The earliest western documents (literary works and art objects) concerning same-sex relationships came from ancient Greece (a society that thrived until about 1150 BC). But anthropologists have uncovered evidence of homosexuality as far back as people have existed, in ancient Greece and Rome, Japan, Muslim lands, North America, Siberia, Africa, the Mayans of South America, and many other cultures. Looking to historical figures, it is generally accepted that Socrates, Sappho, Lord Byron, Edward II, Hadrian, Julius Caesar, Michelangelo, Donatello and Christopher Marlowe were gay. Plato praised gay relationships in his early writings and, during the Renaissance, Florence and Venice were renowned for their widespread practice of same-sex love by a large part of the elite population.
The actual word "homosexual" first appeared in an 1869 German pamphlet by novelist Karl-Maria Kertbeny, published anonymously. The use of the word "gay", as it relates to homosexuality, is documented as early as the 1920s, but gained popular usage during the 1970s as homosexuals sought a term of empowerment, extending the original definition of "carefree and uninhibited" as a positive alternative to conventional sexuality.
The modern gay rights movement started on June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. As police began arresting patrons, some resisted and encouraged others to do the same — until a full-scale riot broke out. The violent conflicts lasted several days, with police randomly beating both gay and straight people in the area. Thousands of gay and transgender people responded by converging on the scene and fighting back.
"The Stonewall Riots" became the catalyst for the worldwide gay rights movement because gay and transgender people had never before come together in such large numbers to defend their community. Many cities hold their gay pride celebrations in June in honor of Stonewall.