Two months ago, in May 2019, Taiwan was the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. Since the early 2000s, more and more governments include this right in their constitution – each time a victory for the Pride movement. Whilst there are still great efforts to be made until we reach global equality for everyone – we are on the right track! But how did the fight for LGBTQIA equality begin? 

In the 60s, homosexuality (called “sodomy” at that time) was illegal in most places on earth – until 1973 it was still included in the list of mental disorders in the DSM-II Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. 

Gay and transsexual people had to unwillingly hide all the time. Men could be arrested for wearing drag outfits, while women had to wear at least “3 pieces of feminine clothing”. 

They could only embrace their true self in secret (often illegal) underground bars or clubs. The ‘Stonewall Inn’ (a national monument since the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the US in 2015!) was one of those rare clubs and was also known for the acceptance towards drag queens – an acceptance not all gay bars shared at that time. 

Greenwich Village
Stonewall Inn
The ‘Stonewall Inn’ in Greenwich Village, NYC. Source: The New Yorker

In this bar, a historical event, the Stonewall Riots, happened on 28th June 1969 (exactly 50 years ago!) – and is considered a catalyst for the Pride movement as we know it today. The Stonewall Riots were an immediate reaction to physical and mental abuse the community was subjected to by violent and discriminative police, who stormed the ‘Stonewall Inn’ in the district of Greenwich Village.

This brutal police intervention ended in the destruction of the bar through fire, and fights broke out between the policemen and the people present who revolted and defended themselves against the police brutality and oppression. This event made New York’s gay community feel more violated than ever before, but also motivated them more than ever to stand up for their rights! 

As a reaction to the Stonewall Riots, and inspired by  Martin Luther King’s Civil rights movement, the gay community had the idea to organise a march for the first time. 

Exactly one year after the Stonewall Riots, the “Christopher Street Liberation Day March” took place. Officially, the event was in New York, but gay activist groups from Los Angeles and San Francisco also managed to organise marches in spite of huge difficulties getting the cities permission. Since then, every year, parades for queer rights are raising awareness for the inequality which is still present today. 

This video shows us real pictures of the Christopher St. Gay Liberation Day in New York City on June 28, 1970, exactly one year after the Stonewall Riots.

Since the first marches following the Stonewall Riots, the words Pride and Liberation were used to describe the movement – mostly in combination with the term gay: “Gay pride and self-consciousness are valid tools to fight oppression.”—Marty Stephan, Gay Power (New York City, NY), Vol. 1, Issue 8 1969. 

Throughout time, Pride celebrations changed focus and stopped celebrating not only gay liberation but also the general acceptance of gender non-conformity. The term Pride is including everybody: Be proud of who you are! In order to communicate this message, we automatically think of the Pride flag –  Pride’s well-known symbol. 

But did you know it hasn’t been the symbol from the beginning? It was only created in 1978! It replaced the pink triangle, a symbol also used by the nazis for homosexual people. Because of this shocking and negative connotation, many people could not identify themselves with it: A new symbol was absolutely necessary.

With the support of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected American official,  artist and activist Gilbert Baker, created the first rainbow flag. You might ask yourself why the symbol created was a  flag? The LGBT+ community is a community and should, therefore, have symbolic representation: I thought a gay nation should have a flag too, to proclaim its own idea of power.– Gilbert Baker.

The first flag created was for the Gay Pride in San Franciso on June 25, 1978, it had eight colours and was hand-made by Baker and some volunteers. The eight colours symbolise Sex, Life, Healing, Sunlight, Nature, Magic/Art, Serenity and Spirit. This picture shows which colour is associated with which meaning:

eight colours 
8 colours

After the successful implementation of the rainbow flag as a symbol of gay pride, Baker wished to prepare mass production of the flag. Unfortunately, the pink colour was too difficult to produce, so the first wave of production planned a 7 colour flag – until another shocking event rocked the community.

