The first Pride March was held in New York City to commemorate the Stonewall riots. The march was planned primarily by “Mother of Pride” Brenda Howard, a bisexual feminist from New York. Instead of Pride, it was called Christopher Street Liberation Day. Photo Context: Marchers walk during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
The first gay rights group in the US was The Society for Human Rights, founded in 1924 by Henry Gerber, who had been institutionalized for his sexuality 7 years earlier. The group was disbanded a few months after being formed when several members were arrested. Photo Context: Police protect street preachers during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
The Society for Human Rights published the first LGBT newsletter in the US, called Friendship and Freedom. American laws forbade the dissemination of this material, similar to the way Russian laws forbid it today. Photo Context: Marchers (skaters?) make their way down Tryon Street during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
Lesbian couples were sometimes able to live together in “Boston marriage” relationships, although most of them were not able to be out. These relationships usually involved wealthy women, as lower-class women depended on a man’s earnings for support. Because of a continuing wage gap in the US, lesbian couples on average still make less than gay male couples or straight couples in terms of household income. Photo Context: Attendees stand behind street preachers at Charlotte Pride, 2016.
The first lesbian group in the US was the Daughters of Bilitis, founded by a couple named Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. The Daughters of Bilitis were loosely affiliated with the feminist movement due to cross-membership, but feminist leaders called lesbian supporters the “Lavender Menace” in 1969, leading to a backlash and a separate feminist movement based on Women-Identified Women, the “founding document” of lesbian feminism. Photo Context: A woman wear pins representing the bisexual flag and the United States during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
For a significant period of time, the lesbian feminist movement rejected transwomen in much the same way the feminist movement rejected lesbian and bisexual women. Transpeople still face a significant struggle for acceptance even within the LGBT community. Photo Context: A sticker of “Worst Governor Ever” Pat McCrory is posted in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood.
The AIDS crisis is associated with gay men because it decimated the community when it first came to the US. While HIV/AIDS is still prevalent in the gay community, the virus is spreading fastest to young men of color in the US. This is attributed to a stigma against gay men in the black community and the disproportionate imprisonment of these young men, as well as a disproportionate lack of acces s to healthcare. Transwomen of color are also at an increased HIV risk, and are sometimes mistakenly included in relevant statistics as men. Photo Context: HIV prevention specialist Kat Holtz holds an OraQuick HIV preliminary test during a keynote on World AIDS Day, 2016.
The group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was formed in response to the AIDS crisis. The group staged protests against the government’s lack of concern about the crisis under Reagan, and these protests continued until the Clinton administration. The documentary How to Survive a Plague focuses on the crisis and the group’s actions. Several members of the group are still alive thanks to the discovery of dozens of relatively successful HIV drugs released since the 1990s. There is no cure for HIV yet. Photo Context: Protesters against the American Healthcare Act in Cleveland hold a banner that says “Healthcare is a Human Right,” a slogan similar to one used by ACT UP. “Healthcare is a right”
Before Stonewall, the Compton’s Cafeteria riot was the strongest example of backlash for the treatment of the LGBT community. A transwoman started that protest as well, when a police officer in the Tenderloin district of San Fransisco tried to arrest her for “crossdressing”. Photo Context: Pins representing LGBT groups hanging on COA’s main desk.
Sodomy laws were overturned in the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas. This came after the court’s 1986 ruling which upheld sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick. The laws had been in place since the country’s founding, with one law proposed by Thomas Jefferson calling for the death penalty as punishment. Photo Context: A rallier with a sign quoting Samuel Adams taped to his hat at a Constitution Day rally in Kent, Ohio, 2017.
The March for Equality took place on June 11, 2017, as LGBT people around the country marched with other marginalized communities to protest the policies of the Trump era and the repeal of some of the Obama Administration’s LGBT-friendly policies. Photo Context: People rest after walking during the Equality March in Charlotte. The march brought several hundred people to the streets of Charlotte, after organizers predicted a turnout of about 100.
