The greatest month of the year is finally upon us: Pride month! It’s a chance to don your best rainbow wear, regardless of whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, and celebrate the fact that love is love, regardless of what form it takes.
But it is also important to remember the roots of this wonderful event and its founders – including a trans woman of color, Marsha P. Johnson. So let’s take a look back at the incredible changes which have taken place since the first gay pride march in 1970 – a year after the notorious Stonewall riots.
Back then, homosexuality was viewed with absolute disdain and punishable by law. However, the first gay pride marches in the early 1970s slowly but surely began to incite change, with homosexuality being removed from the American list of psychiatric disorders in 1973.
This led to a domino effect in various cities and states when it came to the decriminalization of homosexuality – a change which inspired people to come out in their droves. That being said, we still have a long way to go when it comes to giving the LGBTQ+ community absolute quality.
While we might have marriage equality and safe spaces around the US for the LGBTQ+ community, they are still openly discriminated against.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2015 that members of the LGBTQ+ community were allowed to openly serve in the US military, and this change was problematized last year when President Trump proposed a ban that would prevent transgender people from doing so.
While the proposed blanket ban was blocked, a ban preventing “transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition” was signed in March. Although the Pentagon has the opportunity to express discretion on the matter, it’s a reflection of the fact that pride is as important as ever in 2018.
Marsha P. Johnson, who was one of the first people to throw bricks during the Stonewall Riots, was famously asked what the P in her name stood for and she simply replied “Pay no mind”, demonstrating that all the LGBTQ+ community really want is to be treated like everybody else.
Writing as a cisgender straight woman born in the early 1990s, I was shocked to learn that homosexuality was still so badly viewed in 1994 that the US military legitimately considered making a “gay bomb”. Unlike the sorts of gay bombs we would all love to see at pride (filled with glitter and sass), this gay bomb was proposed to have the ability to turn enemy soldiers homosexual – as hard as that is to believe.
While most bombs used in combat have traditionally been created to cause mass destruction, either to property or individuals, the US military’s gay bomb was theoretically going to give them the upper hand in combat by forcing their enemy’s soldiers into each other’s arms and subsequently causing them to retreat from battle. As implausible as it is, there is some scientific evidence which actually supports its existence.
To see the gay bomb hilariously lampooned, check out the video below:
All jokes aside, the fact that such a bomb was even contemplated in the not-so-distant past is a testament to how poorly the LGBTQ+ community have been viewed in the US. With the gay bomb, homosexuality was essentially deemed to be as damaging to a person’s existence as shrapnel and gunpowder. So why weren’t the latter used? Well, it’s because the military wanted to explore non-lethal and unnatural forms of warfare.
The gay bomb’s function was detailed in $7.5 million proposal (as you can tell, taxpayer money is being used wisely…), which explained that it would release a cloud of gas that contained “a chemical that would cause the enemy soldiers to become gay and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attracted to one another”.
As improbable as the existence of a chemical which could turn someone gay is, it’s actually within the realm of possibility and that’s why the government decided to research the concept. Namely, through the use of pheromones AKA airborne compounds that increase sex drive.
Thankfully, for the sake of avoiding a monstrous historical blunder and taking LGBTQ+ rights back in time, the gay bomb never reached the production phase. The proposal that homosexuality can be used as a weapon, however, has had repercussions that are being felt to this day.
Even though the gay bomb was never made, it inspired researchers operating in the early noughties, who cited it as a source of inspiration for other insane creations like a bomb that would attract swarms of bees to enemy camps and the “Who? Me?” bomb, which was theorized to smell like flatulence so strong that it would stop enemy soldiers dead in their tracks. Needless to say, neither of these were created either.
Although, admittedly, they sound like more likely ways of stopping an advancing enemy than the gay bomb, which would have only worked if all gay men were instantly attracted to each other and couldn’t help but copulate – even if they were being shot at. Outstanding logic there.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering how we know about the gay bomb’s existence, it was discovered by the US Freedom of Information by the Sunshine Project, which monitors the research that’s been carried out into the creation of chemical and biological weapons.
If you live in a liberal society and are not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it can be easy to trick yourself into believing that we have achieved equality. The reality, however, is that LGBTQ+ people fear for their lives on a daily basis and, even in seemingly progressive societies, face discrimination for something that is outwith their control. This why I encourage you to support your LGBTQ+ friends and family this Pride.
Last month, my best friend got married to her girlfriend. It was the first gay wedding I’ve ever attended, and at the reception, I got chatting to one of the guests who told me that after the ceremony, cars passing by the newlyweds were tooting their horns, even though they were a same-sex couple. I want to live in a world where every couple gets the chance to be treated like this. At the end of the day, love is love.