When I went to my first Pride parade back in 2006, a hairy-legged Dorothy Gale strutted up to me in her ruby heels and gave me a history lesson. After asking, “Why the Wizard of Oz for Pride?” the Chicago drag queen told me it was referential to the safety code gay men used when homosexual acts were illegal in the United States. Asking if someone was “friends with Dorothy” was a euphemism for discussing their sexual orientation and a means of identifying allies. A few cocktail swigs later, she and her stuffed Toto rejoined the parade and my celebrations carried on.
They don’t teach this stuff in school, or at least they didn’t when I was growing up. While my fourteen-year-old self knew that I wasn’t yet allowed to get legally married, I wasn’t aware that being LGBTQ+ used to be punishable by arrest, or worse, death. I had no idea that the first gay pride was not a parade but a march. An event that was accompanied not by retail but a riot.
Since the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 (today regarded as the first-ever Pride), things have seemingly gone from sepia to technicolor. Every June, brands around the world use this month as an opportunity to express their support for the gay community. Some do it oh-so-well, while others struggle to achieve something beyond the low-hanging fruit of selling yassss-qweeeen crop tops and branded rainbow flags.