ST. LOUIS – As June comes to a close, so will Pride 2019 – but, at least in St. Louis, it won’t go quietly.
Each year, June signifies Pride month around the country, a celebration for the LGBTQ community to commemorate the struggles and victories of gay and transgender rights in the United States. Each city and state celebrates differently, and for St. Louis there are plenty of options.
For those who enjoy crowds, there are three festivals and marches to check out, each offering something a little bit different.
The official Pride St. Louis parade downtown happens at noon on Sunday, but the festival itself kicks off on Saturday. Attendance at this event promises to be high, as it is every year, despite recent backlash over the announcement that uniformed police officers will be allowed to join the parade.
For those not looking to head downtown, the Tower Grove Pride festival begins at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, featuring more than 150 local vendors who are a part of – or support – the LGBTQ community. Though it has grown significantly over the years, the Tower Grove Pride, which began in 2012, started off small, “on a single block off South Grand and Juniata [Street],” according to a May newsletter put out by the organizing group.
Seven years later, “it has quickly grown into one of the biggest Pride festivals in the region,” the organization boasted in its newsletter.
But before the events of Saturday and Sunday, the ACLU will host a Trans and Gender-Free Pride March, which begins on the corner of Arsenal and Oregon streets. The aim of this march is specifically to uplift the lives of LGBTQ members who are trans or reject traditional gender labels.
If this year’s Pride seems like an even bigger celebration than usual, it’s for good reason: 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, a series of violent face-offs that took place between the police and gay people in 1969 during raids of several gay bars, including the Stonewall Inn, in New York’s Greenwich Village. This uprising is widely regarded as marking the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.
Less well-known than the events at Stonewall is a incident that took place in St. Louis not long after. According to the St. Louis LGBT History Project, on Halloween night in 1969, nine men were arrested for “masquerading” – the term then used for cross-dressing – and were bailed out by the Mandrake Society, which is considered to be one of the very first groups in the city advocating for the rights of gays.
Fifty years later, celebration of Pride is bigger than ever.
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Pride and its history in St. Louis this year. For more information about the parade downtown, visit https://pridestl.org/about/pride. For more about the Tower Grove Pride, check out https://www.towergrovepark.org/calendar/pride-xn3pp. And for information about the Trans and Gender-Free Pride, check out https://www.facebook.com/events/328021967880466/.