Having accelerated a few gears in recent years, June is widely celebrated as Pride month around the world, however, none of this would be possible without Brenda Howard, the “Mother of Pride”.
Let’s start at the beginning...
1960’s America saw constant victories and losses in terms of Gay Rights and the fight for equality in terms of sexuality. This was of course the same all over the world. The National Assembly of France passed the Mirguet Amendment in 1960, resulting in homosexuality, as well as alcoholism and prostitution, being declared a ‘social scourge’ in which the government was urged to take action against.
As well as in 1966 South Africa, where a party with around 300 gay men was raided by the police – which attracted a heavy amount of public and political attention, later extending the criminalisation of male homosexuality. As I said, within the decade, there were victories and losses in the fight for equal rights and the acceptance of people’s sexuality.
Fast forward 60 years and there are still constant pushbacks and defeats, with just under 70 countries still criminalising same-sex marriage. However, the later part of the 1960’s saw the rise of Pride as we know it today, and the firm and powerful introduction to Brenda Howard, who is more famously known as "The Mother of Pride".
Pride is all about being proud of who you are, as opposed to ashamed, and is the promotion of self-affirmation and equality within the LGBTQ+ community. I have fond memories of Pride and celebrating it at events in previous years, such as the parade in Brighton which takes place annually. From my own experiences, it is a place to celebrate love with no boundaries and to recognise the long and difficult journey which the LGBTQ community have faced, and are still facing, to be able to be who they truly are, without shame.
I know there is still a long way to go, but as Pride month is celebrated in June, I’d love to go back to where Pride all began and explore how it was first started.
The Introduction of Brenda Howard
On the night of June 28th 1969 in New York City, a monumental change was brewing. Most bars wouldn’t allow homosexuals in to their establishments, worried that the police would soon raid or that they would be fined. However, The Stonewall Inn is, and was a gay club in Greenwich Village which was one of the few hubs which allowed the LGBTQ+ community to join together and enjoy their evenings.
Police were aware of The Stonewall Inn and time after time would raid the bar, arrest the LGBTQ+ customers, fine the establishment and even get rough, enforcing police brutality. The 28th of June was the day that the community realised enough was enough!
Over the following days, the LGBTQ community, the Stonewall Inn bar staff, and the neighbouring residents joined together in a riot against this injustice they were facing. A month after the riots ended, the first public march in which the LGBTQ+ community could take a stand and take pride in who they are, took place in New York City.
Named ‘The Christopher Street Liberation Day March’ after the street that The Stonewall Inn was located, this march not only raised awareness but influenced other cities and countries to implement their own parades/marches in support. Who was the mastermind behind this New York City march? It was of course Brenda Howard, the American bisexual activist who was a key figure in the LGBT rights movement.
What happened next?
The iconic and life-changing 1969 events of Stonewall sparked the inspiration for the first Pride parade organised by Brenda Howard. A number of Howard’s friends were involved in the Stonewall riots that took place, and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and really kickstarted her advocacy for the cause.
One year after the Stonewall riots and the Christopher Street March, Brenda organised the first ‘Gay Pride Week’ with the help of a committee. This week of celebrations has evolved over time into what we know today as the Pride celebrations which take place all over the world! Millions of people every year, whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or otherwise identified, take a stand and march with pride because back in 1969, Brenda did too.
This takes us up to the modern day where unfortunately Brenda Howard isn’t with us anymore. Brenda passed away from colon cancer in 2005, on exactly the 36th anniversary of the Stonewall movement. Her legacy and achievements still live on fiercely and her name is one which will continue to go down in history.
Thank you Brenda for all that you have done!