NYC Public Library had a free exhibit documenting the Stonewall Inn in 1969. NYC lights the Empire State Building in rainbow colors. #LGBTPRIDE uses social media to promote the celebrations. STONEWALL 50 has been branded with its own logo.
There is a lot of attention when a milestone anniversary is reached in America. This year marks 50 years since the Stonewall Inn, a dive bar in Greenwich Village, became the epicenter of the modern Gay Rights movement.
Despite the importance of this moment in history it is not taught in public schools. Until this moment in time all homosexuals were thought to be deviant, perverse, and mentally ill.
A history not taught is a history made invisible to the mainstream.
Today many groups that include Women, African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bi, Questioning peoples are struggling to have their stories told. To be rendered visible begins the process of becoming equal under the law.
Following World War II in which many homosexual and lesbian people gave their lives the straight white politics of America reinforced its culture by driving homosexuality into closeted oblivion. No visibility allows demonization. For hundreds of years homosexuals have been murdered and outcast without legal recourse.
America’s laws have been cruel to minority people since its inception. Only straight white property owners were fully recognized as equal under our laws.
The hard struggle for the emancipation of slaves led to their being set free from their brutal owners. Freedom meant that white men were free to murder them. Their civil rights were not fully recognized until the 1960’s. Their struggle continues to this day. Not allowed to build wealth of any kind, African-Americans have never been able to catch up with whites.
Gay/Lesbian/Transgender/Bi/Queer/Questioning black people are for this reason not even on par with their white queer brothers and sisters. This must be stated because Stonewall happened in the crucible of the civil rights movement. Collectively our struggles must help each other.
The Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement enabled the moment when homosexual and lesbian people could collectively rise together against their oppressors.
In the 1960’s the law proscribed that nobody was allowed to wear three or more articles of clothing that were not gender conforming. Men could not wear any clothing deemed feminine and women could not dress as men. Homosexuality was illegal in many states. You could be fired if you were out. Our culture thought it normal to make fun of homosexuality; violence against our community was deemed legally fit.
Stereotypes of the homosexual as less masculine were reinforced in movies, television shows, and music. Then one fateful day the patrons of Stonewall stood up for themselves.
Keep in mind that many homosexuals were closeted for decades due to the shaming of our queerness for generations. Loss of family, work, and potentially lives were the reason so many remained silent.
This was the reason organized crime took ownership of The Stonewall Inn. Gay bars were not allowed to serve alcohol; dancing was not legal in many establishments.
Before the raids took place someone was usually tipped off that the cops were coming. The liquor would get stashed away. Anyone who was not gender conforming could escape before the patrons were taken away to jail.
On June 28, 1969 the police raided the Stonewall without warning. Several of the patrons in the bar that night refused to take the ill treatment of the police anymore.
Police raids on gay bars was common during the 1950s and 1960s. Patrons would get lined up, names taken, and some officers took it upon themselves to degrade trans people, people of color, lesbians, and gays. The newspapers would publish their pictures. Forcing gays out of the closet without any legal standing happened daily.
The Stonewall Inn’s patrons backed out of the bar leaving the cops inside. They filed out into the narrow streets. They rose up to resist the police. Despite many being dispersed after that first night many people gathered in the following days and nights that resulted in several confrontations with law enforcement.
There were peaceful protests too. Kick lines formed to mock the stereotype used to define and defile the gay community. Judy Garland had just passed away. The myth that her death fueled the riots is pure nonsense. The uprising took place because not being treated as human finally reached the breaking point.
Rocks, bottles, and fists were used to fight back the brutal opposition. Stonewall burned in the ensuing riots. The aftermath would result in other cities taking notice of the new visibility of homosexual and lesbian people. A movement began. San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and L.A. soon followed with new groups to defend the rights of LGBTQ people.
The first year anniversary of the riots were marked by the first Gay Rights March in Manhattan. It was titled Liberation Day.
In just a few years hundreds of groups would form to defend the rights of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered people. The Human Rights Campaign and GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) are two of the groups I have supported for years.
The marches have promoted themes of equality, protest against Presidents who stood against LGBTQ people, and called out policies that hurt our community.
There are still many people in power who choose to oppress rather than lift up minority people.
For the millions who stand up for equality we are not claiming special rights. We want equal rights under the law. To love, marry, raise kids, and live together in a peaceful world. Displaying our bodies in the public square allows us to claim our person hood, bond with others, and be ourselves.
Gay Pride Day has evolved over the decades since the Stonewall Uprising. Today, the march down 5th Avenue to that bar in The Village represents tens of millions of people around the world. Holland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Russia, Israel, Poland, France, Netherlands, Thailand, Hong Kong, England, Ireland, Chile, and on and on celebrate LGBTQ pride.
The image gallery below shows expressions of pride: Top Left: 3 gay couples kiss. Middle Left: Gay Leather men march. Bottom left: Trans youth celebrate. Top right: A young man celebrates pride, perhaps coming out for the first time. Bottom right: a lesbian couple embrace.
Despite the ongoing threats of ignorant policy makers, hate groups, and others the LGBTQ community includes everyone in our celebrations. Our democratic ideals cannot otherwise be realized.
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