20 Fascinating Pride Month Facts That May Surprise You

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20 Fascinating Pride Month Facts That May Surprise You | PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD - JULY 28: Supporters of LGBT rights and equality conclude three weeks of solidarity-building events with a festive parade during the first annual Pride Arts Festival on July 28 in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  (Photo by Sean Drakes/Getty Images)
20 Fascinating Pride Month Facts That May Surprise You | PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD - JULY 28: Supporters of LGBT rights and equality conclude three weeks of solidarity-building events with a festive parade during the first annual Pride Arts Festival on July 28 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (Photo by Sean Drakes/Getty Images)

June is Pride Month, when the world’s LGBTQ communities come together to celebrate the freedom to be themselves. While most people know Pride commemorates the Stonewall Uprising in June 1969, there’s a lot more to learn about this month-long celebration’s rich history and significance.

The New York City police invaded the well-known gay club Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, on June 28, 1969. This set off a chain reaction of demonstrations and violent altercations in the neighborhood and clubs nearby, which acted as a spark for the worldwide LGBTQ rights movement. The following year, on Christopher Street Liberation Day, the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, there was the first official Pride parade. From then on, Pride marches and festivities were conducted in cities all over the world.

Keep reading to learn more about this annual celebration of LGBTQ identity, equality and rights!

20 Pride Month Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

pride month facts Pictured: two women at a pride parade
Myrna M. Suarez

The first U.S. Pride parade was not technically a parade at all, but rather a march in June 1970 with zero floats, no music, and protesters intentionally not wearing any sort of themed outfits or costumes. It was a bold yet somber act of defiance and visibility.

Brenda Howard, known as the “Mother of Pride” for coordinating that first march on Christopher Street one year after the attack, actually worked as a beloved clerk in the New York City mayor’s office, while being completely closeted about her bisexual identity at the time. The Stonewall riots gave her the courage to come out.

The iconic rainbow Pride flag was created by artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 for that year’s San Francisco parade. In a fun twist, Baker was famously inspired by the stripes on the wings of an Albatross gull, mimicking the natural rainbow colors.

The organizers chose June for Pride not just because of Stonewall, but because the third week of June was around the time poet Walt Whitman was born in 1819. Whitman’s works celebrated love between men and made him an icon for early LGBTQ writers and activists.

At Johns Hopkins University in the United States, Dr. John Money performed the first-ever sex change operation in 1968. The procedure was known as male-to-female (MTF).

American actor and interior designer William Haines was the first well-known figure to come out as openly gay in 1933.

The origins of using the word “Pride” to represent the LGBTQ rights movement date back to 1966. In 2000, Pride organizers reclaimed the word “pride” as a defiant statement and branding for the movement.

The word “Drag” actually originated centuries ago from the old British dialect phrase “Dressed Resembling a Gallant,” referring to men dressing flamboyantly. A very glamorous history!

In 1978, a rainbow flag with just seven colors first flew in the San Francisco Pride parade. The original colors were hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, and violet. The rainbow flag didn’t achieve global popularity as an LGBTQ symbol until the mid-1990s. In 2017, the city of Philadelphia added black and brown stripes to their version of the Pride flag to represent LGBTQ people of color such as the black queers.

The dwarf chimpanzee species as a whole is bisexual. In actuality, 1,500 animal species have been found to exhibit gay behavior worldwide.

President Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president to officially declare June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” through a ceremonial proclamation in 1999. This act granted the LGBTQ civil rights movement greater national legitimacy after decades of struggle. Each president since has similarly commemorated Pride Month annually.

Even though June is commonly recognized as “Pride Month,” celebrations take place at different times in San Diego, Atlanta, and Orlando. Atlanta Black Pride is hosted over Labor Day Weekend, whereas Atlanta and Orlando Pride are staged closer to National Coming Out Day (October 11). San Diego Pride is held in July.

The Netherlands inaugurated the first EuroPride celebration in 1992 in The Hague. This pan-European celebration brought LGBTQ people together across the continent. Different European cities have taken turns hosting EuroPride each year since, helping spark more widespread Pride events across Europe.

The name Gay Related Immune Disease (GRID) was not changed to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) until 1982. Gilbert Baker is the founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which has become a powerful symbol of the AIDS pandemic. This powerful community arts project aimed to commemorate those who had died from AIDS-related causes.

Transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson and lesbian activist Sylvia Rivera were key figures in sparking the Stonewall Uprising. Additionally, bisexual activist Michael Page, along with his partner at the time, Brenda Howard, recruited organisers for the inaugural Pride march in 1970.

The first-ever Pride parade was held in 1969 in Chicago, a year before the inaugural march in New York in 1970. After the Pride parade in New York City, the Chicago organizers who previously held a rally realized they needed to call their event a “parade” the following year to avoid being denied the proper parade permits.

Dennis Mercer is credited with writing the world’s very first known “Pride” manifesto in 1966, an early call for resisting societal shame and oppression. The print journal was called “The Witt-Wind Dancer.”

In June 2015, the White House was lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. The rainbow White House lighting display was such a powerful symbol that some LGBTQ activists joked that they hoped the colorful lights would “permanently stain” the facade.

The “Progress” version of the Pride flag was created by non-binary artist Daniel Quasar for added inclusion. It incorporates the transgender pride colors of blue, pink and white. The intersex pride circle was also later added to evolve the flag further.

In a milestone for LGBTQ visibility, in January 2021, the U.S. Navy commissioned its first ship during Pride Month, named to honor a prominent LGBTQ individual, the USNS Harvey Milk. Milk was an influential San Francisco gay rights activist who was assassinated in 1978. The ship’s christening represents growing LGBTQ inclusion in all spheres.