Beyond Sunshine and Rainbows: What Makes Pride Month Special

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera marching in a Pride Parade via Creative Commons.

Parades, drag queens, concerts, marches, and sunshine and rainbows are all emblematic of annual Pride Month festivities every June. For many LGBTQ+ people, Pride creates space to publicly affirm identities that have been stigmatized and shamed, despite them being part of the human cultural and social fabric for thousands of years. For allies, theannual observance offers another opportunity to show support, keep inclusion top of mind, and join celebrations in a conscious and respectful manner.


Yet Pride must also be a time of recommitment: to the cause of LGBTQ+ rights, telling LGBTQ+ stories responsibly, elevating broader understanding of LGBTQ+ people, and experiencing LGBTQ+ joy even in the midst of struggle.


Derrick Clifton at 16 yrs. old in East Lakeview (formerly known as Boystown).

I was 17 when a friend and ally took me to my first Pride Parade in Chicago. I’d walked through Chicago’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood strip with trepidation before, but I was only old enough to attend a drop-in program a few miles away forother young people like me. At that parade, I found myself beaming with joy, because I was able to see other LGBTQ+ people having fun and living freely — with the hope that, one day, I’d be able to do the same.


But at the time, I didn’t know a thing about the legacy of the celebration, and why people gathered by the tens of thousands every June.


Pride was borne of a resistance to an unfriendly political and legal landscape that sought to encroach upon the inalienable right of LGBTQ+ people to freely assemble and enjoy each other’s company. The 1969 uprising at The Stonewall Inn was spurred by law enforcement raids and crackdowns on bar establishments where LGBTQ+ people were known to frequent, as such gatherings were considered immoral and disorderly at the time. The bar was a haven for drag queens, trans people, and people who were kicked out of their homes due to anti-LGBTQ+ ignorance and hate — many of the most marginalized people in the community.


The patrons finally said “enough is enough” to discrimination and repression by police and fought back against arrests on June 28, 1969. The moment made national headlines and proved to be a turning point for the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In the following year, the anniversary of the uprising became the date of the first-ever Pride Parade — one that was more of a political march with cars and signs compared to the floats and costumes often seen in recent years.


A diverse array of community members took part in the resistance at Stonewall, including two Black and Brown transgender women who helped lead the charge: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. They faced discrimination not only based on their gender identity, but also along the lines of race, placing them at the intersections of multiple identity groups forced to tirelessly advocate for civil rights. Their legacy lives on today through many community organizations and trans-led efforts to uplift the LGBTQ+ community.


And to further the legacy of Pride, and its welcoming aura, companies can also take the month to consider how they can shift culture to become more inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees, and support the community in fully-throated words and earnest deeds. It goes beyond a corporate logo draped over the sides of a rainbow-clad, double-decker parade bus. For example, Ben & Jerry’s not only supports civil rights legislation such as the Equality Act, they celebrate LGBTQ+ activism and advocate in solidarity with the community even when it may be considered inconvenient for most other companies. It’s a testament to the power of allyship in action.


While the struggle continues, there’s still room for joy. Our forebearers led by example and continued to assemble and be merry, even when the outside world told them they had no right to take up space or be who they truly are. Pride should be an annual reminder of what happened at Stonewall and the lessons we can continue to learn. When done right, Pride can be a party with a purpose, a moment to declare freedom from internalized hatred, and an occasion to welcome people who are beginning to live into their LGBTQ+ identity.


That’s what makes Pride special.


Derrick Clifton is an account supervisor at FCG.