How June became LGBTQ Pride Month and how Central Florida and Tampa Bay plan to celebrate

Each June, members of the community march in parades, hold celebrations and honor the early pioneers of the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.

Different from LGBTQ History Month, which has been recognized in October since 1994 when a coalition of education-based organizations in the United States designated it so and the General Assembly of the National Education Association included it within a list of commemorative months the following year, LGBTQ Pride Month celebrates a particular moment in our history — the 1969 Stonewall Uprising.

How it started

The Stonewall Uprising started on June 28, 1969, when at approximately 1:15 a.m. undercover officers with the NYPD raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village.

“Places like the Stonewall Inn were safe havens from anti-LGBTQ+ policies enforced across America,” wrote Jessie Kravitz, a historian of the National Archives, in 2019. “Laws allowed LGBTQ+ people to be evicted from their homes, fired from jobs, imprisoned, and confined to mental institutions. New York also outlawed the sale of alcohol to gay people. Bars that disobeyed these laws were frequently raided by police who unjustly harassed, assaulted, and arrested queer customers. Such oppression led many queer people to mask their true identities in public and encouraged them to flock to private spaces like Stonewall.”

When the police raided Stonewall, they began arresting employees and patrons as a crowd gathered outside of the bar. The crowd chanted “Gay Power!” and “We Want Freedom!” The chants eventually turned to resistance and, led by transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, the crowd began throwing objects at the cops forcing them to barricade themselves in Stonewall.

The rebellion lasted for several days and expanded into nearby Christopher Park and neighboring streets. By the final day, thousands of people had taken to the streets to protest.

The first Pride March happened one year later, honoring those who stood up against oppression and celebrating the start of the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement. A short documentary film titled “Gay and Proud” by activist Lilli Vincenz, which can be viewed on the Library of Congress website, shows that first march in New York City on June 28, 1970. Marches also took place in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles that year.

(Screenshots from docufilm “Gay and Proud” from the Library of Congress)

Pride marches grew into parades and festivals in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world in subsequent years. As more events were planned, some of the celebrations started to move away from the last Saturday in June and filled the entire month, and eventually spread to all different times of the year. In Central Florida and Tampa Bay alone, Pride festivals are held in June, September, October, February and March.

A Proclamation

The events at Stonewall, the subsequent Pride parades and Pride Month as a whole would not get official recognition from a sitting U.S. president until 30 years later. The first president to acknowledge LGBTQ Pride Month was Bill Clinton in a proclamation released June 2, 2000. In the proclamation, which Clinton refers to the month as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, he highlights advances his administration made in the LGBTQ movement — including issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination in the federal civilian workforce based on sexual orientation and employing more openly gay and lesbian individuals in senior posts in his administration — as well as the work still to be done, which included passing a form of the Equality Act and legislation strengthening hate crime laws.

“This June, recognizing the joys and sorrows that the gay and lesbian movement has witnessed and the work that remains to be done, we observe Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and celebrate the progress we have made in creating a society more inclusive and accepting of gays and lesbians,” Clinton states. “I hope that in this new millennium we will continue to break down the walls of fear and prejudice and work to build a bridge to understanding and tolerance, until gays and lesbians are afforded the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans.”

The next presidential proclamation would not come until 2009, 40 years after the Stonewall Uprising and the first June in Barack Obama’s presidency. In it, Obama acknowledges the “great and lasting contributions” made by LGBTQ individuals “that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society.” He also refers to the month as LGBT Pride Month, including the bisexual and transgender communities for the first time.

“During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans,” Obama stated. “Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before.”

Like Clinton before him, Obama highlighted some of the achievements of his administration for the LGBTQ community while also recognizing that there is still work to be done.

“As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” he stated.

Obama would issue an LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation every June of his eight years as president. Over the course of his proclamations he would celebrate the achievements the LGBTQ community and his administration had made including repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” getting the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed, seeing marriage equality become the law of the land and, in 2016, establishing The Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park and portions of the surrounding neighborhood as a national monument.

(WorldPride in New York City, 2019, photos by Nick Cardello)

In his final LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation, Obama reiterated that “LGBT rights are human rights.”

