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Where did pride begin?

50 years ago, the Stonewall Inn riots were the start of the gay pride movement and a watershed moment in LGTBI rights activism.
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The international gay pride movement began in Greenwich Village, New York, on June 28, 1969. On a summer night that would become a watershed moment in the fight for gay rights, the Stonewall Inn – a bar favored by queer people – was raided by the police and, unexpectedly, the customers turned against law enforcement. They had had enough of the arbitrary discrimination by the police, their almost nonexistent civil rights and the systematic oppression of all gender minorities throughout the US. This resulted in a violent series of riots outside the bar. The key people in the demonstrations and the ensuing gay rights movement were trans women Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

A year later, in 1970, the anniversary of the riots was celebrated with marches held in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These were the first pride events, and soon they spread around the world along with the gay rights movement.

What was the impact of the emergence and escalation of the global pride movement in summer -69? The Stonewall Inn riots were an eruption after years of oppression and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities, which were at their peak especially in the 1950s. Post-war time in the United States was marked by rebuilding and restoration of social order. “Non-American” elements, such as anarchists and communists, were considered a security threat to society, and the US State Department began to maintain lists of individuals who could not be hired by the army or government offices.

Soon, gay men, who were vulnerable to extortion due to their social status, were also added to the lists. At that time, the biggest fears of the queer population were related to coming out of the closet or rather forcing out of the closet, which could mean, for example, losing one’s job. Homosexual acts were punishable by law in all states. This led to extortion and intimidation of gays and lesbians, but also to imprisonment and closure in mental hospitals. Social persecution and control policy by the federal and local governments prevailed throughout the country, and bars for sexual minorities were raided and closed.

 

 

In the mid-1960s the social atmosphere began to change. This was influenced by the civil rights movement, which had been growing since the beginning of the decade, and the change of attitudes towards sexuality. Studies have shown that changes in straight relationships, such as pre-marital sex and the collapse of the marriage institute, influenced the general attitude towards homosexual relations. Finland also had it's “sex spring” in 1965, and publications Ylioppilaslehti and Medisiinari released sex issues that also dealt with homosexuality.

Alfred Kinsey’s research on the homosexuality of men also played a role in the change. According to it, up to 37% of men over 16 years of age had had at least one homosexual experience in their lives and 4% of US men were exclusively gay. Kinsey’s research became an important reference point for defending the prevalence and harmlessness of homosexuality. The concept of homosexuality was no longer seen as a dangerous anomaly or a disease. After the World Wars, large cities in the East and West Coast of the United States, such as New York and San Francisco, had growing gay and lesbian populations, and soon gay rights organisations started forming in them.

These times there were no official gathering places or facilities for gender minorities, and they often encountered discrimination and violence in mainstream bars and clubs. People who were openly gay and not dressed according to gender norms were also refused service. For example, in 1966, a gay right organisation made the first mass protest called “Sip-in” at the Julius Bar in Greenwich Village, which gained a lot of attention.

A stone’s throw away from the Julius Bar, on Christopher Street, was another bar favored by gender minorities. The Stonewall Inn was renovated in a short time to service the local queer crowd. The bar was quite shabby: there was no emergency exit or running water, so the glasses were washed in tubs of water. The Mayor of New York had started a campaign to clean up the city from gay bars in the early 1960s, so the Stonewall Inn had no liquor license. In addition to this, the place was owned by the Genovese mafia family. The bar was under the constant control by the police, and, even though law enforcement received bribes from the bar, raids were a routine in Stonewall.

On a Saturday night in June, police forces once again arrived in Stonewall Inn. But this time, the customers, ie. drag queens, trans people, gays, lesbians, homeless young people and prostitutes, had had enough. The Stonewall Inn riots became a symbolic call to arms for the whole queer population. The demonstrations led to a phenomenon that has peacefully promoted the global emancipation and rights of LGTBI people.

What would Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera think today, if they saw how the movement has spread worldwide and what it has achieved - not only as an event that brings LGTBIQ people together, but also as a promoter of societal change? “As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America,” Marsha P. Johnson once said, “there’s no reason for celebration.”

In their opinion, the pride movement would surely have more to overcome.

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Weecos has previously supported LGBTI rights by being the official partner of Helsinki Pride in 2017 and in 2018. The Weecos for Pride stamp is an opportunity for us and the design brands to support the extremely crucial human rights work of Seta continuously. From every Weecos for Pride product sold, Weecos donates 1€ and the brand donates at least 10 % to Seta, the human rights NGO, which stands for LGBTI Rights in Finland. The specific donation percentage can be seen in the product text. 

-20%
95,20 €
119.00

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