Pride Month has started but what does that mean? A look at what it is, how it's celebrated (2024)

Ahjané Forbes,Clare MulroyUSA TODAY

Pride Month has officially started as of June 1 and there’s a lot to celebrate.

Throughout history, people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community have struggled to gain equal rights within and to overcome adversity and discrimination.

But what is Pride Month exactly? Here's a look at the history of how it came to be and how it is celebrated.

Rainbow flag meaning: A brief history lesson on how the Pride flag came to be

What is Pride Month?

Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in New York and celebrates the LGBTQ community and the fight for equal rights.

The Stonewall Uprising began on June 28, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a prominent gay bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. The protests that followed are credited with a shift in LGBTQ+ activism in the U.S.

The following year saw some of the first Pride parades in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Despite the pivotal role transgender people and women of color played in the riots, including trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, they were largely excluded from early Pride celebrations.

"The reality is that most of the folks on the front lines at the Stonewall uprising were trans women, trans women of color, other people of color, butch lesbians,” Cathy Renna, Communications Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, told USA TODAY in 2022. “And yet somehow, the power that was coming together ... to put together Pride events was from cisgender, gay white men.”

Today, Pride Month presents an opportunity for visibility and community. In addition to celebrating LGBTQ love and joy, it’s also a time to highlight important policy and resource issues the community faces. In 2021, NYC Pride banned law enforcement presence at Pride events through 2025 because of escalating violence "against marginalized groups, specifically BIPOC and trans communities."

This year, anti-trans legislation is growing across the country. Anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric online has also lead to threats at schools and hospitals and to trans communities, USA TODAY found.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 130 bills targeting trans rights have been filed and 325 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been proposed in 2024. More than 650 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in 2023.

When was Pride Month created?

The first Pride marches in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago happened on June 28, 1970, the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

In New York, thousands marched from Greenwich Village to Central Park in what is widely considered the first Pride parade in the U.S.

But even before the first Pride parades, the gay rights movement was beginning to gain traction all over the country. In 1950, for example, activist Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society, the first national gay rights organization. And in 1955, the first lesbian rights organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, was founded.

The year 1965 saw the first “Reminder Day,” an annual picketing event outside of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall calling attention to the lack of civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community. In 1966, the Mattachine Society staged a “sip-in” at a Greenwich Village bar after the New York Liquor Authority banned serving gay patrons because they were “disorderly,” PBSreports. And in 1966, the Compton's Cafeteria riot began when a police officer manhandled a transgender customer at a San Francisco eatery. This led to the founding of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit. As the LGBTQ+ rights movement grew, the community turned away from outdated terms like transsexual and hom*osexualto transgender, gay and lesbian. While many consider these terms offensive, some still use them to describe their identities.

The Christopher Street Liberation Day March on June 28, 1970, marked a shift from politeness to pride. In earlier protests, the “hom*ophile Movement” of the 1950s and 1960s focused on respectability – dressing in suits and skirts and carrying signs in protest. Post-Stonewall riots didn’t come with a dress code or tone requirement.

“A new spirit has entered the struggle for hom*osexual freedom – a new spirit both militant in tone and revolutionary in orientation,” a 1970 Gay Liberation Front flyer reads. “hom*osexuals at last have realized that they will never be able to be liberated by politely asking the system. Freedom is never given – it must be taken.”

What does LGBTQ+ stand for?

  • L: Lesbian
  • G: Gay
  • B: Bisexual
  • T: Transgender
  • Q: Queer, or sometimes questioning
  • +: Encompasses other identities under the rainbow umbrella

Major Pride parades across the U.S.

Here’s a glimpse at the dates and themes of some of the country’s biggest pride celebrations:

Lawmakers mark the start to Pride Month on social media

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, President Joe Biden writes a message to the LGBTQ+ community.

“For generations, LGBTQI+ Americans have summoned the courage to live proudly – even when it meant putting their lives at risk,” Biden wrote in the post. “This Pride Month, we recommit to realizing the promise of America for all, to celebrating LGBTQI+ people, and to taking pride in the example they set.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) shares the progress that California has made regarding LGBTQ+ rights on X.

“Always proud to represent San Francisco, especially during #PrideMonth as we mark our progress from Compton’s Cafeteria to City Hall, fighting HIV/AIDS to uplifting trans rights,” Pelosi wrote. “We embrace love, advance freedoms and - when we win - will enshrine LGBTQ+ Equality into law. 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️”

In a X post, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) posted a video discussing Pride Month and things that have happened in recent years.

“While we have made incredible progress since the Stonewall riots over 50 years ago, including codifying marriage equality law. It is important to remember that that progress isn’t linear. Over the past few years we have sadly seen terrible attacks at the state and local level towards transgender Americans. We’ve seen members of the LGBTQ community ostracized and persecuted, often by craven politicians, for short term, political purposes," Warnock said. "All the while they are simply living as their most authentic selves. But that cannot weaken our resolve to keep working to build what Dr. King called the ‘beloved community’ where all of God’s children are embraced, no matter who they are, where they come from or who they love.”

Ahjané Forbes is a reporter on the National Trending Team at USA TODAY. Ahjané covers breaking news, car recalls, crime, health, lottery and public policy stories. Email her ataforbes@gannett.com. Follow her onInstagram,ThreadsandX (Twitter).

Pride Month has started but what does that mean? A look at what it is, how it's celebrated (2024)

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