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What are the origins of Pride Month? And who should we thank for the LGBTQ celebration?

  • Pride Month started with the Stonewall Uprising in New York City on June 28, 1969.
  • Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were transgender activists seen as pioneers for LGBTQ rights.
  • The rainbow flag is known as the symbol for Pride, but there are many other Pride flags too.

For decades, Pride Month has been celebrated in June across the United States. Festivities, parades and events have been thrown to honor LGBTQ voices and experiences, but also to draw attention to the issues members of the community still face.

Though 2020 brought most traditional Pride festivals to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states are easing back into in-person and virtual events this year. 

But what are the origins of Pride Month? What event kicked off the celebrations in the U.S., and who should we thank? How do people celebrate?

USA TODAY is breaking down your Pride questions below.

Why do we celebrate in June? Know their names: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

It all started with the Stonewall Uprising in New York City on June 28, 1969. Following a police invasion of a gay club located in Greenwich Village, riots and protests ensued throughout the city. 

"The majority of people at Stonewall were either drag queens or gay men of color," Titus Montalvo, a hairdresser and makeup artist who was 16 at the time, told USA TODAY's Dalvin Brown.

At that time, in New York City, “masquerading” as a member of the opposite sex was a crime.

Although transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson didn't arrive to the bar until the rioting had started, many credit Johnson for throwing the first brick or shot glass that sparked the riots. Regardless, Johnson and other Black and Latinx transgender women are now being recognized and hailed.

Marsha P. Johnson

Another transgender women involved was Sylvia Rivera, an activist and self-professed drag queen. Rivera fought for transgender rights alongside Johnson, co-creating S.T.A.R., the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, to help homeless LGBTQ youth.

Rivera died in 2002, and Johnson died in 1992. Last year, it was announced a monument commemorating both the women would be built in New York's Greenwich Village. 

The Stonewall Inn was declared a historic landmark by the city of New York in 2015 and later named a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2016.

The Stonewall Riots sparked a shift and increase in LGBTQ activism. However, more work for the transgender community is still needed. In 2021, 13 transgender men and women were killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Twelve of the 13 killed were either Black, Latinx or Asian.

A National Park Service ranger place rainbow flags, representing LBGTQ pride, along fencing around Christopher Park, Friday June 14, 2019, in New York's Greenwich Village. June is Pride Month, celebrated each year to mark the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, a series of violent confrontations between the gay community and police, that occurred near the park at a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn.

What is the Pride symbol?

The rainbow flag, created by artist Gilbert Baker in 1978, is widely known as the symbol of Pride. But did you know there's more than one Pride flag

"Pride flags are a bold visual representation of the movement," Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International said. "And, rightly so, there are many, echoing the diversity of identities within the LGBTIQ community, and the need for everyone to be seen and recognized." 

Philadelphia

Philadelphia redesigned the Pride flag in 2017 to include the colors brown and black in an effort to promote diversity and inclusion and to "honor the lives of our Black and brown LGBTQ siblings," the city said in a statement.

Lesbian

The Lesbian flag has several iterations. However the one created in 2018 by Emily Gwen features shades of orange, purple and pink. 

Trans

The trans flag features light blue and light pink which represent colors traditionally given to baby girls and boys at birth. The white represents intersex, transitioning or a neutral/undefined gender. The flag was created by transgender activist Monica Helms in 1999.

How to celebrate Pride Month

Pride 2020 was celebrated mostly virtually due to the pandemic. However as more Americans get vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed or lifted, 2021's Pride Month celebrations are underway.

In lieu of an in-person festival, Washington D.C. is hosting a mobile caravan while New York Pride will celebrate with in-person and virtual celebrations. The Atlanta Pride Run is also happening this year in person. 

As an ally, you can familiarize yourself with definitions and slang commonly used by the LGBTQ community. You can show support for the community by also shopping at retail stores giving back to nonprofit organizations. Those stores include A Tribe Called Queer, Adidas, Apple, Banana Republic and more. 

If you're looking to get into the Pride spirit, you can visit local sites where LGBTQ history was made. Sites such as the Stonewall National Monument in New York, the Pulse Interim Memorial in Orlando, Florida and the Henry Gerber House in Chicago. 

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda