June was the month of Pride, and our organization changed our logo design to celebrate that; however, not many people are aware of the history of Pride, and we are using this opportunity to share some of it! Through education and understanding, we flip the narrative, and can foster safer communities for all.
Though official government recognition varies, the month of June is celebrated around the world as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. LGBTQ+ people have existed as long as humanity itself, the ancient Greek poet Sappho (630 BCE - 570 BCE) being an example. Unfortunately, with the mere existence of LGBTQ+ people comes anti-LGBTQ+ oppression. Such oppression and the resulting LGBTQ+ resistance culminated in New York City in June of 1969. On June 28, 1969, police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, forcing 200+ patrons out of the building and onto the streets, where they further brutalized them with excessive violence. One such patron was Marsha P. Johnson, a 23-year-old drag queen who, along with other gay activists, encouraged Stonewall’s patrons as well as onlookers to fight back. In the following days, Marsha helped lead protests demanding rights for gay people, which also resulted in violent confrontations with the police. News of these protests spread around the world, encouraging others to join the fight for equality, and thus establishing the modern gay rights movement. A year later, Marsha and other organizers, such as Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, led a march from Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Inn was located, to Central Park with the theme of “Gay Pride,” in contrast to the prevailing notion of shame associated with being gay. This march expanded to different cities and countries, with increasing numbers of people joining throughout the decade, until finally becoming the big celebration it is today.
Despite growing momentum and support for LGBTQ+ rights in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots, significant discrimination persisted during Marsha’s time (as well as to this day). In the 1970s LGBTQ+ youths were frequently kicked out of their childhood homes by their parents. In response, Marsha and Sylvia founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970 to help homeless LGBTQ+ individuals. Despite having their own mental health issues, Marsha dedicated much of their life to helping others, particularly New York’s LGBTQ+ community; in fact, they were even nicknamed the “Saint of Christopher Street '' for being so kind and generous.
We at BOLT Safety Society commend Marsha’s brave and selfless acts to promote safety for the LGBTQ+ community. If you or someone you know could use some support, contact the following resources for confidential help:
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Canada's only toll-free, 24-hour, bilingual, and anonymous phone/web counseling and referral service for children and youth. Anonymous and confidential.)
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366 (Works to end transgender suicide and improve the overall mental health of transgender people through education, advocacy, and direct service.)
Mental Health & Addictions Crisis Centre: cmhamiddlesex.ca (Provides 24/7 walk-in support for individuals experiencing a mental health and/or addiction crisis that does not require hospital or emergency service interventions. Located at 648 Huron St., London, the Crisis Centre houses the Crisis Assessment Team, Crisis Mobile Team and can provide access to 5 off-site crisis stabilization beds. The building is a warm, welcoming environment that will be open for walk-in self-referrals and community referrals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.)
LGBTQ2+ Youth Line: Call Toll-Free: 1.800.268.9688 / In the Toronto Area: 416.962.9688, Text: 647.694.4275, TTY: 416.962.0777 (The Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line provides service for youth, by youth that affirms the experiences and aspirations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, 2-spirited, queer and questioning youth in Ontario. Working within an anti-oppression and anti-racist framework, we provide leadership opportunities, outreach, confidential peer support and referrals by telephone, texting, and online. All of our services are confidential and anonymous. Our number will not show up on your phone bill.)
More community resources: queerevents.ca