London’s Pride Evolution: how history has shaped the future
Written by Tabetha Baldwin
Photographer: Alex Morgan (@alexmrgn)
The Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York have continued to inspire self-expression and LGBTQ+ pride in the form of parades worldwide, including here in London. FTS delves into the inspiring history of Pride.
Rainbows are normally optical illusions caused by looking at sunlight refracted through rain. But during Pride Month you are far more likely to see them displayed as the symbol of diversity amongst the LGBTQ+ society and there is nothing brighter or more extravagant than Pride. But just like you need the rain to see a rainbow, the LGBTQ+ community have had to fight tooth and nail for their existence to be accepted and more importantly; celebrated.
Pride is held in the month of June every year to remember the Stonewall riots of 1969, and to celebrate the progress that has been made each year since then. The Stonewall riot was possibly the largest historical event in LGBTQ+ history, yet a lot of people have no knowledge of what happened and what it meant for the community. It all began when police tried to shut down New York’s gay bar, The Stonewall Inn, due to it not having a liquor license; police had been known to target establishments promoting gay culture at the time. However, when they started arresting drag queens and other innocent queer people, onlookers began to protest, sparking riots in the streets. Arguably, this show of defiance gave the confidence needed to the LGBTQ+ community to propel them out of the shadows and into the spotlight, and there was no way anyone was turning back.
It might have started through violence and protest, but todays Pride is a place for freedom, love and community. With parades, parties and costumes so bright and colourful they could blind a person - Pride is unlike any other celebration. It is however, first and formally a march. In its origins, it lacked the modern light hearted flamboyancy that we see today. Whereas now we might see two gay police men becoming engaged amongst a crowd of supporters, the police used to be a negative force that shadowed the event. The LGBTQ+ community has relied heavily on its own people for protection and camaraderie. It is one of the reasons this month and Pride are so important, as each year the LGBTQ+ community grows larger, more inclusive and more accepted by the wider population.
This year’s London Pride comes after a string off tragedies, often caused by a lack of acceptance in the community. The police were out in force, and sniffer dogs could be seen, checking the vehicles in the parade. But for each tragedy there is hundreds of people willing to march in defiance, hold their flag higher, and make their costumes more outrageous. Undoubtedly, this Pride had political undertones with protest signs and art and even the London Mayor coming out to show his support. This could only have been dreamed of by those who participated in the first Pride.
When I asked a young LGBTQ+ man on his opinion of Pride he said: “it is important to feel a part of something that stands for equality. Inclusiveness is hugely important”. The day feels like a place where you can relax and not worry about who will judge you, or if you’re safe being yourself, because for once there are more people like you than people who might be against you. Another university student suggests: “Without it [Pride], places such as my home town, Durham wouldn’t have had its first Pride march two years ago in 2015, creating a space where I, my friends and many others could feel accepted in our community. Without London Pride none of that would have been possible”.
Pride celebrates the victories that have been won, like the recent legalization of same sex marriage in Germany and President Obama declaring the Stonewall Inn as the first national monument to LGBT rights in the country. More and more countries are becoming LGBTQ+ friendly, and this is all thanks to the people before us who marched for the change we now see. However, with horrors like the Orlando Pulse shooting, and the disturbing reports about Chechnya’s gay concentration camps, it is clear we have many miles to walk before there is true peace and unity amongst people of all sexualities and genders.