The Orlando nightclub shooting took place one year ago. A Muslim man named Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others on Latin Night at Pulse Nightclub, a gay bar in Florida. Mateen claimed to have ties to ISIS, but the FBI found no evidence of this. A number of fundraising campaigns have raised millions of dollars for the victims and their families. Local mosques encouraged members to donate blood despite the shooting taking place during Ramadan, a period of fasting that could lead to medical issues while donating. Photo Context: Members of Charlotte Latin Pride hug attendees while marching in the city’s Pride parade.
The word queer was used as a slur against the gay and trans communities for decades, but in recent years many people have begun to use it as an umbrella term for sexual minorities and in some cases as a personal identity. This identity and the word overall remains controversial within the LGBT community, especially because the group is often called LGBTQ, with the Q standing for the word queer. Photo Context: Marchers dance during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
There is very little information on the commonality of transgender people because many of them are closeted due to stigma. However, it has been shown that forcing people, particularly children, to conform to the stereotypes of their birth sex can be extremely harmful, increasing their risks for mental illness. Photo Context: Charlotte Pride, 2016, on the sidelines of the parade.
The Mathew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed in 2009. It requires the FBI to track hate crime statistics against LGBT people. However, this only expands federal law, and taking cases to federal court is expensive. Several cities and states have passed local non-discrimination laws, but other states have banned cities from enforcing these laws. North Carolina’s HB2 ( and following that, HB142) is an example of this. Photo Context: Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts marching in the city’s 2016 Pride celebration. Roberts and the city council brought a non-discrimination ordinance to the city after two years of debate, and it was overturned by the state of North Carolina in a one-day session by the passage of HB2.
Criticism of hate crime laws is common. They increase penalties for actions which are already criminal, and they also frame police as allies to the LGBT community despite a long history of police abuse toward them. Photo Context: Police confront Christian extremist Flip Benham as he argues with a participant during Charlotte’s Pride festival in 2016. This story was covered by The New Civil Rights Movement last year.
Gay conversion therapy, sometimes called “reparative therapy” is relatively common in the US. Conversion therapy can include things like electroshock “treatments” and psychological torture techniques. Hundreds of conversion therapy centers are still in operation across the US, in spite of the ineffectiveness and general horrific tactics of these centers. A handful of states have banned the practice, but in a majority of states this is still legal. Photo Context: A street preacher throwing away a condom at Charlotte Pride, 2016.
Homosexuality was removed in 1973 from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly the DSM) and replaced with ego- dystonic homosexuality which applied only to unwanted homosexual orientations. In 1986, this diagnosis was removed as well. While homosexuality is not considered an illness, the stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBT community leads them to be more at risk for mental illnesses. Photo Context: A participant in the March for Equality in Charlotte holds a sign in memory of a transgender activist who committed suicide after years of discrimination.
Transpeople face higher rates of violence than cisgender people. 11 trans people have been murdered this year, surpassing the rate at this point in 2016, which was already the highest trans murder rate in recorded history. Trans women of color are most at risk. Photo context: Trans activist MJ Eckhouse speaking about suicides caused by discrimination against the trans community.
The creator of the rainbow pride flag, Gilbert Baker, died earlier this year. He designed the flag at the request of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected in the US. When the flags were mass-produced, a shortage of hot pink fabric led to that color being dropped from the original flag. Photo Context: The Marriott hotel in Charlotte flies a rainbow flag during the city’s Pride celebration.
In February of 1903, the first documented police raid on a gay bathhouse in the US took place. 26 men were arrested and 7 were imprisoned on sodomy charges for up to 20 years. Bathhouses were popular among gay men prior to the AIDS crisis, but the popularity of these places has decreased since the crisis began. Photo Context: A marcher carries flags during the March for Equality in Charlotte.
Two years before the Stonewall riots, another gay bar erupted into chaos after a raid in Los Angeles at the Black Cat Tavern. Following that raid, an LGBT publication began called The Los Angeles Advocate, eventually becoming The Advocate, still in operation today. Photo Context: A news stand sits mostly empty during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978 by Dan White, the former supervisor of San Fransisco. The film Milk goes into the relationship between the two men as it documents Milk’s political career. Photo Context: A protester holds a sign during the Equality March in Charlotte NC, 2017.
