At its inception, LGBT Pride Month, established in 1995, was created in remembrance of those who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. It also commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, when queer men and women fought back against police for the first time during a regular midnight raid on a gay bar. That event is widely considered to be the birth of the gay rights movement.
Today, Pride Month represents the LGBTQIA community’s hard-won political and social battles, from the legacy of Harvey Milk and Ellen Degeneres’s groundbreaking televised coming out in 1997 to the 2011 downfall of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage nationwide. Our current administration wants to ignore these victories against persecution, however. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump, whose supporters often defend as the first president to enter office supporting gay marriage, refused to acknowledge LGBT Pride Month. Instead, the White House issued a proclamation that observed June as National Homeownership Month.
It’s easy to recognize just how much better things have gotten since 1969—because they have—but Pride is not just a celebration. It is a movement, and it will continue to be the movement of anyone who has been ignored or cast aside by their governments, families, religions or communities based on whom they love—and who they are. Despite huge strides toward acceptance and visibility (there have been many), we are facing new battles everyday. Sexually active gay and bisexual men still cannot donate blood in this country. The state of West Virginia does not identify anti-gay attacks as hate crimes. Sixteen states are considering bills that would restrict transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice. And across the country, federal protections for LGBT students are being dismissed under Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Tolerance is not equality. LGBT people are not second-class citizens.
Since its founding, playboy has supported sexual freedom for all, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. It is why we published Charles Beaumont’s controversial The Crooked Man in 1955 after Esquire rejected it. That groundbreaking short story, about a reverse society wherein everyone is gay and it’s criminalized to be straight, is now available on Playboy.com for the first time ever.
Similarly, it’s why playboy engaged in conversations about homosexuality with sex scientists William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson in 1979, 24 years before Lawrence v. Texas ruled anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Playboy Interviews with a number of queer figures, including David Bowie, Boy George, Dan Savage and Rachel Maddow, have followed. In 1991, we featured transgender model Tula in her own Playboy pictorial, long before the world understood gender dysphoria. And in 2012, Hugh Hefner called on the public to support gay marriage. For more than 60 years, playboy has advocated for the right of identity for all.
We will continue to be an ally, especially as political division, homophobia and “religious freedom” threaten our progress on these issues as a nation. And so, one year after the tragedy at Pulse nightclub and ahead of the 48th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, we wanted to examine what it means to be out, proud and queer in a time of political divisiveness. To do so, we asked five public figures in entertainment, politics, music and journalism to write on the power of living their truth. Each contribution is as moving as it is at times heartbreaking.
Collectively, this series delivers a powerful message to any LGBT person living in fear: You are worthy, you are valid and you are loved. This year, playboy is proud to be part of a movement that will always celebrate just that: love. We are not done yet, but we will march on.
Check out more stories from our on-going Playboy Pride series here.