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Points of Pride

4 facts about LGBT celebration

The rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBT Pride Month, traces its origins to 1978.

Here are four facts about LGBT Pride Month, a time to honor the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States.

1. The annual observance began 51 years ago. The first Pride parade was known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March and was held on June 28, 1970, in New York City. That was one year to the day after the first Stonewall riot, named for the Stonewall Inn tavern in Greenwich Village. On that night in 1969 and for several nights afterward, lesbian, gay and other protesters rose up against police harassment, a watershed moment in the movement that brought new visibility and political clout.

2. The rainbow flag is a Pride Month icon. San Francisco politician Harvey Milk commissioned Gilbert Baker to create a flag for the city’s Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day parade in June 1978. It was an inspired choice. Baker, a military vet who settled in the city, was an artist and drag queen who sewed his own clothes. The original flag had eight colors, each symbolizing an aspect of the gay rights movement, and after Milk’s assassination later that year, demand for the flags skyrocketed. Because of production issues, the fuchsia and turquoise stripes had to be dropped, and basic blue took the place of indigo.

3. Pride Month continues to evolve. Some refer to June as LGBTQ Pride Month as way of including people who identify as queer or questioning. And as with other grassroots movements (Earth Day, breast cancer awareness), greater acceptance of the message has gotten big business involved. Some bemoan Pride’s commercialization and question the true solidarity of companies that fly rainbow flags but, say, still do business with countries that oppress gays. Others see this marketing as a good, or at least neutral, development.

4. The coronavirus pandemic has affected Pride Month celebrations. The 50th anniversary of the Christopher Street Liberation Day March fell during the onset of the pandemic, forcing hundreds of event cancellations nationwide. Organizers for New York City’s parade — consistently the largest in the country — are planning a hybrid for 2021, with both virtual and in-person elements. Their Pride Month theme, “The Fight Continues,” reflects “the multitude of battles we’ve been fighting as a country and as a city,” said Andre Thomas, NYC Pride co-chair.

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