Only a few months after the first Gay Pride with the rainbow flag, Harvey Milk was assassinated. As a reaction to this event,  the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee decided to decorate both sides of the huge ‘Market Street’ in San Francisco with the flag – split in two, one half for each side. In order to facilitate and to arrange this plan, another colour (indigo) was removed to have 3 stripes on each side.

The six-colour flag was produced in all kinds of forms “keychains, coffee mugs, T-shirts, bumper stickers [… ]” and became the one and only Pride flag, which is still the most recognised nowadays.  

Rainbow flag 
Gilbert Baker
Gilbert Baker at the Stockholm Pride Parade with a 250-meter long flag (Stockholm, Sweden, 2003) Source: The Washington Post

During the following decades, the fight for the acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights continued. Conservative politics would be confronted with new, open-minded worldviews and people who more and more are speaking up for equality and rights.

StuDocu’s office is in Amsterdam, where we have one of the worlds biggest global marches for Pride. But how did Pride in Amsterdam became such a huge, famous event? 

This year, the Dutch Knowledge Center for Intangible Heritage set a new milestone: Pride Amsterdam will be officially added to the Intangible Heritage Inventory of the Netherlands as an essential part of Dutch cultural heritage this year”.  On the canals, an amazing boat parade takes place with over half a million spectators.

Here, we have some pretty amazing milestones to share, like that homosexuality was decriminalised in 1811, followed by the first legal gay bar, which opened in 1927 – years before the second world war. Shortly after the war, the COC, aka Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum, was created. A gay rights organisation so shortly after the war? No wonder Amsterdam is still viewed as one of the most liberal and gay-friendly cities in the world. 

Don’t get this wrong, the Dutch government was not perfect and the LGBTQ+ community faced, and still has to, overcome obstacles. For example, the article 248bis of the Penal Code, forbids any homosexual contact for people between 16 and 21 – while it was not forbidden for heterosexual relations. Also, vice squads (special police divisions) were discriminating the gay community. With collections of photos and records, showing people as potentially homosexual, these vice squads “informed” the entourage of these persons (their parents, their landlords or their employers) about the sexual orientation with the goal of making their life more difficult. 

But people stood up and spoke and the article 248bis was abolished in 1971 – one year and a half after the Stonewall Riots.  

Gay lobby group COC Netherlands has again asked for an investigation into the penalisation of homosexuals in the 20th century
“Gay lobby group COC Netherlands has again asked for an investigation into the penalisation of homosexuals in the 20th century.” Source: Gay News

Nevertheless, the Netherlands was the first country to legalise marriage between same-sex people (2001). Since the 80s you can find lots of gay insitions, bars, clubs and shops – the acceptance of the LGBT+ community is obvious and known. During this time, the famous Homomonument was built behind the Westerkerk – almost next to the Anne Frank Huis. 

 Pride Amsterdam Canal Parade
The Pride Amsterdam Canal Parade. Photo: Marnix Broer

The city celebrated its first Pride 23 years ago. Bringing the city’s own flair, the canals, Amsterdam Pride is the only Pride where boats are leading the parade. The Pride Amsterdam is so successful, it even won some awards!

The Pride Parade of Amsterdam is definitely a MUST-SEE in Europe – no matter who you are or who you love. To get more information about the Homomonument, as well as general information on gay and lesbian Amsterdam, you can go to the  “Pink Point”.

For the curious readers, we have collected links about the history of Pride at the end of the article! For those who want to join a Pride movement, check this calendar to see your possibilities of joining a march: 

 Pride Amsterdam Canal Parade
The Pride Amsterdam Canal Parade. Photo: Marnix Broer

One love! 

 Pride Amsterdam Canal Parade
The Pride Amsterdam Canal Parade. Source: Unsplash

Categories: Lifestyle


Before starting my master degree of international sustainability management in Berlin and Paris, I support StuDocu as as communication and business intern in Amsterdam! In my free time, I simply adore spending time outside, biking and strolling around the city and parks. One Love!


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