June has only been federally recognized as Pride Month since 2000, when Bill Clinton deemed it “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month,” and Barack Obama picked up the mantle and throughout his presidency named June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.” But Pride, as we’ll shorthand it, has a lot more history than the last 17 years.
Gay Liberation could, arguably, be traced back much further than 1969, but we’ll start there for ease of storytelling, at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 28, the Stonewall Inn was raided by cops. At this time in the ‘60s, being homosexual, wearing clothing that didn’t “match” your outwardly perceived gender identity, and being caught surrounded by too many other homosexuals was illegal, so it wasn’t uncommon for underground and hidden clubs to be targeted by the police. What makes the raid on Stonewall a historic event is that this raid turned into a riot — standard raid procedure for gay bars at the time was to have everyone line up, present their IDs, and then “verify” the gender of patrons in the restrooms.
Things escalated when people refused to be brought to the restroom and show their IDs. The cops decided they’d arrest everyone at the bar that night for refusing to comply, but the paddy wagons took a little too long to arrive. Years of mistreatment and blatant discrimination came to a head in the moments between the initial raid and the paddy wagons arriving — the Stonewall Inn is in the heart of Greenwich Village, on Christopher Street, and the ruckus of the raid attracted more and more queer people to the scene. As the tension grew, historians say someone shouted “Gay power!” and others started singing “We shall overcome,” when a police officer shoved a trans patron, all hell broke loose.
“You've been treating us like shit all these years?"
"Uh-uh. Now it's our turn!... It was one of the greatest moments in my life.” — Sylvia Rivera
There’s some conflict of what exactly happened next that escalated the violence — did Marsha P. Johnson throw the first brick and break a police car window? Did Sylvia Rivera? Was it Stormé DeLarverie that was being roughed up by the cops that caused the tense mob to rise up? Regardless, many well known activists and community members of the early queer liberation movement were there, and the Stonewall Riots are credited with the birth of a new wave of 1970s’ queer resistance and rebellion. The riots lasted for six days, and when they were done, several demonstrations, activist groups, and marches had arisen from the wreckage.
On June 28, 1970, Christopher Street held an anniversary march in honor of the riots, entitled Christopher Street Liberation Day, while Chicago and Los Angeles held their first marches as well. It wouldn’t be until 1978 that the rainbow became a national symbol of LGBT Pride, designed by the late Gilbert Baker and commissioned by Harvey Milk, so the symbols of queer pride are broad and varied. We like when people wear their LGBT pride on their sleeve, so in honor of Stonewall, in honor of resistance, and in honor of Pride Month, here are some pride tattoos to inspire you.