June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots which began on June 28, 1969. The New York Police Department staged a raid on The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. At 1:30 AM, contrary to most raids, which took place during the day. The riots lasted six days and involved thousands. On June 26, the Stonewall Inn, which had been included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, became a National Historic Landmark on June 24, 2016.
The first pride event was organized by a bisexual woman named Brenda Howard, know as “the Mother of Pride.” She coordinated events after Stonewall to make sure that the events were not forgotten. Pride began as a week-long series of events. Howard and her allies’ efforts led to events such as New York and Atlanta’s Gay Liberation Day, and San Francisco and Los Angeles’s Gay Freedom Day. New York’s Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade eventually became Gay Pride. She also helped founded the New York Area Bisexual Network.
Before becoming an LGBTQ rights activist, Howard was involved in the anti-war and feminism movements. Howard’s activism continued into the 80s and 90, as she demonstrated for national health care, racial equality and for those living with HIV and AIDS. At a time when the gay rights movement was focused on gay men and women, Howard successfully lobbied for the 1993 March on Washington to include bisexuals. Howard died on June 28, 2005, the 36th anniversary of Stonewall.
Several months later, the Queens Chapter of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) created the Brenda Howard Memorial Award, the “first award by a major American LGBTQ organization to be named after an openly bisexual person.” The annual award “recognizes an individual or organization whose work on behalf of the bisexual community and the greater LGBT community best exemplifies the vision, principles, and community service exemplified by Brenda Howard.”
Nearly fifty years after the Stonewall riots, on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges that, “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.”
June is also important in LGBTQ history for several other reasons. Alan Turing, the subject of the 2014 film The Imitation Game committed suicide on June 8, 1954. In 1936, Turing published a paper which was later recognized as “the foundation of computer science” which “analysed what it meant for a human to follow a definite method or procedure to perform a task.” His idea was to invent a “Universal Machine” that could decode and perform any set of instructions.
His best known work, however was a paper he published in 1950, which included the idea for an ‘imitation game’ now called the Turing Test, which compared human and machine outputs. It became an important contribution to the field of Artificial Intelligence.
He did not live to see how his contributions affected the field. In 1952, Turing was convicted until Britain’s anti-homosexuality laws, which were overturned in 1967. He was prosecuted for having an affair with a young man and, chose to undergo chemical castration instead of going to prison. The following year, Turing committed suicide by ingesting cyanide. Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon in December 2013.
On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published the first official document on the disease that later became known as AIDS. The Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report described five cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, a type of pneumonia typically caused by a suppressed immune system. All five victims were gay young men living in Los Angeles, two of whom died by the time the report was published.
A month after the report was published Dr. Paul Volberding at the University of California San Francisco saw his first case of AIDS on his first day at the San Francisco General Hospital. By the end of 1981, nine people in San Francisco had died from the disease, and by 1984, more than 800 cases were reported. In January 1983, Dr. Volberding established the first HIV outpatient clinic in the United States at San Francisco General Hospital.
On June 9, 2014, actress Laverne Cox was the first transgender person featured on the cover of Time for their “The Transgender Tipping Point” story. She became the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Sophia Burset in the show Orange Is the New Black. The show is based on the eponymous book, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman, a bisexual Smith College graduate.
Two years later, on June 10, 2016, an Oregon circuit court ruled that Jamie Shupe could legally change their gender to non-binary. Legal experts believe this to be the first ruling of its kind in the country, though some states and cities have removed gender from ID cards.
Twenty days later, on June 30, 2016, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the U.S. was lifting the ban on transgender people serving in the military. “Starting today, otherwise qualified service members can no longer be in voluntarily separated discharged or denied reenlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender.” This came five years after the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy which allowed LGBT people to serve in the military but banned them from revealing their sexual identity, was repealed.
President Clinton was the first to honor Pride Month on June 11, 1999, when he declared that June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” On May 31, 2016, President Obama declared June “LGBT Pride Month.”