“There remains much work to do to extend the promise of our country to every American, but because of the acts of courage of the millions who came out and spoke out to demand justice and of those who quietly toiled and pushed for progress, our Nation has made great strides in recognizing what these brave individuals long knew to be true in their hearts — that love is love and that no person should be judged by anything but the content of their character,” Obama stated. “During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, let us celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans.”

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump did not issue an LGBTQ Pride Month proclamation during his presidency. The only mention of it from Trump came via a tweet on May 31, 2019.

“As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Trump tweeted. “My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!”

In June 2021, newly elected President Joe Biden returned to issuing official proclamations for LGBTQ Pride Month, referring to the celebration as LGBTQ+ Pride Month adding in the Q for Queer and the + symbol for the first time.

“During LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically,” Biden stated. “In doing so, they are opening hearts and minds, and laying the foundation for a more just and equitable America. This Pride Month, we affirm our obligation to uphold the dignity of all people and dedicate ourselves to protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

A few words from Central Florida and Tampa Bay mayors as we celebrate LGBTQ Pride

“LGBTQ+ businesses and nonprofit organizations have played an integral role in the success of Orange County by investing in resources and people to help grow the next generation of community and civic leaders. As individuals from around the world begin to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June, it is also a time to reflect on the Pulse Remembrance and the responsibility each person has in creating an inclusive and equitable community. Whether you are a life-long resident or a first-time visitor, I hope you enjoy your time in our thriving and diverse community. Once again, welcome, and we look forward to celebrating Pride Month in Orange County!” — Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings

“This June and every month in Orlando, we have a lot to take pride in. This includes that as a community, we are working to ensure that Orlando is a city where all residents are welcomed, valued and respected. I hope that during Pride Month we can recognize and celebrate our commitment to inclusion and creating an equitable community for every LGBTQ+ resident and each person who calls Orlando home. But our work is far from over. With hateful rhetoric and legislation at the state and national level, our collective unity, love and compassion must remain strong and also grow. I want you and every member of Orlando’s LGBTQ+ community, including the young residents who need support now more than ever, to know that in our city you are loved, you are valued and you are seen and heard. Our community will continue to celebrate our diversity while putting equity and inclusion at the forefront of all that we do. Orlando will still be a place that encourages all residents to be their authentic selves.” — Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

“The City of Tampa is known around the world as a diverse and inclusive community, celebrating all our citizens, businesses, and organizations for their impact within our city’s neighborhoods. People often tell me that when asked to describe Tampa in one word, they always choose ‘friendly.’ And nothing warms my heart more! Our unique culture and rich heritage have fostered a strong, inclusive culture that protects both residents and visitors from discrimination and harassment, including those within the LGBTQ community. Love is love, and that’s what we celebrate in Tampa. How boring would life be if we were all the same?” — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor

“St. Petersburg is a place where inclusivity, diversity and equity matter. Our annual Pride festivities, culminating with Florida’s largest Pride parade and festival, highlight our city’s support for our LGBTQ+ community, and all who have experienced marginalization. I’m proud to be leading a city that embraces our LGBTQ+ community, and where our citizens are valued for who they are, not who they love or how they identify. We — all of us — Are St. Pete.” — St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch

Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month in Central Florida and Tampa Bay

Central Florida and Tampa Bay are in no short supply of Pride celebrations during the month of June. From Red Shirt Pride Day on the first Saturday in June through to St Pete Pride held the last Saturday in June, the LGBTQ community celebrates living life openly and authentically.

On June 1, 1991, a group of LGBTQ Central Floridians—led by openly gay Orlando resident Doug Swallow—decided to meet at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to say to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” that “We’re here, we’re queer and we’d like to see Cinderella’s Castle!”

The original idea was that the LGBTQ community, wearing red shirts (a suggestion of Swallow’s to make everyone more visible at the gathering), would meet in front of Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom just before the 3 p.m. parade to be seen during a time when being that visible could mean losing your job, family and even your life. That first year, 1,500 people showed up and the event has only grown from there.

Nowadays, tens of thousands of people gather in Orlando for parties, events and celebrations on that first Saturday and the surrounding days. In 2019, the nonprofit KindRED Pride Foundation established Red Shirt Pride Days, a series of events occurring on the first weekend of June every year with a mission to get one million people around the world to wear red on the first Saturday of June whether they are at the Magic Kingdom or not.

