A Brief History of the Pride March
June 14, 2020
The LGBTQ+ community was forced to hide their true identities to maintain their footing in society pre-21st century. Gaining equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community has not been an easy battle, and everyone who stood up or lived in secrecy were brave. As Pride month kicks off around the world, in this article, we will honor five extraordinary people who challenged the majority and advanced society.
1. Karl Heinrich Ulrichs - Aurich, Germany, 1825-1895
Ulrichs, a German lawyer, was the first openly gay man to speak out against discrimination. In 1854, he was fired from his job once he came out.
He formulated a scientific theory of homosexuality in a series of twelve essays under the title, Researches on the Riddle of Male-Male Love. Ulrichs argued that homosexual people are born gay, that it is not an effect of trauma or an acquired vice. He concluded that equality shouldn’t be in question.
Ulrichs was imprisoned twice as he protested against anti-homosexuality laws in Germany. He also fought for the equal rights of religious and ethnic minorities and women. In 1880, he was exiled and moved to Italy until his death in 1895.
2. Henry Gerber - Passau, Germany, 1892-1972
Gerber was born in Germany in 1892. He was inspired by German activists’ scientific theories on homosexuality to come to America and become an advocate. Thanks to scientific theories, Germany had a more open LGBT community than America. He moved to Chicago and founded the Society for Human Rights in 1924.
Gerber meshed his experience in Germany with the American Declaration of Independence (specifically, “all men are created equal” and “the pursuit of happiness”). The Society for Human Rights published written works, but the attention was low. After its dissolution, he continued writing about inequality and continued reaching out to allies. In 2015, the Henry Gerber House became the nation's second National Historic Landmark designated for its association with LGBTQ history.
3. Christine Jorgensen - NYC, USA, 1926-1989
Christine Jorgensen, born in the Bronx, was a transgender ex-GI. She underwent gender reassignment surgery and hormone treatments over a year and a half in 1952. During the 50s, she educated the American public on transsexuality.
Christine was born George Jorgensen in a loving family. Throughout her teenage years, she expressed multiple times how uncomfortable she felt in her male body. An article titled “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell” molded her into a media sensation. She used positive attention to advance her photography and night club acts.
In 1952, the Scandanavian Society in New York awarded her Woman of the Year. She used the spotlight to educate the public, successfully bringing more awareness and openness towards the transgender community. Jorgensen claimed that she “didn’t start the Sexual Revolution but gave it a swift kick in the pants”.
4. Barbara Gittings - Vienna, Austria, 1932-2007
Gittings is known as the “mother of the LGBT civil rights movement”. Born in Austria, she moved to Philadelphia in 1932 at the age of 18.
Along with fellow activists, Gittings helped organize public demonstrations for equality in front of Independence Hall each 4th of July until 1969. She also headed the NY Branch of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB) in the 1950s, the first lesbian rights association in America.
During the 1970s, Gittings joined the American Psychiatric Association’s fight to get homosexuality removed from the national list of mental illnesses. The APA removed it from the list after a vote in 1973. Each different sexual orientation was not completely out of the list until 1987, and Gittings was a pioneer in erasing that stigma.
In 2006, the APA awarded her the first annual civil rights award. Five years after her death, Philadelphia officially named the intersection of 13th and Locust Streets "Barbara Gittings Way" in her memory.
5. Marsha P. Johnson - NJ, USA, 1945-1992
Marsha P. Johnson, born Malcom Michaels Jr. in 1945 to a working class family, felt at just 5 years old that she was a woman. After her 1963 graduation, she moved to NYC with just $15 and a sack of clothes. New York state considered homosexuality (called then as “sodomy”) as a misdemeanor. The acts under the law banned same-sex dancing in public, cross-dressing, and sexual acts.
Johnson engaged in prostitution to earn money. She was arrested over 100 times, but she never gave up being herself. She is most recognized for being the first person to ‘throw the first brick’ in the Stonewall inn riots on June 28, 1969. She was only 23 at the time, demonstrating to others her bravery.
She helped kickstart the gay pride parades in the 70s and establish Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to advocate for young transgender people. Marsha P. Johnson also advocated for AIDS visibility and treatments.
Marsha P. Johnson died in 1992. She was found on July 6th in the Hudson River, and her case remains open today. Her memory has been solidified through multiple films and the legacy of her persistent activism.
A little about me...
Hi! I'm Miranda, a high school senior and a member of the writing and social media team for 40 Years Since. I love staying active, from running to volleyball to really anything I want to try. Also, art has always been a significant stress-reliever throughout my life. I hope to become a pediatric surgeon, so I'm very involved in organizations that benefit unprivileged children. I'm passionate about using my privilege to spread awareness and help fix a broken world, something that 40 Years Since lets me do.