Inspiring Pride icons who paved the way
June is Pride month, a month that means so much to so many. Pride is the movement for equality and acceptance for everyone who identifies as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Here at Dotdigital we’re huge advocates for Pride and everything it stands for.
In this blog we’re taking a look at Pride, from it’s beginnings in New York City, to the global event it is today. Looking at the people who shaped it, especially those in our industry – technology, and those who continue to progress the movement.
The foundations for Pride
Like any good story, we’re starting at the beginning. The foundations for Pride were laid on June 28th, 1969 when New York PD raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York City. The police were rough with patrons and staff, and violent clashes began. There are conflicting reports on how exactly the uprising began, but one name that is present in various accounts is Marsha P Johnson. A trans woman who was persecuted her whole life due to her gender identity. Many of the LGBTQIA+ community at the time were living in danger and fear. They felt they had nothing left to lose, and on the 28th of June, they fought back against the oppression they were all tired of suffering under.
This police raid led to six days of protests and violence between the police and the public. Now known as the Stonewall Riots, this incident was the catalyst for the gay rights movement both in the United States and across the globe.
The birth of Pride
Pride as we now know it began in New York a year later. Brenda Howard, a bisexual activist, often regarded as ‘The Mother of Pride’, had already created a one-month Stonewall anniversary rally in July 1969. A year after the Stonewall Riots, she lead a committee to organize Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade.
The event was organized in the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, the first gay and lesbian bookstore in America. Amazingly, it was the bookstore’s mailing list that was used to spread the word about the march. The group decided on naming the march ‘Pride’ to change the narrative, and give confidence to those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The parade began and was planned for 51 blocks, this time with police present to protect the marchers. The initial turnout was small, but as the march picked up steam, it soon turned into a crowd of thousands marching through the streets of New York. This parade has since evolved into an annual event in New York, and other cities all around the world.
The LQBTQIA+ community’s influence in tech
As a tech company, it’d be wrong to ignore the influence those in the LGBTQIA+ community have made in our industry. One of the most influential men in technology is Alan Turing. Turing’s work was extremely ahead of it’s time, and Turing is largely considered the father of both theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.
Alan Turing was instrumental in cracking the Nazi’s Enigma code during the Second World War. In 1946 Turing was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his code-breaking work.
In March 1952 Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” which is what homosexuality was classed as at that time in Britain. Turing was sentenced to 12 months of hormone “therapy” which was essentially chemical castration. The appalling treatment of Turing meant that as well as being physiologically abused, he now held a criminal record, and was therefore unable to work for the Government again.
Turing spent the rest of his career in Manchester, England. In 1954 Turing was found dead due to Cyanide poisoning. His death was ruled as suicide, but the inquest wasn’t thorough, and many hold alternative theories regarding his passing.
Turing never saw the Pride movement or the decriminalization of homosexuality. In 2009 the British government apologized for his treatment. The then prime minister Gordon Brown said: “We’re sorry — you deserved so much better.” A few years later in 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon.
Turing was treated inhumanely during his life, but as attitudes have changed, his legacy lives on.
LGBTQIA+ in tech today
As society has moved forward in terms of acceptance, the tech industry has seen some key players come out as gay.
In 2014 Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, came out publicly as gay. Making him the only publicly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Cook is a private man, but came out after he read letters from young people who were struggling with their identity. Cook maintains his private persona, but speaks out on LGBTQIA+ issues from time to time.
Also in 2014 Megan Smith became the first female CTO for the United States of America. Smith was one of the highest-ranking openly gay officials in the White House. Smith has since left the White House and continues to lead in the tech world.
Other great LGBTQIA+ tech entrepreneurs include Chris Hughes, one of the four founders of Facebook. Joel Simkhai, created an app that revolutionized the dating scene for gay men when he founded Grindr in 2009. Peter Arvai, Cofounder and CEO of presentation software Prezi, is the first openly gay Hungarian CEO. Arvai continues to push for change and acceptance, and has made diversity and inclusion a major component of Prezi’s work environment.
Pride in 2022
We’ve come a long way, that’s for sure, but there’s still a long way to go. With LGBTQIA+ people still facing persecution, societal exclusion, and judgement around the world it’s crucial that we acknowledge the fight is not finished yet.
In the past year there have been some great steps towards an accepting society. Switzerland voted to make same-sex marriage legal and give same-sex couples the right to adopt. In South Africa local elections saw the first openly gay mayor, Chris Pappas, elected. In the UK Jamie Wallace became the first transgender member of parliament. The UK also saw the first active footballer, Jake Daniels, come out publicly as gay, a huge step in football culture in Britain. Canada, France, and New Zealand all banned conversion ‘therapy’ this year too.
June is now Pride month across the globe, with marches taking place in most major cities. Culture is changing, and as marketers we can play a part in this too. Celebrities, influencers, and brands all have a voice which impacts popular culture. Pride is both a protest and a celebration, one we must support until equality is found.