It is true that, on the surface, Pride looks like one big sparkly rainbow fun run. However, as we prepare for Pride celebrations across the globe, it’s worth going beyond surface aesthetics to learn more about queer history.
The Grand Duchy has its own plans for Pride month, with a number of events that will accompany the traditional Pride parade. Our nation may be small, yet efforts have been made to organise a variety of opportunities for people to come together to celebrate, discuss and exchange support, knowledge and experiences. So, from the 6 to the 14 July Luxembourg will be hostingexhibitions, film nights, panel talks and street partiesin both Esch and the city centre.Details for these can be found atGaymat.
Events like these are especially important considering LGBTQ+ history is rarely part of the education framework in schools.And while progress is being made as the struggle to legalise same-sex marriages worldwide is laboriously achieved (in predominantly Anglophone countries, this was 2015 for the US and the Republic of Ireland, 2014 for Scotland, 2013 for England and Wales; with Luxembourg being on par with Scotland), tragedies such as the Orlando shootings of 2016 prove a continued obligation towards learning about and embracing (sexual) diversity.
Before there was Pride, there was silence
Most of us know that Pride both celebrates and commemorates the Stonewall Riots – an uprising that was the end point following years of persecution, denigration and mistreatment. However, resistance had not been dormant before then: the Mattachine Society, in turn inspired by the imprisonment of homosexuals in Cuban prison work camps, started picketing outside the White House in 1965. This was a silent, sombre affair, dubbed the "Annual Reminder" aimed to highlight those who were not only denied the freedom of choice but actively punished for it.
This "Annual Reminder", led by Frank Kameny and various members of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), demanded a strict dress code that would represent homosexuals as "presentable and employable". While this was about demanding legislative changes that would enforce the promises Declaration of Independence – that "all men are created equal" – to be fulfilled, it was important to remain unthreatening.
This changed after the events of the 28 of June 1969. A police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan that hosted the more marginalised, underground members of the gay community – transvestites, transgender people, homeless youth, prostitutes – for all intents and purposes a routine occurrence, was this time met with resistance. Exactly how and why this incident developed into thousands rioting across the streets remains obscure, but it set the precedent for what was to become the "Pride" we know today.
When ECHO then decided to replace the "Annual Reminder" demonstrations with something new, multiple LGBTQ+ groups came together to plan the first march. This took place on the 28 June 1970, and initially went by the name of the street the Stonewall Inn was on: the Christopher Street Liberation March.
It was to take another year for the movement to adopt the name that now seems natural and self-evident to us. We rarely think about the processes behind these words: for example, why was it "pride", why not "power"? Activist L. Craig Schoonmaker, who has largely been credited with the suggestion once explained that: "There’s very little chance for people in the world to have power. People did not have power then; even now, we only have some. But anyone can have pride in themselves, and that would make them happier as people, and produce the movement likely to produce change."
Interlinked were the key figures that played a vital part in building a community that grew and marched beyond their own streets, such as Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman known as the “Mother Of Pride”, Robert A. Martin and Silvia Riviera. Thus individuals latched on to the idea and meaning "pride" provided: pride in their identities, sexualities, and behaviours, when power was denied them.
When colours connect
While the rainbow symbol has become synonymous with the LGBTQ+ movement, it was not the first iteration of its kind. Its forerunner was a pink triangle, a reclamation of the emblem Nazis used it to identify sexual "deviants". However artist Gilbert Baker – drag queen name Busty Ross – who conceptualised the rainbow flag in 1978, was of the opinion that: "we needed somethingbeautiful, something fromus. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things."
Initially made up of eight colours, the rainbow corresponded to the campaign in a metaphorical sense, with each colour signifying a part of the queer identity: "hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit". That, alongside the fact that bright colours have acted as identifiers throughout history, cemented the rainbow as an embodiment of resistance. Moving from "presentable and employable", colour was the vehicle that allowed people to express themselves as "loud and proud".
The final version of the six coloured rainbow that we know today came about as Baker realised that firstly, hot pink would be too difficult to mass-produce, and secondly, an even number would allow the flag to be split in two, to be carried across 2 streets, which happened in 1979.
In the words of Baker himself: "[The Rainbow Flag] doesn’t say the word "Gay," and it doesn’t say "the United States" on the American flag but everyone knows visually what they mean. And that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol, that we are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power, so it’s very appropriate."
A quick introduction to sexual identities in the 21st century
It may seem like a lot of work to learn and understand the growing number of sexual identities of the 21st centuries. In comparison to the struggle it took, and still takes, to gain this level of recognition though, a little interest and effort goes a long way. Many still feel unsure how to identify themselves, and it can be a harrowing process to feel like you don’t belong or don’t deserve a community. So here are a few terms to help you along:
Sex vs gender: easily confused, sex refers to the physical and biological attributes that differentiate male form female, while gender encompasses the behaviours society expects from each sex.
Queer: an umbrella term for people who fall outside of the "normal" – and normative – sexual and gender identities, ie not heterosexual or cisgender.
Cisgender: someone who identifies with the gender that corresponds to their born sex.
Bigender: to feel like you have both male and female sides.
Pansexuality: to be attracted to people (sexually, emotionally, romantically) no matter their sexual or gendered identities.
Asexual: someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction to others.
Gender fluid: someone who doesn’t have a fixed gender identity, ie it is open to change over time.
Intersex: biologically neither strictly male or female (the preferred term to hermaphrodite).
Genderqueer: someone who identifies neither as male or female, both either as both, a combination, or neither. Similar to nonbinary gender.
Polyamorous: someone who has open relationships with multiple partners.
Let us approach difference with curiosity: the palette of human diversity is practically endless and fascinating.