June has become synonymous with LGBTQ+, colourful rainbows and celebrations – but what is Pride really about? And where does the BDSM community fit into all of it?
History of Pride Month
Traditionally, Pride is celebrated in June as a way of commemorating the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York. The 1950s and 60s were a time of national paranoia and a desire to return to “American values” following WWII. Anti-communist sentiment led to persecution of any of those seen as being part of subversive culture – including the homosexual community. In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association even listed homosexuality as a mental disorder in their diagnostic manual, the DSM. This same book included fetishism and sadomasochism as mental illnesses as well. There were many city and state laws forbidding homosexual relations, and living or dressing in contrast to the gender assigned at birth.
Small gay and lesbian communities began to crop up in larger cities throughout America following WWII, especially in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York – including those in the Greenwich Village and Harlem neighborhoods. Bars and clubs that were frequented and owned by gays and lesbians were closely monitored by police, and often raided. The night of June 28, 1969, plainclothes police officers raided the Stonewall Inn – members of the gay community in the village gathered outside the bar, protesting the police presence and the violent treatment of the people inside. Things escalated that night, leading to a police force descending on the village, and many protesters were injured or beaten. Several nights of protesting followed, and the beginnings of political activism within the gay communities. This is generally credited to be the beginning of the modern Gay Rights Movement.
On the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first Pride Parades were held in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The subsequent years saw Pride Parades in cities throughout the United States, and subsequently around the world.
Where Does Kink Fit In?
So, Pride is supposed to be a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community – but who is included in that community? Originally, the term was LGB – Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual… This expanded to include Trans people in the 1990s, and finally the Queer+ label added on to include those on the rest of the sexual spectrum. Many people argue that kink is a sexual orientation, while some argue that it is a sexual practice. Many of the early leaders of the Gay Rights Movement included members of the leather and kink communities. As we go through this month, let’s consider our own identities and where we fall within the sexual spectrum – how do you define yourself? How do you define kink? How do you define sexuality? Where do the struggles between the LGBTQ+ communities and the BDSM communities overlap, and where do they differ?
Welcome to Pride Month – let’s all take a moment to sit under the rainbow.