June is all about the rainbow flag. And this year's Pride Month is extra special.
Why is that?
Because it's the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Reminder: that was when LGBTQ+ activists fought against police officers cracking down on the Stonewall Inn and other gay bars in downtown Manhattan. In 1970, a year later, the first pride march happened.
This year, WorldPride – a global pride event – is being hosted in New York to commemorate the Stonewall anniversary.
Where are some of the biggest celebrations?
New York: HQ for the gay rights movement. Last year, an estimated 2 million people turned out at New York’s pride parade. This year more than 3 million are expected as the city hosts WorldPride and marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Parade: Jun 30.
São Paulo: Brazil’s largest city has one of the world’s biggest pride events, regularly hosting a million or more attendees. But this year, some are worried that anti-gay rhetoric from the country’s new, openly anti-gay president could discourage people from turning out. Parade: Jun 23.
San Francisco: SF hosts one of the oldest and biggest pride parades in the world, drawing close to a million people last year. Ever since the ‘70s, the parade has been led by a group of women who go by the name “Dykes on Bikes” – a motorcycle group that engages in philanthropy. The group won a legal fight in the Supreme Court to get a patent for its name, despite the word ‘dyke’ being in it. Parade: Jun 30.
London: An estimated hundreds of thousands of people attended last year’s pride march in London, an event that dates back to the ‘70s and was inspired by the Stonewall Uprising in New York. Last year marked the first time ever that a group of Royal Marines marched alongside pride attendees. Parade: Jul 6.
Amsterdam: The Netherlands legalized same-sex activity in 1811. The country was also the first in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. Each year, tens of thousands of people attend Amsterdam’s famous canal parade (think: dozens of floats on boats). Canal Parade: Aug 3.
Toronto: In the early 1980s, a series of raids against gay bathhouses in Toronto led to major protests, what some have referred to as Canada’s Stonewall. Today, an estimated hundreds of thousands of people attend Toronto’s pride parade as well as its Trans March – created to draw attention to trans rights in particular. Parade: Jun 23.
Sydney: Pride down under goes by another name: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Since the march started in the ‘70s, the event has grown to become one of Australia’s most famous events, attracting hundreds of thousands of people and involving weeks of celebration in the lead-up to the parade. Parade: Feb 29 (2020).
Tel Aviv: An estimated 250,000 people attended last year’s march (including around 30,000 foreigners), making it the biggest pride event in the Middle East and Asia. The first parade there was in 1998 and events since have included floats, live music, and lots of dancing. Parade: Jun 14.
Taipei: East Asia’s largest pride event is expected to draw 80,000 people. This year, it comes after Taiwanese lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage – the first place in Asia to do so. It came in response to a court ruling a few years ago. And despite a referendum last year when voters pushed back against the law going into effect. Parade: Oct 26.
Johannesburg: An estimated thousands to tens of thousands of people attend the biggest pride event in Africa. South Africa’s the only country in Africa where same-sex marriage is legal. And there are a variety of pride events held throughout the country. Parade: Oct 26.
Delhi: Last year, India’s supreme court struck down a law criminalizing gay sex. In November, Delhi is expected to host its annual parade, attracting hundreds or thousands of attendees. Parade: Nov 30 (expected).
So everything’s all hearts and rainbows?
Nope. Homosexuality is still criminalized in about 70 countries around the world. A handful of countries – including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, and Mauritania – even make gay sex punishable by death. Dozens of countries sentence people found guilty of same-sex activities to years or life in prison. Even where it’s not illegal to be gay, discrimination and violence can still endanger members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Iran: An estimated 5,000 gay men or more have been executed since the start of Iran’s revolution in 1979. That includes reports earlier this year that a 31-year-old man was executed by public hanging.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia also follows a harsh form of Sharia (Islamic law) and makes gay sex punishable by death. Earlier this year, one man was publicly executed, after having allegedly confessed to engaging in gay sex.
Brunei: The small southeast Asian country recently updated its criminal code to punish gay sex and adultery with death by stoning. But after international outcry – and calls to boycott hotels owned by the sultan – he's apparently hitting pause on implementing the new rules.
Russia: In 2013, Russia passed a law banning “gay propaganda” – allowing the country to fine people that promote gay relationships and pro-gay content on mass media platforms like TV and the internet. Since then, Russia has reportedly seen a major rise in hate crimes. There’s also been a recent crackdown against gay people in Chechnya, where authorities are accused of killing at least two people and arresting dozens of others in recent months.
Tanzania: Many Tanzanians have gone into hiding after the country's largest city recently announced a crackdown on gay people – who could spend 30 years in jail for having sex. Last year, the governor of the largest city there announced a task force to proactively find and round up gay people, telling Tanzanians to "report them" to him. Since then, officials say they've received thousands of tips.
Kenya: Kenya is one of dozens of countries in Africa that criminalize gay sex (something that can land you in prison for 14 years there). In 2016, activists brought a case to challenge the colonial-era laws, arguing it violated the constitution. Many were hopeful that the case would succeed, and would encourage other countries in the region to follow suit. But this year, the country’s high court upheld the laws. The activists have said they’ll appeal.
This month, millions of people all over the world are celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. But there's a lot of work that still needs to be done to achieve acceptance and equality.