Gay Pride and the Rainbow Flag

Rainbow flag flying in Pixham, near Dorking, near where gay icon Harry Daley once lived (Photo: Phil Cooper, May 2020)

Rainbow flag flying in Pixham, near Dorking, near where gay icon Harry Daley once lived (Photo: Phil Cooper, May 2020)

The Stonewall Riots and Gay Pride

Gay Pride was not born of a need to celebrate being gay, but our right to exist without persecution. So instead of wondering why there isn’t a Straight Pride movement, be thankful you don’t need one.”- STOP-Homophobia.com

In the early hours of 28 June 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York City, USA, was raided by the police. Three nights of violent demonstration followed, where LGBTQ+ people, long frustrated by police brutality, fought back. Key resistance was led by Lesbians and Trans women of colour. Out of this uprising the Gay Liberation Front was formed and helped create the first Pride march, then called the Christopher Street Day Parade, which took place on 28 June 1970 in New York City, a year after the Stonewall riots. The aim of the march was to increase the visibility of the gay community, which at the time was a radical concept.

Leading UK activists were involved in key moments in the US movement. They came back to Britain to form a British chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, founded in October 1970, meeting for the first time at the London School of Economics library in October 1970. The first official UK Gay Pride Rally was held in London on 1 July 1972, supported by the Gay Liberation Front, and attendee activist Peter Tatchell recalls that many of his friends were too frightened to attend:

We got mixed reactions from the public – some hostility but predominantly curiosity and bewilderment. Most had never knowingly seen a gay person, let alone hundreds of queers marching to demand human rights.

Members of the Guildford Area Gay Society attended the early marches and recalled the abuse which they received and heavy handling by Police.

Today, Pride is global and both political and celebratory. There are five main UK Pride events: London, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham – the cities with the biggest gay populations. Pride London is now one of the biggest in Europe. London also hosts Black Pride and Soho Pride events. 2012 saw World Pride coming to London.

Read Stonewall’s article about the history and legacy of the Stonewall Riots here.

Read a BBC article about the night of the Stonewall Riots here.

(Text courtesy of Stonewall and http://prideinlondon.org/).

The 2013 London Pride, courtesy of Pride in London http://prideinlondon.org/

The 2013 London Pride, courtesy of Pride in London http://prideinlondon.org/

Pride in Surrey

The first Pride in Surrey was held on 10 August 2019 and welcomed over 7,500 visitors to Woking Park in Woking throughout the day, with over 3,000 people taking part and supporting the Pride Parade through Woking Town centre. One of key aims of Pride in Surrey Pride is to supporting Outline, Surrey’s LGBTQ+ support organisation, in their mission to be there for the LGBTQ+ community of Surrey and surrounding areas.

Surrey History Centre is proud to care for the Outline archive collection (SHC ref. 9240) and is also working with Pride in Surrey to establish their archive for future generations.

The Rainbow flag

Colour has played an important role in LGBTQ+ history. In Victorian times, the colour green was associated with homosexuality and purple (or, more accurately, lavender) was later used by the LGBTQ+ community for ‘Purple Power’.

Pink triangle badge given to homosexuals during the Nazi regime of World War Two, courtesy of The Holocaust Explained

Pink triangle badge given to homosexuals during the Nazi regime of World War Two, courtesy of The Holocaust Explained

A pink triangle was first used by the Nazis to identify gay males in Nazi concentration camps, and a black triangle was similarly used to identify lesbians and others deemed ‘asocial’. These symbols were reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community in the early 1980s to signify strength of spirit and their survival of oppression.

The iconic Rainbow flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, an American artist, as a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community. Baker’s design has changed a little but is essentially the six-striped version we see today.

The colours represent hope, diversity and LGBTQ+ pride – pride at having not only survived, but thrived in an often hostile world; and pride in being an individual and standing up for LGBTQ+ rights. There are many sexualities in on the queer spectrum, and flags exist for each, see the Pride website for more details and history of the development of the Pride flags.

The Progress Pride flag was designed in 2018 by designer Daniel Quasar to highlight the extra levels of marginalisation faced by the trans community, LGBTQ+ people of colour and those who live with, or have died from, AIDS. Read about the design of the new Progressive Pride flag https://www.dezeen.com/2018/06/12/daniel-quasar-lgbt-rainbow-flag-inclusive/

Read about the use of the Rainbow flag during the Coronavirus pandemic and how LGBTQ+ groups are reacting https://metro.co.uk/2020/05/28/vital-distinguish-rainbows-pride-rainbows-nhs-12748576/

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