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Decriminalizing Love: From the Origin of Pride Walks to What Happened in Turkey This June

Updated: Jul 11, 2023


Happy (Past) Pride Month to all who love bravely and unapologetically! This is your month. We know that June is dedicated to the pride that the LGBTQ+ community holds very firmly; however, there is little knowledge about how June became a month we hold the spotlight to listen and embrace a part of our humanity. In addition to this, how did the parades and walks start at first? Today, I will first give a brief history flashback and then shift the focus to the recent pride walks in our country, Turkey.

The homosexual rights movement originated in the early 1900s when a small group of people in North America and Europe started gay and lesbian groups, such as the Society for Human Rights, established in Chicago in the 1920s by Henry Gerber. Following World War II, a limited number of organizations, including the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, issued newsletters that supported gays and lesbians. They were increasingly outspoken in their demands for accepting and opposing discrimination against gays and lesbians. For instance, in defiance of municipal laws against providing alcohol to gays, members of the Mattachine Society staged a "sip-in" protest at Julius, a bar in New York City, in 1966. They demanded beverages after declaring that they were gay which caused a movement after they were denied service.


The New York Police Department (NYPD) occasionally searched pubs and eateries where gays and lesbians were known to congregate, as was customary in numerous cities. On June 28, 1969, the NYPD conducted a bar raid at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan's Greenwich Village district. Several people engaged the NYPD in combat as they violently removed customers and staff from the tavern, and a throng of incensed locals gathered in the streets. The altercations quickly became violent, causing six days of protests and skirmishes with the NYPD surrounding the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. By the time the Stonewall Riots ended on July 2, 1969, the gay rights movement had transformed from a marginal issue that politicians and the media mainly ignored into a global front-page story.


One year later, during the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, activists in New York City marched through the streets of Manhattan to commemorate the uprising. The march, organized by the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Umbrella Committee, was named the Christopher Street Liberation Day March.


In time, that celebration became known as the Gay Pride Parade. In a podcast, he was a guest in activist Craig Schoonmaker said “I authored the word ‘pride’ for gay pride … [my] first thought was ‘Gay Power.’ I didn’t like that, so I proposed gay pride. There’s very little chance for people in the world to have power. People did not have power then; we only have some now. But anyone can have pride in themselves, which would make them happier as people and produce the movement likely to produce change.” The march, which took place on June 28, 1970, is now considered the country’s first gay pride parade, which has become an annual tradition that has jumped onto all continents worldwide to celebrate love.


Flash on to 2023 Turkey, the pride walks in Izmir, and Istanbul has been a hot topic for the media this last week. While we always hope for a better and, most importantly, a safer future for the LGBTQ+ community every year in our country, we are far behind where we should be as a mindset. While not wanting to generalize to all the people, the events that occurred in these walks in the past days and similar ones in the years before are all we must give our vast attention to.


The governor of Izmir announced before Pride Week that there should not be a meeting, a walk, or a press release in the name of Pride and the LGBTQ+ community, which they said was to protect the general public morals. While always becoming the trending topic in politics as “a component that destructs the Turkish family structure,” the LGBTQ+ community and many allies did not regard such sayings as an obstacle to celebrating love. The walks continued in both big cities, and as the governors said in their prior sayings, they used every force they could to stop them.


The governor of Istanbul, Davut Gül, said that 113 protestors were arrested in the walk near Taksim. He released this number while declaring pride walks as a thing that will weaken the family structure and the people’s moral values. He also added that one should not participate in such propaganda events even though it is for criticism purposes only, which damages the freedom of expression of Turkish citizens.


The saddening part is that this is a repetitive occurrence that has been continuing for 11 years now. The freedom of expression of the LGBTQ+ community is in great danger in many countries, including Turkey. Not only are people’s basic living needs being violated, but their expression rights are also under threat. This is evident in 64 countries, where behaviors that people see as more suited to LGBTQ+ members are considered ‘perverse’ or outright ‘illegal’. As for Turkey, it may be a noteworthy statement to make that a government that labels something which has been legal since the Ottoman years as illegal does nothing but contradict itself. No one should criminalize love as it is the purest form of emotional expression, but it unfortunately is done. We hope to see better days with more education, more love, and less hatred. We must stay hopeful because if not hope, what must we hold on to?


Edited by: Melisa Altıntaş


Cited:

"Homosexuality: The countries where it is illegal to be gay." BBC, 31 Mar. 2023, www.bbc.com/news/world-43822234.

"Pride Month 2023." History, 8 May 2023, www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/pride-month.



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