In 1969 it was illegal for gay people to gather in groups in New York. When cops raided a gay bar in Manhattan called the Stonewall Inn, working-class gay men, lesbians and transvestites rose out of their fear and obscurity, rioted, and kept the police at bay for several days. The chaos was front-page news and sparked a lasting movement that changed the way gay people saw themselves and lived.
The Stonewall Riots were, in essence, the very first Gay Pride festival. And to honor the original occasion, gay people across America now spend one searingly-hot weekend every June accumulating in crowds of hundreds of thousands, getting ridiculously drunk and sunburned, being almost-naked in public, blacking out, blowing all the cash in their wallets, dancing to garbled outdoor music and decorating their sweaty, exhausted bodies with half-curled paper stickers advertising the parade’s corporate sponsors, Coors and Pepsi.
Gay peoples’ forefathers fought hard to stop society from telling them how to take care of and conduct themselves in gatherings, and gay people are damn sure to exercise those new privileges. Instead of rioting against The Man, they are now rioting against their parents and middle school teachers who taught them about sun damage and the dangers of excessive drinking, who ask “can’t you just be gay quietly? (and the answer is no). Those forces and The Man are practically the same thing.
Outsiders struggle to take in the spectacle of Pride. The key thing to remember is that if you are gay, you are in college forever. Also, spring break is extended to include April-October. If you think of Pride as an extension of college, it suddenly begins to make sense.
The reason why gay people continue to be oppressed and rallied against by Conservatives is that those people are insanely jealous of all the fun gay people derive from every possible occasion in life, which is most apparent during the summer. And indeed, who else besides gay people could continue to be elated by dressing up in peacock costumes, rainbow-colored corsets and body paint into their 60s? Unfortunately for Conservatives, most social scientists believe you have to be born gay in order to enjoy it. The jealous people bitterly picket the parades – this is the closest they can come to participating – and they are insanely entertaining for gay people to watch.
Amidst all the trends and occasions that mark the gay experience, Pride is the absolute centerpiece.