1969 – Stonewall Riots
The official gay pride was started in Manhattan in 1970. It wasn’t actually a parade but a protest following the Stonewall riots the previous year. America wasn’t a great place to be gay at that time. There were anti-gay laws in place, and venues like the Stonewall Inn were a haven; it was known as a safe space for gay and lesbian New Yorkers. It was far from glamorous though, as the bar failed to have running water or a working fire escape. It was raided by the police who would frequently arrest patrons, the bar manager and staff before releasing them the next day.
The bar was used to the raids however as corrupt cops would provide tip-offs to the bar staff to hide any alcohol which was being sold without a license, for a fee of course. The bar had mafia connections to the Genovese family, who’d realised the profit to be made in providing for the pink pound. They would in turn bribe the police to keep the raids – and the violence – to a minimum while also blackmailing wealthier customers who wanted to keep their Saturday night secret just that, a secret.
Eventually the community fought back against the police. On 28 June 1969, the police raided the Stonewall. They arrested thirteen, hitting and roughing up patrons before performing “gender checks” in the bathroom to those they felt didn’t conform to the “gender appropriate clothing act.” There are debates over who started the raids, but it is generally recorded as drag queen and person of color, Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson would remain an active part of the community in New York until her murder in 1992.
The protest ran for six days. The crowd – throwing bottles, bricks and coins – managed to trap the officers into the bar. They were eventually set free by the riot police.
1978 – The Rainbow Flag
The rainbow flag didn’t start with the first gay pride parade. It took another eight years before the growing community chose the flag to represent them, and to use as a symbol of the fight for gay rights. Gilbert Baker designed the flag with different colors to represent different parts of the community for a march held in San Francisco by Harvey Milk. It has remained a symbol of the Pride parade ever since, while being joined by the transgender flag (blue, pink and white) and the bisexual flag (pink, purple and blue) among many others.
1996 – Nottingham Pride
Notts held its first Pride in 1996 on Broad Street. Originally quite small, the parade featured bands playing outside Broadway, and the event grew in size before moving to the Castle where it remained for two years.
In 2000, the decision was made to move to Victoria Embankment which led to the nickname of Bent by the Trent. However the decision to move outside of the city centre led to a decline in numbers so it moved back to the city and into Forest Rec before landing back in the centre.
The fight for gay rights is ongoing. In Ireland, homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1993 and gay marriage by referendum in 2015. In Northern Ireland, gay marriage is still illegal. There are also countries where it’s both illegal and terrifying to be gay, with homophobic laws, acts, violence and much more still a part of every daily life for many. As a community we have seen the fear of AIDs and the subsequent death toll, as well as mourning for those killed in Orlando.
In the face of the negativity, we’ve added QIPA+ to the end of the LGBT acronym, which now stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Pansexual, Asexual, and more. Unfortunately, inclusion of some of the letters seems under threat with the rise of anti-trans radical feminists (TERFs) who pushed to the front of the Pride parade in London, causing an unwelcome atmosphere at the parade.
Today, Pride is celebrated around the world, and events all over Nottingham are mainly based in Hockley, and act as a beacon of celebration, acceptance, love and expression.