment to celebrate, and an excuse to drink as much as they want. While that isn’t my idea of Pride, I’ve come to understand it. The bigger issue, to me, is that after all the messiness of Pride, most just resume their lives, with no thought of their greater role in the community. I wish there was a way to channel everyone’s energy more productively, changing apathy into action… Keep up the great work!

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