The very first ‘Pride’ event was a riot.
The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village.
Police violently hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighbouring streets and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. Names like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera entered our collective consciousness.
On the one-year anniversary of the riots, June 28, 1970, thousands of people marched in the streets of Manhattan from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park in what was then called “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” America’s first gay pride parade. The parade’s official chant was: “Say it loud, gay is proud.”
But today, more often than not, Pride parades in cities across North America have a corporate spin. They are welcoming to everyone on their surface, a chance for allies to show support for all those who identify as 2SLGBTQ, but occasionally, could be called a sanitized, devoid of what the parades — what were once marches — were conceived to be: “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”
At a speech last year, on the 25th anniversary of Fierté Sudbury Pride, Gary Kinsman, one of the founders, reminded those in attendance that Pride was born of social action, and needs to remain that way. Pride is radical, and this shouldn’t be forgotten, Kinsman seemed to be reminding the crowd.
Even within Pride organizations, within the movement itself, there needs to be social action to develop support for queer people of colour, and particularly, for two-spirit people.
Social media has long been littered with statements denouncing the need for Pride, of the idea that acknowledging differences is divisive, rather than inclusive. But of late, these statements are bleeding into the public sphere, most recently with the removal of Pride flags at some Ontario schools and public spaces, as well as the moral panic which has emerged in relation to drag performers.
These are in addition to the protests denouncing gender identity. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has stated that trans people are "slandered the same way homosexual men were slandered in the ‘70s, and for the same reason: to deny them safety and equal rights", adding that "the far-right and their fellow travellers in the so-called Gender Critical or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist movements use the exact same tropes in a bid to deny equal rights to trans persons.”
But this month, if not everyday, is a chance to stand up, to make yourself a place of safety for someone who is 2SLGBTQ, or to celebrate who you are with your peers.
In Sudbury, Pride events take place in July, rather than during June, to allow Northerners to travel to other events.
Active since 1997 and incorporated in 2012, Fierté Sudbury Pride (FSP) is a not-for-profit community based organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and celebrating the 2SLGBTQ+ population of the City of Greater Sudbury.
They seek to foster “understanding and diversity by showcasing 2SLGBTQ+ culture at events such as art shows, festivals, and concerts,” and aim to provide services free of stigma and discrimination for all, regardless of religion, creed, race, gender or sexual orientation (including non-2SLGTBQ+ people).
This year, from July 10-16 , you can join Fierté Sudbury Pride for events and activities, as well as opportunities to support your community. Stay tuned to Sudbury.com for event updates, or visit Sudburypride.com for more details.
In the meantime, the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) has launched a new in-person peer support group for queer and trans people. A four-month pilot project, sessions will be held on the last Tuesday of the month from May through August 2023. For more information or to sign up, contact Garrett at: [email protected]
Jenny Lamothe covers vulnerable and marginalized communities for Sudbury.com.