While everyone has a different opinion on what Pride represents, the core meaning of the celebration is Love. Love that triumphs despite bigotry, oppression, fear, violence and hatred. Love that transcends gender, sex, and the gender binary.
As Pride celebrations kick off this year, they do so in an environment somehow both more and less divided than the previous years as many conservative states move to enact bills that disadvantage LGBTQ citizens in support of their party values.
But despite the political shenanigans and the constant jockeying to either bestow or deny basic rights to citizens regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, one image is coming into clearer focus: Americans support gay marriage and LGBTQ issues.
So as Pride kicks off this year, it does so in an atmosphere of turmoil that's nothing new for its celebrants, but it looks towards a more hopeful and loving future.
Pride Starts as Kids Again Find Their Voices
This year, Pride's timing is more poignant than ever. As the Supreme Court weighs the possibility of overturning Roe V Wade and the country reels from the impact of the Robb Elementary School shooting which left 19 children and 2 teachers dead, Love is more desperately needed than ever. Across the world, Ukraine is under siege by Russia, and COVID numbers are again on the rise - although the resultant deaths seem to be slow to follow.
As adults continue to bicker over who should be granted basic human rights and who should be in charge of the country, this is the growing age of kids' voices.
With TikTok the playground of Gen Z - locked in their homes for 2 pivotal years of their childhood and young adulthood - they no longer rely on adults to signal boost their message, they write and blast it themselves. And it's clear that Gen Z is a generation that embraces diversity and love. In the teens and early 20's set, Pride is to be celebrated whether or not you belong to the LGBTQ community.
Even as more teens begin to speak out against bigotry and hatred and in support of their LGBTQ friends and families, adults are fighting back in the only way they know how: by passing discriminatory laws. In Florida, for instance, the Republican-majority legislature passed the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill which regulates what teachers may and may not say in the classroom about relationships; including limiting the mention of same-sex relationships or transgender individuals even to those children who have same-sex parents or are themselves transgender.
Other states across the country are following suit, and looking to test the ability for private businesses to refuse services to LGBTQ couples, an issue that has been bandied about in the Supreme Court before. Now, with a conservative majority in the SCOTUS, Republican states are seizing their chances to pass more restrictive laws than ever, but these policies may be on life support.
Polls show that more Americans support LGBTQ rights than ever - around 80%. While 20% continue to oppose (with 7% strongly opposing) expanding LGBTQ rights and protecting them from discrimination. So while conservative states desperately gasp at their best chance to pass values-aligned laws, it may be a short-lived effort especially as more Gen Z politicians and younger Millennials take the stage.
The Impact of 'Love'
Like most movements throughout history, the Pride celebration started with an act of rebellion. Before the '60's, being gay meant you were likely to be subjected to arrest and persecution in the United States. But love can't be contained.
CELEB shared of Pride in 2021, "Gay clubs and bars began popping up across the United States in the ’60’s as a way for gay people to gather and live authentically without the fear of death. Quiet affairs, these locations were safe places to love, live, and learn from one another.
But on June 28th, 1969, police raided a place called Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. The Inn had become a gathering place because a crime family known as the Genovese considered it a lucrative business to cater to the shunned and shadow-seeking gay community. It was what could have been a symbiotic relationship between those looking to avoid attention, and those happy to provide them with anonymity. But it wasn’t out of the kindness of their hearts; in order to have their place of sanctuary, the gay community members using Stonewall Inn were often blackmailed by the Genovese to keep their sexuality a secret, and the conditions in the bar were shady and dangerous, with no clear fire exit. The Genovese were bribing police to look the other way, and police usually tipped them off before staging low-impact raids. But on June 28th, 1969, the Genovese were not tipped off and the police showed up for a raid.
History shares, 'Armed with a warrant, police officers entered the club, roughed up patrons, and, finding bootlegged alcohol, arrested 13 people, including employees and people violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing statute (female officers would take suspected cross-dressing patrons into the bathroom to check their sex).
Fed up with constant police harassment and social discrimination, angry patrons and neighborhood residents hung around outside of the bar rather than disperse, becoming increasingly agitated as the events unfolded and people were aggressively manhandled. At one point, an officer hit a lesbian over the head as he forced her into the police van— she shouted to onlookers to act, inciting the crowd to begin throw pennies, bottles, cobble stones and other objects at the police.'
A mythology has arisen around who was the first to throw a brick at police, and historical accounts are mostly relegated to recollection because no one was documenting at the time. It’s likely that the woman being handcuffed – Stormé DeLarverie – was the first person to throw a punch. However, most of the people credited with that first volley have demurred responsibility and point instead to a collective effort. The original riot involved a few hundred people and was relatively quickly dispersed, but thousands more rose up in protest over the following five days. While the gay rights movement didn’t arise solely from the effects of the Stonewall Riots, it was a pivotal moment and a spark that helped ignite the fire. Pride is celebrated every June to remember a time when the LGBTQIA+ community said, 'enough.'”
Since then, Pride has evolved into a celebration of love - but also a gentle act of rebellion. A reminder that people outside the gender binary and people outside of the cis and heterosexual "norm" exist. It's a time to celebrate being who you are, no matter what the world wants to judge you for - and come together as a community in the face of the embers of hate.
In recent years, many corporations have faced criticism that they're capitalizing on the Pride movement for monetary gain; companies are awash in rainbows at the start of June and are often seen to be money-grubbing at the expense of a vulnerable community. Oreos, for instance, has been the target of ire for the past month as they released their Pride cookie packaging; detractors call it "rainbow capitalism." But others suggest that every time a corporation celebrates Pride they're taking a side whether they want to or not, and supporters believe that by making Pride a mainstream issue, they're helping further the normalization of gay, trans and other rights issues.
Celebs Love Pride
It's no secret that celebrities love Pride. The majority are outspoken in their support of LGBTQ causes and use their platform to signal boost human rights issues.
But some live Love out loud more than others, and here are some of our favorites:
- Miranda Lambert: The country music star attended her first Pride parade in 2019 and was moved to tears sharing images of her brother and his husband.
- Miley Cyrus: Cyrus identifies as pansexual and celebrates yearly; last year she posed in a rainbow bikini and tagged Happy Hippie Foundation, a charity she started to support LGBTQ youth.
- Lance Bass: The former Backstreet Boys star celebrates Pride with his husband every year, and the happy couple welcomed twins last Fall.
- Alicia Keys: Keys has hit the stage during Pride with Bob the Drag Queen to give NYC something to sing about.
- Andy Cohen: The Bravo host celebrated Pride in 2019 with several of the Real Housewives castmates.
- Lady Gaga: A known ally for the LGBTQ community, Gaga celebrates Pride in a big way every year and is often photographed out and about at one Pride event or another, dressed in rainbows.
- Wendy Williams: Even the oft-controversial daytime host celebrates Pride every year with a message for friends and fans.
- RuPaul: The RuPaul's Drag Race star makes appearances at Pride events to celebrate.
- Megan Fox: The actress celebrates Pride every year with fashion and shout-outs.
- Plus more.
Whether the celebrities themselves are an LGBTQ community member or an ally, every time they show up to Pride, post about it or celebrate with loved ones, they're helping further the message that Love is Love and Love is Normal, however it looks.
Even as around 300 bills circulate the country in an attempt to restrict LGBTQ rights, this year's Pride looks to be bigger than ever - and won't be silenced.