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A Short History of Pride Month

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

by Steve Taylor

Pride Month is celebrated each year in the month of June worldwide to honour the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. The last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as "Gay Pride Day," but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the US and Canada, the "day" soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events. Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia, and concerts, and Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are also held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

Stonewall Inn, 1969

Here is a short history of important events in Canada and the US that led to the creation and official recognition of Pride Month.

1969: Canada decriminalizes homosexual acts with the Criminal Law Amendment Act. New York City’s LGBTQA2+ community rioted against police discrimination and homophobia after a raid at the gay bar, The Stonewall Inn. These riots inspired the modern gay rights movement around the world.

1971: Demonstrations started across Canada and included protests outside parliament.

Gay rights demonstrations outside Parliament Hill, 1971

1973: Pride Week ’73 was a nationwide LGBTQA2+ rights event in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Programming included an art festival, a dance, a picnic, a screening of a documentary, and a rally for gay rights in all participating cities.

1974-1981: Extreme police crackdowns on gay bars and LGBTQA2+ meeting places across Canada.

1978 The rainbow flag that has become a symbol for the LGBTQA2+, was designed by American drag performer and Vietnam War vet, Gilbert Baker.

Gilbert Baker

1981: The “Operation Soap” raids on Feb.5, 1981, were a pivotal moment. Police stormed four bathhouses in Toronto and arrested close to 300 men. Although most charges were dropped the damage had been done. Rallies were held in response across Canada.

Operation Soap, 1981

1988: In an interview with CBC’s Barbara Frum, British Columbia MP Svend Robinson came out as Canada’s first openly gay member of parliament.

Svend Robinson at Pride, 1989

1990: The term “Two Spirit” (niizh manidoowag) is coined at the 3rd annual Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg. The term allows Indigenous LGBTQ+ people to reject other English terms that impose Western views of gender and sexuality on Indigenous people.

Two-Spirit Flag

In 1995, Barbara Hall became Toronto’s first mayor to walk in the parade. On May 25th, The Supreme Court rules that Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the “right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, should include sexual orientation.

Barbara Hall, 2015

1995-2000 As pride became more popular across the country, it gradually transitioned from protest to celebration.

1996: Bill C-33 is passed, adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act.

2003: First same-sex couple (Michael Lesner and Michael Starkmarries in Ontario after a unanimous ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeals. Legalization followed suit in B.C (2003), Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Quebec, Yukon (2004), and New Brunswick (2005).

Michael Leshner and Michael Stark, 2003

2005: Canada becomes the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage through Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act.

2013: Bill C-279 extends human rights to transgender people in Canada.

2016: On June 1st Parliament Hill raises the Pride flag for the first time.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, 2016

2017: Bill C-16 expands Canadian Human Rights Act to Gender Identity and Expression. This legislation made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.

2017: Julie Lemieux, becomes the first transgender Mayor of a Canadian municipality, Tres-Saint-Redempteur.

Julie Lemieux, 2017

2019: WHO voted to remove transgender from being a mental disorder.

2022 and beyond: Love is Love. Let's do better.


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