In the early hours of the morning of June 28, 1969, the patrons of The Stonewall Inn in New York City had had enough. After police converged on the bar to arrest and harass the LGBTQ attendees, as was customary, many fought back, sparking what would inspire the gay liberation movement.
More than fifty years later, Pride Month stands as our annual reminder of that struggle — one that queer and trans communities are still regularly facing. In 2022, state legislatures around the United States proposed hundreds of bills intended to limit or outright infringe on the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community. Those bills (some of which are now laws) include limiting how we discuss sexuality and gender in classrooms, preventing young transgender women from participating in school sports, removing access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth and more.
It’s important to remember that Pride began as a protest. While that initial riot at The Stonewall Inn has since given way to colorful and uplifting parades, festivals and parties around the world, the original intention still holds — continue resisting those who would see our rights diminished.
Music has always been a potent tool for galvanizing communities, and that is certainly the case when it comes to protests. Dating back centuries, the protest song has been long associated with creating a singular message for communities looking to change the world around them for the better. Billboard takes a look at 20 protest anthems that embody the LGBTQ community’s unwavering spirit of activism.