A few days ago, strolling among the aisles of a supermarket, my mother, 61, stopped at the body creams. “What do these colors mean?” she asked me, holding up a Nivea cream with rainbow flags and the transgender pride flag. She’s known the first for 18 years—as long as I’ve been out of the closet. I explained the second to her without much thought.

We kept walking, and then it dawned on me—almost every product had the rainbow flag emblazoned on it. That can only mean one thing: Pride Month is here.

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Credit: Reuters.

When did we forget the true meaning of LGBTQ+ Pride?

Since 25 years ago, when President Bill Clinton declared June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, the rainbow colors have become a symbol of celebration. At that time, the FDA had finally approved an antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, and the future looked bright for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

However, very little has changed since then. Yes, equal marriage was approved in some countries. But in many others, being an LGBTQ+ person is a death sentence. Countries like Peru re-declared homosexuality as a mental illness in 2024, and hundreds of transgender people die every year as victims of hate crimes.

Meanwhile, companies stamp rainbow flags on their products left and right, even if they privately lobby for political candidates who want to take away the few rights we have gained in recent years.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

That’s why this year, we should remember that Pride Month began as a riot, not a celebration

On the night of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in Lower Manhattan in New York City. It was one of the few places where gay people could freely be themselves. Since the mob owned the bar, the raids were constant.

At the time, dancing between people of the same sex was forbidden and carried prison sentences. It was a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, often breaking into venues to arrest LGBTQ+ people, humiliate them in public, and force them to spend the night in jail.

Credit: Everett/Rex Shutterstock.

But on that June night in 1969, two transgender women of color decided to say “enough.” Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera cast the first stone in what would become a historic riot. Police set fire to the venue, and the streets became a civil rights battleground.

The standoff lasted 45 minutes. All those arrested chanted until dawn, “Gay rights, gay rights, gay rights.” The next day, the world was not the same.

Credit: RTS.

The fight for rights is more important today than ever

A lot has changed since 1969. And yet, everything remains the same. We take one step forward in the right to equality but are still five steps behind. Women have been stripped of their reproductive rights, Drag Queens are persecuted and censored, transgender people fight every day for their right to exist, and the world witnesses genocide in real-time.

So what exactly do we have to celebrate this June? On the contrary, it is time to organize, demonstrate and make it clear to the system that, in the words of Maya Angelou, “no one of us can be free until everybody is free.”