By: Randi Adler

For most Floridians, June marks the beginning of hurricane season. But for the LGBT community, June represents a bigger whirlwind movement filled with rainbow flags. June is LGBT Pride month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising in NY, where after years of police harassment, approximately 200 gay patrons stood up to the police in what is now known as the Stonewall Riots. This event marked the beginning of the gay rights movement for LGBT people seeking equal treatment and an end to their discrimination, harassment and violence. The Stonewall riots paved the way for the freedoms that benefit today’s LGBT community.

Why is the rainbow flag a symbol for LGBT pride and what does it represent? Although there are many symbols that signify different factions of the LGBT community, none is more popular than the rainbow flag. It was first designed by a San Francisco artist in 1978, but contained 8 colors. Today’s rainbow flag shares the same symbolism as the original and is generally flown with the red stripe at the top, similar to a natural rainbow spectrum. Each color represents a different facet of a diverse LGBT community: Red= Life, Orange= Healing, Yellow= Sunlight, Green= Nature, Blue= Peace and Harmony, and Purple= Spirit.

All over the world, LGBT people celebrate their freedom in June Pride festivals and marches, and in some places they risk their lives and livelihoods, while honoring the memories of those who were denied those rights and on whose shoulders we stand. The first Pride event took place in 1970, but it wasn’t until 2000 when President Bill Clinton declared June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” And JCS has been at many Pride festivals over the years as an ally and supporter. Fighting for equality and freedom is an on-going challenge for the LGBT community, but efforts to end discrimination and harassment have always been advanced with the strong and solid support from many powerful and vocal allies. JCS has been one of those voices for decades, and stands in solidarity against violence, discrimination and harassment of marginalized groups such as the LGBT community. Our new Lambda Living program serving LGBT adults 55+ solidifies JCS’ commitment to serving the entire LGBT community from youth to older adults

JCS has made this commitment. So how can you be an ally to the LGBT community? Speak up when you hear homophobic comments or gay jokes and slurs. Defend your friends and colleagues against discrimination and harassment. Don’t assume that everyone you know is straight. Be open minded. Educate yourself. Be mindful of any hidden biases you carry. Put a safe zone sticker or rainbow flag in your office or classroom. Be willing to talk, but even more willing to listen. Remember that you’re human and will make mistakes. And believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Make the pledge today to be an ally. What are you willing to do?

For more information on Lambda Living and other JCS programs please call the JCS Access Hotline at 305-576-6550.