This year you can attend parties through GayDayS, One Magical Weekend, Girls in Wonderland and Tidal Wave Party, happening from June 1-5.

Two local Pride celebrations happen on that first Saturday of June as well — one in Kissimmee and one in Gulfport.

Pridefest Kissimmee will be at the Kissimmee Civic Center June 4. The free event is put on by the city of Kissimmee and will feature live entertainment, a vendor fair, food trucks, a kid’s zone and information on local advocacy groups.

The second annual Gulfport Pride will also be June 4 and is being held at the Gulfport Public Library. The event will showcase the area’s growing LGBTQ community and LGBTQ- and ally-owned businesses. It is a free event but you will have the ability to make a donation as it is a fundraiser for the LGBTQ Resource Center of the Gulfport Public Library.

While LGBTQ Pride Month is a time to celebrate, it has also become a time of mourning and reflection since the 2016 Pulse tragedy that took the lives of 49 people. The Pulse Remembrance Ceremony will take place on June 12 with several events happening in the days prior. These events include the CommUNITY Rainbow Run at Wadeview Park on June 4, the “Straight Men, Real Makeup” drag show at Hamburger Mary’s on June 5 and the “United We Dance” celebration in the Thornton Park District June 10.

Two more local Pride celebrations — Polk Pride and Dunedin Pride — happen the weekend of June 18 with a series of events taking place on the days leading up to that day.

Lakeland’s Polk Pride starts with a Pride social to kick its events off at Swan Brewing called “Pride on Tap” on June 11. The celebration continues June 15 at Skate World for “Pride For Youth,” a Pride party for ages 11-20 put on by the Lakeland Youth Alliance. On June 16, “Pride in Faith,” an interfaith fellowship, will be held at Beacon Hill Fellowship. The official Pride weekend kickoff party will be June 17 at The Parrot and will include plenty of drinks, dancing and drag. The big event happens June 18 with Pride in the Park, a celebration for the whole family, in Munn Park. Later that night, Polk Pride returns to The Parrot for “Pride After Dark,” the event’s closing party.

Not to be outdone, Dunedin Pride is also celebrating with a weeklong Pride celebration. Starting June 11, they kick off Pride with the Dunedin Pride Golf Cart Parade. The colorful carts will start at Mease and parade through Dunedin, ending in front of the Blue Jays Stadium where there will be live music, food, drinks and a Pride baseball game. Later that night, head over to HOB Brewing Co. for the Silent Disco Festival. On June 12, Dunedin Pride hosts the Fenway Pool Party & Show. You can check out a trio of events June 15, as the Scottish American Society hosts Dunedin Movie Night, presented by the Dunedin Film Festival. The event will screen a collection of short LGBTQ films. Prior to the film screening, head to The Honu Restaurant and Tiki Bar for a Dinner Before Movies event. After the films, head to Caledonia Brewing for the After Party. The following day, Dunedin Pride is back at Honu for the Honu Luau Women’s Party. On June 17, Blur will host the annual Pride Show & Dance Party. Festivities wrap up on June 18 with the Gay-Lah gala at The Fenway Hotel.

Closing out the month is Florida’s largest LGBTQ Pride celebration — St Pete Pride. The celebration will take place June 25 with a festival and parade in downtown St. Petersburg. We will have much more information in our next issue as St Pete Pride celebrates its 20th year, but leading up to the big day there will be a series of events starting June 1 with a St Pete Pride Kick-Off Party at the Sirata Beach Resort. On June 11, join “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” legend Carson Kressley for Queer-E-Okee at The Palladium Theater. Head back to The Palladium June 12 for an exclusive St Pete Pride performance with Sandra Bernhard. The Stonewall Reception at The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art and the Get Nude Drippin’ in Melanin event at Red Mesa Cantina happen on June 17. LGBTQ+ Youth & Family Day will happen June 18 in North and South Straub Park. Shade of Pride, an LGBTQ Juneteenth celebration starring TS Madison, will take place at The Studio June 19. An finally, the day before the parade, head to the St Pete Waterfront for the Friday Night Concert with Todrick Hall and special guest Pussy Riot.

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