Every so often, Professor Martha Brenckle thinks about a group of people she never met who gathered at Bill Federick Park at Turkey Lake more than 40 years ago.
This group of ordinary people organized Orlando’s first pride picnic.
“It’s just amazing to me that they did that — these regular, everyday people who had normal jobs — they weren’t politicians or celebrities,” Brenckle says. “Yet here they were in 1979, sticking their necks out, making themselves visible, to make other peoples’ lives better. I think we really need to keep those people in mind today and take up their charge.”
Living with pride is something Brenckle does all year long. She was one of the founding members of UCF’s Pride Faculty and Staff Association a decade ago. She serves as the treasurer for the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida, is involved with Equality Florida and previously served on The Center’s board.
She helps explain the history and significance behind the nation’s Pride and LGBTQ History months.
“I hope we all remember that everybody is worthy of respect. Everybody is worthy of rights. Everybody is worthy of kindness,” Brenckle says.
June. Although it has been celebrated for more than 50 years, President Bill Clinton officially declared June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in 2000. President Barack Obama expanded the observance in 2011 to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.
Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBT Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. It is also common for memorials to be held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.
Pride Month was initially inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and works to achieve equal justice and opportunity for LGBTQ Americans. The purpose of the month is to recognize the impact that LGBTQ individuals have had on society locally, nationally and internationally.
“These are groups of people who for so long lived in the closet and hid their real identities,” Brenkle says. “I think it’s very important to make note of that, and also to make note of the fact that things are still not perfect. Yes, we have same sex marriage, but we don’t have adoption rights in every single state. We don’t have the same employment rights in every single state. We still have students kicked out of their homes for coming out. Things are still problematic in our daily lives. I think those things need to be brought forward and need to be talked about. That awareness is why these pride events are so important.”
The Stonewall Uprising occurred June 28, 1969, and was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the 1960s, the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village was a gay club and refuge for many in the LGBTQ community. On June 28, 1969, the New York City police raided the inn, sparking a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents with the police. The riot involved hundreds of people and led to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park.
A year later on June 28, thousands of people marched from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park in what was then called “Christopher Street Liberation Day” — marking what is now recognized as the nation’s first gay pride parade. Since 1970, LGBTQ+ people and allies have continued to gather together in June to march with pride and demonstrate for equal rights.
October. LGBT History Month was created in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. October was selected to coincide with National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), which was already established, and the anniversary of the first march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights in 1979.
“I would recommend that people learn about Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith and Gina Duncan as leaders in the movement today,” Brenkle says.
The month now also includes Spirit Day on Oct. 20, on which people around the country wear purple in support of LGBT youth; Ally Week, a week in which allies against LGBT bullying are celebrated; and the anniversary of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard’s murder on Oct. 12, 1998, which led to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
The month is meant to highlight and celebrate the history and achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. According to GLAAD, “during the early years, the celebration was largely marked by a call to action and commemoration. But since then, LGBT History Month has blossomed into a national coordinated effort to highlight exemplary role models from the LGBT community. Since 2006, this push has so far been led by LGBT rights and education organization Equality Forum.”
Orlando’s first pride parade was held in 1991 as part of a small rally organized by Orlando Regional Pride. In 2005, it was moved to October to coincide with National Coming Out Day. This year, “Come Out with Pride” will be held Oct. 9, welcoming residents and visitors from all over the country to downtown Orlando. Additionally, the National Trans Visibility march will be taking place right before this year’s Pride parade.
The museum is virtual and does not have a physical address. Prior to the pandemic, Brenckle says the museum, which is staffed by volunteers, offered traveling exhibits at schools, centers and events. You can still access their services at floridalgbtqmuseum.org.
“We have an amazing digital archive that people can go into and read and borrow from if they’re teaching something or need it for research,” she says.
The UCF events calendar has the most up-to-date information regarding events held on the university’s campuses.
June 7: Paint with Pride, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
June 7: Trans Empowerment Workshop, 1–2 p.m.
June 8: 5 Years Later: Reflection on Pulse, 2–3 p.m.
June 9: We all have One Pulse Blood Drive, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
June 10: UCF Remembers Pulse Vigil, 7–8:30 p.m.
June 15: Safe Zone Advocate Training, noon until 1:30 p.m.
Consider making a gift to LGBTQ+ Services. The mission of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning/Queer (LGBTQ+) Services is to connect our diverse student population to opportunities, resources, and each other to achieve the vision of a stronger, healthier, and more equitable world for LGBTQ+ people and its allies.