These pics show why America's first LGBTQ Pride marchers were badass rebels.

America's first LGBTQ Pride marchers stormed the streets of New York City in 1970, demanding to be seen as human.

These marches didn't appear out of thin air, of course. Queer New Yorkers had had it by then.

Photo by Diana Davies/The New York Public Library.


The previous summer, anger and pain had boiled over in lower Manhattan.

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, police violently raided a queer bar, The Stonewall Inn, for no other reason than the patrons were LGBTQ.

For years, queer New Yorkers had endured harassment at the hands of cops; the June 28 raid wasn't an isolated incident.

So they rioted. They threw bricks. They refused to leave in peace. They made front page headlines too, birthing the modern LGBTQ rights movement. And those first Stonewall rioters — led largely by transgender and non-binary people of color — sparked a revolution.

Exactly one year after the Stonewall riots, on June 28, 1970, America's very first Pride march took place in New York City. At the time, it was celebrated as Gay Liberation Day.  

Photo by Diana Davies/The New York Public Library.

The following year, a second consecutive march ensued. A movement was gaining steam.

These people really were badass rebels.

They saw their own humanity — and fought for it fiercely — while the rest of the world refused to acknowledge it.

Photo by Diana Davies/The New York Public Library.

Through these first Pride marches, homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. There were no openly LGBTQ politicians at any level of government across the country, nor were there any federal policies protecting gay rights (let alone trans rights) in any form. Anti-sodomy laws were still in place in every state except Illinois.  

To boldly take to the streets under those circumstances — when your very existence was scoffed at by large majorities of Americans — takes a ridiculous amount of bravery.

Photo by Diana Davies/The New York Public Library.

Those who were marching in the first years were rebel badasses, motivated to their core to stand up for what they believed in.

The world can be a dark place. Some days, it feels like we're going backward, away from progress. And maybe some days we are.

But in those moments, it's worth remembering the people in these photos. People like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who launched Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to group, protect, and house homeless transgender people in New York City. All the rioters at Stonewall they stood beside. The very first LGBTQ Pride marchers filling the streets — angry but hopeful, demanding the world change.

They didn't buckle to hateful forces then. And neither should we.

Marsha P. Johnson. Photo by Diana Davies/The New York Public Library.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

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Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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