This year’s Pride celebrations have been significantly more vibrant than in recent times, with many activities organised throughout the month. From panel discussions to awareness programmes, movie discussions, protest marches, concerts and festivals by the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies, here in Sri Lanka.

The recent Pride March organised by the LGBTQIA+ community at GotaGOGama, saw an energy and rebellious facet we can only imagine the first Pride March to have had. Although the month of June is the time of the year everyone looks to raise awareness and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, both of the aforementioned should be done throughout the year without being limited to just one month. Thus, Ceylon Today looks to keep the Pride conversation going for the next couple of weeks.

While we as a society hold different and clashing opinions and criticisms regarding the Pride Month, it is vital that we learn the origin, background and evolution of the Month.

The origin of the Pride Month dates back decades to 1969, in New York. At this time, homosexuality was considered a criminal activity and the selling of liquor to gay men was banned by their law. New York Police were authorised to investigate the illegal sale of alcohol at Stonewall Inn, one of the many gay bars run by New York mafia.  The Police arrested many homosexual persons and cross-dressers, who were criminals as per the law of US.

Although raids and police brutality over homosexuals were a routine part of their everyday life, on 28 June the raid and subsequent arrests resulted in riots and spontaneous protests.

Crowds from all over the city started to gather at Stonewall and in the surrounding area, demonstrating against the injustice. The protests continued even into the next week, with another outbreak of intense fighting occurring. This marked the first massive scale LGBT movement in the world.

The first Pride march was held on 28 June 1970 to coincide with the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprisings. Organising the march, activists formed the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee with the aim of holding a massive march at the culmination of Gay Pride Week (22-28 June). Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee Fliers conserved at University of Connecticut exemplifies the aim of the Gay Pride week and march as an opportunity for the community to gather 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”.

Since then, the LGBTQIA+ community has been coming together in June in various parts of the world to march with pride with the symbols of pride including the rainbow flag and other pride flags, the lowercase Greek letter lambda (λ), the pink triangle and the black triangle, while raising a voice for their rights and liberation.

Later on, the ‘Pride Week’ expanded to a ‘Pride Month’ which is now commonly celebrated in the month of June in many countries across in the world. The Pride, with various alterations in its philosophy, still continues to empower the LGBTQIA+ community to stand with ‘pride’ against ‘shame’ and ‘stigma’ and sheds a limelight on self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, queer, intersexual and asexual (LGBTQIA+) people as a social group.

Regardless the acceptance and inclusiveness received by the LGBTQIA+ community internationally, Sri Lankan society still demonstrate some resistance and reluctance towards people from the LGBTQIA+ community due to various factors including religion, culture, dogmatic social opinions and so on. However, at the same time, it can be observed that some segments of the society, especially the youth, being more open to the world, have become more receptive towards the LGBTQIA+ and accepted them with due respect and dignity as all humans should be. Ergo, this topic still remains a controversy in society.  Having shared brief history of the LGBTQIA+ movement, Ceylon Today hopes to bring more on this topic including conversations with people from the community that go beyond the month of June.

By Induwara Athapattu