Lesbian Pride - How to make pride yours
Every year we get flooded with the rainbows that used to be a signal for solidarity. Now, it’s just a corporate brand-aid for the harm done during the other eleven months as the LGBTQIA+ community gets ignored or worse, condemned. (Nope, not referencing a chicken restaurant at all… or a bank that may or may not have just donated to an unnamed governor who doesn’t even want us to say who we are out loud.) But lost in the sauce of homophobia is a more specific issue - lesbian erasure, especially during pride. Women who love women have been busting their lovely lady lumps for the evolution of the revolution since the jump… and yet no one knows who Stormé is but you’re going to learn today.
Obligatory Flag Discussion
There are several flags representing femme pride, each with its own subsect of lesbianism. The original lesbian pride flag, the labrys, is purple with a black inverted triangle. Within the black triangle is an ax. There is controversy around this flag now since it has been used by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) and because it was created by a man.
Later we saw the lipstick and later the pink flag. The lipstick flag was several shades of pink with a lipstick print superimposed over the stripes. Some felt it was exclusionary to the butch community, while others argued that “lipstick lesbian” was invented by porn houses who wanted to market girl-on-girl sex. The removal of the lipsticked lips made the flag more politically accessible and became widely adopted at pride marches.
A few years afterward, we saw a new flag that represented more of the gender spectrum within the community, and later, a flag that looked more like the gay pride flag with the double Venus was adopted.
No one flag seems to represent all groups, and thus, no one flag is THE flag for lesbian pride whether at actual Pride or in general.
Women Loving Women at Pride
While there’s a lot of praise and attention for our Auntie Marsha, it was actually butch lesbian Stormé DeLarverie who set off the Stonewall Riots. According to Marsha P. Johnson, she got there about 40 minutes after it started and it was well underway.
“It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience – it wasn't no damn riot.”
The story goes that on June 28, 1969, Stormé and other butch patrons were being beaten and harassed by the police. Stormé fought back for several minutes with about four police officers. As they threw her into the paddy wagon, she shouted, “DO SOMETHING!” and the crowd erupted at her ignition.
One year later, lesbian pride showed up in the form of Ellen Broidy’s petition for Christopher Street Liberation Day in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Further carrying the torch is Brenda Howard who chaired the Gay Activist Alliance and was an active member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The latter helped push gay rights through New York City legislation alongside Act Up! And Queer Nation. An outspoken bisexual polyamorous woman, Howard pushed for progress by marching on Washington for lesbian and gay rights and again 7 years later for lesbian, gay, and bisexual equal rights and liberation. Her experience as an activist eventually led to her chairing Stonewall 25 and later being recognized on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City's Stonewall Inn.
In 1992, we saw the rise of the Lesbian Avengers. With the goal of raising visibility, the Lesbian Avengers collaborated with Black and POC lesbians to create jaw-dropping antics. The most famous of their accomplishments is the Dyke March which is sometimes featured at the official Pride parades. The Dyke March is a celebration that specifically pushes those who identify as dykes to the frontlines, reclaiming what was once a slur while also achieving the goal of visibility.
Over the years there has been some disappointment at the lack of visibility at Pride and other LGBTQIA2S+ movements and events. According to a study done by the popular dating app, Her, 30% of lesbians feel uncomfortable at Pride and that number rises to 43% with bisexual women. Outnumbered and overlooked, women loving women feel overlooked. Many ignore Pride altogether.
In other cases, some lesbians feel usurped by transwomen who love women. With allegations of coercive rape and imposed manipulation by people who are assigned male at birth, for them, lesbian pride means leaving out anyone who doesn’t fit their definition of lesbianism.
There are so many stories that we will never know ever happened in the ongoing fight for visibility and equality. The best way to know your future is to know your past and this article is by no means comprehensive. At best, it’s a launchpad for research into the interesting and twisty history of women who are proud to love other women, regardless of how they reached womanhood.
Do some digging into the names, events, and movements listed here, and let them take you down the path of lesbian pride at Pride.
— A. Moon Johnson is a Sexual Culture and Wellness Writer focusing on LGBTQIA+ Communities