The Democratic Party first stood for gay rights in 1980. Upon the early formation of the Green Party in 1984 gay rights became part of their platform as well. The Republican Party has yet to make any platform or general statement in favor of gay rights, opting instead for dog-whistle language about so-called family values. Photo Context: Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking in Kent Ohio during the 2016 election season.
Homosexuality was generally accepted and common until the Council of Trent, where the Catholic Church invented and expanded the concept of sin. The Catholic Church still does not accept the gay community and Pope Francis has called transpeople “abominations”. The Church’s efforts in Africa have intensified the spread of AIDS as the church does not accept condom use, and the church’s abstinence efforts in the US have left many young people unprepared to understand both their own sexuality and the prevention of STIs and pregnancy. Photo Context: The top of a Catholic Church in uptown Charlotte.
Two years ago today same-sex marriage became legal across the United States. The Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges came exactly 12 years after the decision striking down sodomy laws across the US. The Obama administration celebrated the ruling by lighting the White House in rainbow colors. Photo Context: Marchers rally during the March for Equality in Charlotte, 2017.
President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. The law denied benefits to gay couples in the event that gay marriage became legal and allowed states to refuse to recognize marriages in other states. Clinton did not disavow the law until 2013. Photo Context: During the Equality March in Charlotte, 2017
The Stonewall riots took place in New York in 1969 on this date. Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar owned by the mafia. The bar was the subject of constant raids, but this raid in particular ended with pushback from occupants. The documentary Stonewall Rising features interviews from rioters who were there that night and goes into detail about the events of the night following the riot. Photo Context: LGBT and Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams holds a sign during Charlotte Pride, 2016.
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (check out the post on Daughters of Bilitis earlier in the month) were the first same-sex couple to be married in the US in 2004. Their marriage was voided by the California Supreme Court less than a year later, so they remarried in June of 2008 when the state legalized same-sex marriage. Martin died one month later. Photo Context: Participants in the March for Equality in Charlotte listen to Janice Covington Allison speak.
Annual Reminders were yearly pickets on the 4th of July at Independence Hall in Philadelphia as a reminder that the LGBT community still did not have freedom in the US. Photo Context: A rainbow in Lake Norman, North Carolina on the last day of Pride month, 2017.
White, cisgender, young bisexuals like myself have a different out experience than that of others in the LGBT community. I’ve tried to make the intersectional issues clear through this piece but it’s advisable to get information from people who experience the issues mentioned. Documentaries and documentary-style films like Stonewall Rising, Milk, How to Survive a Plague, and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson are a good starting place, and activists who experience different issues will always be more qualified to talk about them than those who don’t.
Listing the 49 victims of the Orlando terrorist attack in a caption would’ve caused formatting errors, but I wholeheartedly believe that the names of those killed should be remembered. The CNN piece listing their names and stories is still up, I’ll link to it
The New Civil Rights Movement piece mentioned was mine, so there’s my conflict-of-interest/self-advertising notice.
During this piece I recommended donations to Time Out Youth and TransLifeline. In addition, donations to LGBT news outlets (not necessarily this one) can make a serious difference for the community and are not the first thing people think to put money toward.
Certain issues like marriage are all but settled in the US for the LGBT community. Other issues including high HIV risk, anti-discrimination protections, marriage equality (in the sense that marriage means the same thing for gay people as it does for straight people), adoption rights, protections against harmful “therapies”, and social acceptance are very much up in the air. The recognition that needs to take place surrounding this is that the LGBT community may celebrate victories during Pride, but this celebration needs to be centered on the idea that the road does not end with the Obergefell decision, with the Obama Administration’s guidance on trans rights, with the half-repeal of HB2, or anything other than full equality under the law and in the culture.
This piece was edited and shared by Fusion Magazine with permission.