It was the summer of 1969, in Manhattan, New York. On June 28, the Stonewall Inn, a hangout for LGBTQ2S+ persons was raided by police. It was raided simply because it was known as a “gay” establishment. It was raided because of bigotry. The Stonewall’s patrons were tired of the ongoing police harassment and on that particular night, they decided to fight back. And so began the riots and protests that would mobilize a community to take action for generations to come. That raid kick-started the gay rights movement and is now simply called “Stonewall”.

Modern-day Pride celebrations are attributed to the Stonewall riots, though some historians have maintained that there were other seminal LGBTQ2S+ public marches and demonstrations beforehand.

Over the years, Pride has become a beautiful and vibrant celebration. No longer attended solely by the queer community, everybody is welcome to enjoy the pageantry, sights, and sounds of Pride festivities. This, however, is not the case around the globe.

The organization, Human Dignity Trust, reports that as of 2020, being a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community is dangerous in many parts of the world:

  • 72 jurisdictions criminalize consensual same-sex relationships.
  • 15 jurisdictions criminalize the gender expression of transgender people.
  • 11 jurisdictions maintain the death penalty as a possibility for same-sex activity.

Even in spaces where same-sex activity is not illegal, LGBTQ2S+ people are still subject to violent persecution, for example, the phenomenon of “corrective sexual assault” which is directed towards Lesbian women in South Africa. Closer to home, we observe that certain members of the queer community are more likely to be victims of violence, for example, Transgender women of colour.

Though the manifestation of Pride has changed, the need for it has not.

As Emma Lazarus wrote, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” As you take the time to celebrate the many achievements and advancements of the LGBTQ2S+ community this week, I invite you to reflect not only on the progress that has been made but also, on the work left to be done.

When all LGBTQ2S+ people around the world can live safely and with dignity, that will be the ultimate cause for celebration.

Written by: Lana Bentley, Director, Program Strategy, YW Calgary