By: Katherine Dvorak, NWHM Volunteer
During the pre-dawn hours of June 28, 1969 New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn. Looking to temporarily shut down the known gay bar and make some arrests, police were surprised when instead of quietly waiting for the police wagon, the bar’s lesbian, gay, and drag queen patrons, as well as the crowd that had gathered outside, fought back. The resulting riot and the protests that followed is largely credited as being the event that led to the modern Gay Rights movement.
One year later on June 28, 1970, members of the LGBT community in New York City walked 51 blocks from Christopher Street to Central Park to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots and bring attention to gay rights. That weekend Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco also held their first Gay Liberation Marches.
These marches, that would come to be known as Pride Parades, were the work of several organizations and people but ultimately it was an openly bisexual woman named Brenda Howard who would earn the title the “Mother of Pride”. It was Howard who organized not only New York’s first Pride Parade but also the festivals that are now a part of nearly every Pride parade.
A life-long New Yorker Brenda Howard was active in the anti-war movement and the feminist movement before becoming active in the LGBT right’s movement for which she will always be remembered. In addition to organizing that first historic parade, it is Howard, along with activists Stephen Donaldson and L. Craig Schoonmaker, who are credited with popularizing the word “Pride” with LGBT parades and festivals.
Just two years after that first Parade in New York, the event had spread to seven cities – including Washington, DC and Atlanta – raising awareness and bringing attention to the need for social and legislative change around the rights of gay people. That year, on June 25, 1972, Jeanne Manford marched with her son Morty in New York City’s Pride Parade carrying a handmade sign that read “Parents of Gays Unite in Support of Our Children”. That small act would result in the formation of one of the most important organizations in the LGBT Rights movement.
Motivated by her son’s hospitalization from a beating sustained during his gay right’s activism a few months earlier, Jeanne began speaking out about her support for her son, writing a letter of protest to the New York Post, giving radio and TV interviews and carrying her sign in the Pride Parade. Her sign of support attracted lesbian and gay marchers begging her to speak to their own parents about acceptance and their own sexuality. Realizing the need for such support Jeanne started an organization and held the first meeting on March 26, 1973. Out of that first meeting of 20 people grew PFLAG: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays which now boasts 200,000 members and over 350 affiliates across the United States.
This year President Obama once again proclaimed June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Pride Month”, something he has done since 2009 and something President Clinton first did in 2000.