Gay Pride is an annual event that happens in cities across the world, usually in the month of June.
It celebrates, as its name evokes, pride in being queer.
Its historical genesis has generally been attributed to the Stonewall riots that took place in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1969. At that time, homosexuality was very underground and there were few places for queer people to go and find any sort of community.
Homosexuals were drawn to Greenwich Village because of its bohemian atmosphere. It was where the Beat poets and the Beat movement had started and the vibe of the area was very liberal and accepting.
The Stonewall Inn was a place that catered to a queer clientele. Oddly enough, it wasn’t owned by a homosexual, but was actually run by the mafia, who paid off the New York City police so that they could run the establishment with no liquor license. The Stonewall was frequented mainly by gay men, who flocked there because it was the only gay bar in the city with a dance floor.
The night of the Stonewall riots, the police raided the bar and gathered up the 100-or-so clientele. As the people were waiting outside for the paddy wagons to arrive, a crowd started to gather. Soon the crowd had grown to over 500 people.
The police became aggressive with some individuals, including a butch dyke who shouted at the crowd to do something. The crowd responded and the Stonewall protest began.
This was never a planned protest, but a spontaneous reaction to police brutality. The protests lasted for days and galvanized the community like never before.
From this riot, the gay rights movement as we know it today was born.
Within six months of Stonewall, two gay activist organizations, Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance, were formed in New York. This period also saw the creation of three gay-friendly weekly publications in the city, namely Gay, Come Out and Gay Power.
A year later, the first Gay Pride marches were held, with events in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
I visited the site of the Stonewall riots a few years ago. The inn is on a quiet street, close to one of the oldest queer bookstores in the country still operating. I stood on the corner of Christopher Street (where it all happened) and Gay Street, and tried to imagine what that night must have been like.
The writer Allen Ginsberg, a resident of Christopher Street at that time, described the immediate aftermath of Stonewall: “All the men were so beautiful, they had lost that wounded look that all fags have had for the last 10 years.”
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Yukon is having its own Pride Week celebrations to commemorate this auspicious time in queer history. Stay tuned to see what the GALA board is putting together and come out and celebrate Pride.
For information, visit www.gaycanada.com/galayukon.