What A World

Pride: A brief history 

By Nancy Ford 

Happy Pride Month, friends! 

As a MONTROSE STAR reader, you are likely well aware that most of the world considers June to be the month when LGBTQ+ folks and those who love us take time to celebrate the strides for equality we have achieved. It’s a party!  

But not just a party. Hopefully, June is also a time to reflect on all those who have made immense sacrifices that have made these strides toward equality possible. Some have sacrificed living their true identity in order to be part of a profession that forced them to remain in their closets. Educators, clergy, and high-level white-collar business people come to mind. And clerks and wait for staff and law enforcement and plumbers and pet groomers and construction workers and librarians and politicians and housewives and farmers and nurses and doctors and and and….  

Some sacrificed even more; they literally fought for their lives. 

In June 1969, Stonewall Inn in New York City was the site of an uprising that many historians credit as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Queer patrons decided they had endured enough abuse, and fought back against a police raid that would resonate far beyond the walls of that seedy little mob-run gay bar. Many high heels and beer bottles were flung. 

Following Stonewall, the 1970s brought a burst of pride and confidence to the gay community, nationwide. Television shows like All in the Family, Room 222, Hawaii 5-O, Mary Tyler Moore, Soap, and others presented episodes that featured gay and trans folk in previously unheard-of sympathetic and positive roles. 

The same uplifting trend continued in film. Movies like La Cage aux Folles, Cabaret, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even Dog Day Afternoon heralded a wonderful evolution from the days when a queer character either met Mr. or Mrs. Heterosexual Right, or an inevitable and deserved death. Previously, there was little in between; in most media, queers fought for their lives — usually unsuccessfully. 

While not necessarily considered “normalâ€, open homosexuality soon became more commonplace; organizations sprang up to serve our community. Pride parades were held in major cities like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and right here in Houston. More and more openly queer people were popping up on school boards, city councils, in capitols, and even the Capital.  

Pride took a harrowing turn in the 1980s as HIV and AIDS became a double-edged sword that decimated yet simultaneously steeled the gay community. It seemed that if fighting for equality was a matter of life and death for the folks of the Stonewall era, then the years following would be a horrible — yet ironically unifying—confirmation of that urgency. We were fighting for our lives. 

More years passed. HIV and AIDS, while still incurable, became manageable. Eventually, television shows and movies that didn’t feature a positive, productive LGBTQ+ character were the exception rather than the norm. It was a happier, gentler time, except for a handful of violent, backward regimes. 

President Barack Obama’s administration oversaw the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges decision upholding marriage equality, giving legality and security to our families that were previously considered pretend at best and blasphemous at worst. Pride pulsed across the globe. 

Then Trump arrived and Made Hate Great Again. His Supreme Court appointees continue to flirt with overturning Obergefell. According to the Department of Justice, counties that voted for Trump by the widest margins see a marked increase in reported hate crimes. If — sweet Jesus forbid — he returns to the White House in 2025, expects a repeat of those hate surges.  

And right here in Texas, right now, Governor Greg Abbott is overseeing an unprecedented assault on equality, especially targeting trans folk, LGBTQ+ youth, and just about any book that isn’t written by Joel Osteen. Some new alt-right travesty pops up every day, it seems, which makes Pride all the more important this year. If ever there was a time to stand up and push back, that time is now.  

A while back, Pride Houston adopted a new name, Pride Houston 365, reflecting the necessity of claiming Pride year-round rather than during just one uproarious, glittery month — the best idea the organization has had since its inception of the night-time parade.  

So, this Pride month, enjoy the parade. Catch those beads. Dance in the streets. If you feel safe, publically kiss your girlfriend/wife or boyfriend/husband or all of the above. Fight for your life. 

Then, when the steam of summer lifts and autumn rolls around again, bringing with it elections — even “unimportantâ€, local elections — remember those brave queers of Stonewall, and why we celebrate Pride in the first place. 

Because, let’s face it: All these years later, we’re still fighting for our lives.