When it comes to feel-good parades, it’s hard to beat a present-day Pride procession. From Seattle to Sydney to Stockholm, they’re kaleidoscopic explosions of love, color, glitter and often expertly applied makeup. They’re everything joyful and communal. But they weren’t always lighthearted celebrations of sexual diversity—and as we honor June as LGBTQ Pride month, we feel it’s important to recognize the adversity as well as the positivity.
Beyond the rainbows, floats and festive costumes exists the continuing struggle for tolerance and equal rights for the LGBTQ community—one that has been hallmarked by many events throughout history, but most notably in the U.S. by the Stonewall riots of June 1969 in Greenwich Village in New York City. The riots, precipitated by police raids gone violently awry, were one of the first organized attempts to massively protest the oppression of LGBTQ people. The following year, major cities across the country—from New York to L.A.—commemorated Stonewall with political marches in June, and Pride month was essentially born. Over the decades, Pride marches have evolved into festive parades with floats and cheery regalia, especially in large, accepting cities, but it’s critical to remain mindful of the human-rights movement that has spurred these festivals.
This year we’re spotlighting five inspirational people who’ve served as grand marshals in past parades. As the leader of a parade, the role of grand marshal is as honorable as it sounds. In fact, it’s the highest honor the LGBTQ community can bestow upon an individual—and those chosen are often nominated for their exceptional achievements in the fight for human rights.