June 1, 2023, marks the 53rd annual Pride Month, a time characterized by its celebration of identity and exploration in the LGBTQIA+ community and aspiration towards a future where sexual orientation and gender identity limits none.
The beginning of Pride Month coincides with one of the most prominent liberation movements in modern United States history. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 were a series of protests by the LGBTQIA+ community and activist groups in response to a police raid that turned violent at a Lower Manhattan gay bar called Stonewall Inn.
These raids were frequent at various LGBTQIA+ establishments throughout the 1960s and earlier decades. Arrests were often made off baseless circumstances and causes for search. The LGBTQIA+ community had to follow strict rules and were afraid for their safety.
The tension that had been slowly growing culminated during a fateful night raid on June 28, 1969. The New York City Police’s common procedure of frisking and arresting patrons drew a large crowd around the bar, raising hostility. Encouraged by the fired-up crowd, visitors started to resist arrest, which quickly escalated into a full-scale riot as more people began to instigate violence.
Although it is an event marked by harsh circumstances, the Stonewall Riots served as a turning point that allowed the LGBTQIA+ community to fight discrimination head-on and to advocate through organized activism for equal rights on a larger scale.
The next June was the inaugural Pride Month, filled with marches, festivals and various events as a way for the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies to celebrate individual and community identities and to raise awareness of the ongoing battle against discrimination and for equal rights.
Pride Month was officially recognized by the United States government in 1999 by former president Bill Clinton as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. In 2011, former president Barack Obama extended Pride Month to include the entirety of the LGBTQIA+ community as we know it today.
Tegra Myanna, the director of the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center on Tech’s campus, shared their thoughts on the meaning of Pride Month.
“It’s all about community. Both in terms of celebrating and recognizing shared community and our resiliency in navigating day-to-day life, whether that’s bias or discrimination, and recognizing and honoring the community that came before us that allows us to be where we are today,” they said.
Myanna credits the previous generations of activists for making it possible for them to be where they stand today.
“I wouldn’t be able to exist as a queer and trans person doing the work that I do or [be] able to be out about both of those identities without the work of past ancestors. For me, community is that core element of Pride Month, that connection of where we are today, where we came from and hopefully where we’re going,” they said.
Myanna joined the Tech community in 2020, but their involvement in LGBTQIA+ work stretches back a decade and their history in the education sector even further. They not only bring professional experience into their directorial position, but a personal connection as well.
“I have lived experience of navigating being a person of color… [which] relates to also being a queer and trans person, and I think that allows me to connect really well with a lot of the students that I work with who are bringing in these multiple experiences and figuring out what [that means] for them as a college graduate…So I’ve always been really been able to connect with students and create these non-judgemental spaces for students to figure out these challenges,” Myanna said.
Myanna incorporates their professional and personal experiences into their work as the director of the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center. They believe the role of the Resource Center on campus to be multifold. “[It] serves as a community space for connection, identity, exploration and resiliency building of members of LGBTQIA community or members that are questioning either sexual orientation or gender identity,” they said.
Overall, they said they aim to “serve as the think-tank…maybe an instigator of more inclusive practices amongst allies of queer and trans folk” to promote inclusivity and generate discussion in other departments and amongst students and faculty.
Pride Month tells the story of the resilience of a community, as well as signals a call for support as the fight towards equity and inclusivity continues. Learn more about the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center at lgbtqia.gatech.edu