In the late 1960s, homophile organisations such as the Daughters of Bilitis began to hold 'annual reminder' events, which were pickets at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, aiming to raise awareness that LGBT people did not have equal rights. At these events, a participant called Frank Kameny originated the slogan "Gay Is Good", a mantra that would become associated with the Gay Rights Movement for years to come. Then, after the Stonewall Riots in 1969 that sparked off the change in legislation toward LGBT people, the event moved to New York City and was rechristened the "Christopher Street Liberation Day", aiming to annually commemorate this key moment in LGBT history. With the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance climbing on board, the event suddenly became a much larger and more organised affair.
Initially, marches were radical and politicised, attracting attention for their flagrant challenge to the societies they were part of. As time went on however, the focus shifted toward becoming a celebration over inflammatory protests, with most "liberation" or "freedom" marches became rechristened as Prides. As these festivals became more popular in the 1980s, they were organised and led by quickly growing organisations that aimed to be all-inclusive and open for all. And as the AIDS pandemic spread quickly throughout the community, events took the shift toward fund-raising and becoming statements of unity in a time of disparity.
However far the LGBT Community has come from its earliest liberation, there's no denying that full social equality is yet to be achieved. Though equality is now enshrined in UK law, the trickle-down effect is yet to permeate the deepest recesses of some segments of society, meaning that the need for a LGBT-centric political focus is still very much in existence. Add to that the need for representation for specific LGBT issues, and the initial need for earlier Prides has not yet gone away. So as Prides now commonly operate as commercial ventures, what exactly is the political message of Pride nowadays? Does is it even have one?
As Pride has become part of the dominant mainstream, creating tentpole events in city calendars across the world, so too has come alternative counter-culture reaction to it. From 'Straight Pride' to 'Gay Shame' organisations, some groups stage alternative events that push politicised and sometimes radical agendas once more. But if you think about the actual word 'Pride', which is surely pushing a positive message, cannot these two quite different events co-exist without one being staged as a protest to the other? Of course there is the need for political demonstration still, but there's nothing wrong with celebrating what we have achieved. Pride should be what it says on the tin, regardless of how some people make money from it. Most early gay rights marches didn't assume the name 'Pride' until much later, so what's to stop splinter groups from existing independently, wholly unassociated with Pride? You don't have to attend these events after all.