Pride Month 2022: the history and London events taking place this year

This year brings with it the ability to celebrate occasions in the way they should be: Christmas (with our families), festivals (stood on grass, not streamed on zoom), holidays involving passports and Pride Month celebrated in full colour on the city’s streets. In-person events are back; and this year’s celebrations in London promise to be bigger than ever as Pride Month marks its 50-year anniversary. Before we round up some of the ways the occasion is being marked in our capital, BlytheRay looked back on how the month came to be.

Since 1970, Pride Month has taken place in June, in acknowledgement of the Stonewall protests that took place in 1969 in the US. As a reminder (because it’s  hard to believe ), in 1969, it was illegal to engage in homosexual behaviour, therefore police raids in gay bars and clubs – refuges for the gay community to openly express themselves – were a common occurrence. In fact, it was only three years’ prior that homosexuals were legally permitted to be sold alcohol: up until 1966, establishments that served alcohol to LGBT individuals were shut down.

Mafia organisations saw an opportunity to turn a profit by catering to those that were unable to socialise in other public spaces in an uninhibited manner and therefore bought and operated gay clubs – often without purchasing liquor licences and instead  encouraging patrons to bring their own alcohol. They would receive tip offs from corrupt police officers before a raid, until Stonewall Inn, one such Mafia-run bar in Greenwich Village, New York, where a tip off was not received and police descended on the bar and began issuing arrests.

The difference between this raid and ones before it was that rather than flee the scene, patrons, along with members of the neighbourhood surrounding the club, fed up with the discrimination and brutality the LGBT community had endured, began to congregate in protest and became increasingly angry. The retaliation became heated when a policeman hit someone who had been at the scene in his attempt to put her in the police car. A riot soon unfolded and continued for days after the initial raid, with thousands of people joining to show solidarity with the LGBT community and protest against the way they had been treated.

A year later, a march took place, laying the groundwork for the Pride celebrations that occur today, to “…commemorate the Christopher Street Uprisings of last summer in which thousands of homosexuals went to the streets to demonstrate against centuries of abuse….from government hostility to employment and housing discrimination, Mafia control of Gay bars, and anti-Homosexual laws” (Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee Fliers, Franklin Kameny Papers). Since then, the march has turned into a parade, celebrated across the world. Brenda Howard, often called  ‘the mother of Pride’, a friend of many present the night of the Stonewall Inn raid, and a bisexual activist, is attributed as being responsible for Pride being celebrated the way it is today. Along with a committee, Howard coordinated the parade, which was attended in the thousands. As for the name, that was L. Craig Schoonmaker’s suggestion. As well as being a reminder of how harmful homophobia can be, the event is also an opportunity for the LBGTQ+ community to feel proud. Schoonmaker said in 2015, looking back at the formation of Pride Month, “A lot of people were very repressed, they were conflicted internally, and didn’t know how to come out and be proud. That’s how the movement was most useful, because they thought, ‘Maybe I should be proud”.

There’s a whole host of ways you can get involved with the celebrations, to celebrate the work and achievements of LBGTQ+ people and to raise awareness of the issues the community still faces today, and below are some of these events taking place in London over the next few weeks:

  • London Gay Pride parade, starting at Baker Street, on 2nd July at 12pm
  • Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories exhibition at British Museum, Bloomsbury on until 30th July
  • IBikeLondon Pride Ride, a bike gang, starting on 25th June, starting at the National Theatre
  • Science Museum: Pride Lates, a night featuring talks, screenings, tours, performances, quizzes and dancing on 29th June

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