There are many ways to write the story of the LGBT civil rights movement. We can start in the 1920s, when the Society of Human Rights was founded, or in 1955 when the Mattachine Society, a secretive group was founded, or with the 1965 gay march in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The LGBT community has been fighting for their civil rights for decades; however, it wasn’t until the 1968 Stonewall Riots that issues facing the LGBT community attracted mass media attention in the US.
The Stonewall Riots ignited unity between many different LGBT groups to take back their civil liberties, which were unfairly stripped away because of who they were and who they loved. The events of 1968 started a revolution that was inspired by many other movements lead by oppressed groups, such as the anti-Vietnam war movement and the Black Power Movement. Activism on all fronts during this time period empowered the LGBT community to keep working towards justice and encouraged others to “come out of the closet” and join the fight. Although chaotic, the late 60s could be characterized as a time of unity and inspiration between diverse groups, fighting for the same things: human rights.
Without the courageous actions of diverse elders, one could argue that we would not have many of the liberties that we enjoy today. However, the fight is far from over. The legalization of same-sex marriage was only codified five years ago in 2015! Even more recently, the US Supreme Court upheld federal laws to protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination on June 15th, 2020 – the same issue that was fought for in the 1965 Philadelphia gay parades. Additionally, we must honor the intersectionality that exists within the LGBT community and stand with those most impacted by oppressive forces in society. Black transgender and gender nonconforming people face enormous discrimination and violence. The fight for LGBT rights does not end with marriage or parades; it will not end until all LGBT people are safe, supported, and free.
As we celebrate Pride Month this year, we must remember that there would be no Pride Month if it wasn’t for the efforts of the LGBT elders who fought against the oppressor. We still have a long way to go to achieve equity, but as long we follow the footsteps of those who came before us, as we fight for the same freedoms, we will get there. Happy Pride Month!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.