It started as a riot...
It started like it always did. A handful of cops stormed into a small, packed bar full of LGBTQ people and began lining them up. They separated the drag queens so female officers could feel them up to determine if they were men dressed as women. The police wagons pulled up and the cops started loading the bar patrons into them.
But this night, June 28, 1969, the patrons didn't follow the script. Instead, as a crowd began to gather outside the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village, the drag queens and others who were supposed to meekly submit to the usual police harassment fought back. The next day thousands flocked to the street outside the bar to signal that, once and for all, LGBTQ people would keep fighting, proud and loud, for freedom from harassment and discrimination.
The Stonewall Riots changed New York but they had an impact far beyond the banks of the Hudson. A year after the riots LGBTQ activists in Chicago and Los Angeles went on the march to mark the anniversary of the New York uprising and to assert that LGBTQs everywhere would no longer accept second-class treatment.
Thus, a tradition was born, one that's been celebrated in Chicago on the last weekend of June ever since. Over the years, the celebration has changed. Those first Pride parades in Chicago weren't parades as much as defiant political statements. And those who march, watch and celebrate have swelled from hundreds to hundreds of thousands. But, at its core, Pride is still a political, cultural and social statement that LGBTQ people are equal in every way and expect to be treated that way.
There is a lot more to celebrate now, thanks to the pioneering activism of those first marchers and others who've toiled to overturn every vestige of discrimination. But there is still much more work to do in order to see equality in our nation.
Of course, the celebrations and commemorations aren't just limited to festivals and the parade on the last weekend in June. All month long, there are Pride-related concerts, readings, films, plays and much, much more all around the Chicago area. You can literally mark Pride every day of of the month at one event or another.
So get out this June and take in some of the events and festivities leading up to Chicago's annual Pride Parade. After all, as one of the defiant transgenders who stood up to police in the Stonewall Inn that first night, the late Sylvia Rivera, said, "I'm not missing a minute of this. It's the revolution."
Today, it still is.