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Christopher Street Day: A Look At Pride Around The World

With summer fast approaching, plans are well under way for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride events across the world, sometimes called Christopher Street Day to commemorate the riots that took place on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York in June of 1969. The following year, New York’s LGBT+ activists took to the streets in the first ever pride parade, sparking the liberation movement and similar events in major cities throughout the US, Europe, Asia, and Africa over the next few decades as grassroots efforts took hold.

While Gay Pride has grown from a political rally or march on single day to a sometimes weeks-long cultural event, its origins are still celebrated by name, particularly on the Continent. One of the largest LGBT+ events in Europe and running since 1979, Gay Pride in Berlin is generally known as CSD Berlin in honor of the historical uprising, along with CSD Hamburg, CSD Cologne, and CSD Zurich in Switzerland. Christopher Street Day generally consists of a parade with floats, walking groups of people from different LGBT organizations, and individual celebrants, often in costume or dressed in drag, BDSM, or other community-specific fashion.

This year’s global LGBT+ celebrations are expected to be extra-special, since 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Branded by the New York nonprofit Heritage of Pride as Stonewall 50/WorldPride 2019, it will span the entire month of June and draw over 3 million attendees, making it the largest international Gay Pride event in history.

WorldPride offers everything ranging from the playful to the powerful, including:

  • Youth and family nights,
  • Ice Hockey & CosPlay,
  • Live music & stage performances,
  • Brunch, tastings, and other cuisine
  • LGBTQIA+ film, art exhibits and galleries,
  • Religious discussions, and
  • Human rights conferences.

Festival-goers will also see the return of a multi-day pop concert, as well as the more traditional PrideFest street fair, LGBT Week showcasing LGBT history, and of course the March on the final day. Featured this year will be a commemorative Stonewall Rally for LGBTQIA+ rights held on Christopher Street on June 28th as part of a reimagining of the first gay power rally held in NYC.

Rounding out the calendar are parties of every kind, from pool parties to rooftop parties, sober parties to fetish parties, and parties so cool they have names: Femme Fatale, Teaze, BRÜT, DIES3L, and the Hustlaball.

Some advocates and especially older activists have been critical of the overt sexualization of the modern festival. However, the idea behind liberation movement is having the freedom to express one’s identity to the fullest, without fear or shame, and that includes gender and sexuality. More recently, the parades have also become more commercialized, with corporate-sponsored floats and trucks. This, too, sparked controversy, despite the funds being donated in many cases to LGBT+ charities, NGOs, and rights groups.

On the other hand, the festivals and parades themselves are still a platform for political and social activist movements, with speeches, campaigning, and sponsorship from political parties, community leaders, and regular attendees (who can pre-register to speak online). With modern technology and especially social media, the activist spirit can travel far beyond the parade route with hashtags, viral videos, and social media campaigns that raise awareness and support for human and LGBT+ rights.

Not all cities celebrate in summer, or even to commemorate the riots. Moscow, for instance, celebrates in May to mark the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia, which didn’t happen until 1993. In Taiwan, their annual Pride Parade happens in October or November, while Canada, Denmark, and Vietnam hold theirs in August. Unfortunately, many countries don't have official events recognizing the gay and lesbian community at all, either due to abuse from protestors or government backlash - making Pride and its accomplishments more important now than ever.