Silicon Valley Pride is this Sunday, starting at 10 AM at Market and St. John. As community gathers to uplift and celebrate LGBT people, Pride offers an annual reminder of the continued dignified struggle of queer people domestically and around the globe, as well as a reminder of the importance of militant struggle to gain even marginal rights under an oppressive system.
The first Gay Pride parades were held in 1970 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Like many gay bars, the Stonewall Inn was forced to regularly pay off the police. Police raids were nonetheless common, but on the night of June 28, 1969, the patrons decided to fight back.
As police attempted to arrest people from inside the bar, a crowd of around 500 gathered, fueled by simmering rage at mistreatment. Soon, arrestees were escaping as others in the crowd lit fires; some formed a singing chorus line, to which the police responded with a baton charge. Cop cars were smashed, the bar was burned down, and the gay liberation movement began in earnest.
The movement that followed the riots created the environment for radical organizations like the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, who were followed like groups like ACT UP as the AIDS epidemic unfolded in front of an indifferent federal government. LGBT people still face incredibly high rates of homelessness, suicide, and violent death, but it was the events of Stonewall that set in play the mass movements that achieved the gains queer communities have won to date. Pride rallies today often feature prominent corporate branding, police escorts, and heterosexuals, but the day provides an opportunity to remember historical resistance and the courage of those who came before.