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Stonewall

Yesterday marked the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, widely accepted as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. The first Gay Pride march in New York City (held the next year, in 1970), was called a "Gay Liberation" march.

Every year, at this time of year, I reread the wikipedia article on the Stonewall Riots. It's kind of like reading the Christmas story on December 25th. As much fun as gay pride is (and oh, man, is it a lot of fun - if you've never been to one, you should go...even if you're not gay, there's something tremendously affirming about the message of freedom), we need to remember that Gay Pride isn't about Abba and sequins, high heels and lesbians on motorcycles. Of course, we all enjoy that - but gay pride is about a lot more than that.

On June 28th, 1969, a collection of men, women, and queens were hanging out at a gay bar in the West Village of New York called the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn was run by the Genovese family - in fact, most of the gay bars in NY were run by the mob, since it was illegal for same-sex couples to dance together in public, or for anyone to cross-dress, let alone the horrors of sodomy which they were clearly contemplating. The mob paid off the cops, but the cops still raided occasionally, to keep up appearances. The cops would seize the booze, arrest the queens, and send everyone else on their merry way. On June 28th, something went wrong.

That night, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused to go quietly. A mob gathered around the bar. The cops hit a lesbian with a billy club, a drag queen hit a cop with her purse. The police barricaded themselves in the bar, waiting for reinforcements. The gays sang, started a kick line, the cops fought back.

It's not really clear why this happened on June 28th - what the police were doing wasn't significantly different from what they'd been doing for years. Somehow, this crowd of queens decided that they'd had enough, and that they didn't have to take it any more. Of course they still did - the mob still ran the bars (although the stonewall closed soon after, and didn't reopen until 1990), and the police still raided them. But something changed that night - the gays recognized that they deserved freedom, that they deserved the right to live openly. They realized that they weren't doing anything wrong.

New York struck down its sodomy law in 1980, legalizing homosexuality. It became illegal to discriminate against homosexuals in 1996, and we were added to hate crimes legislation in 2002. And last Friday, it became legal for two men or two women to marry.

42 years isn't that long of a time. It's amazing how far we've come. Of course, there's still a lot to do - in many parts of the US, you can still be fired for being gay, or denied housing, insurance, or other benefits. In a lot of the country, we're still second-class citizens. But in one state - my state, at least legally - we've come very, very close to equality.

Imagine if you could've stopped that drag queen hitting the cop with her purse and told her that 42 years from then, that same street would be filled with throngs of people celebrating equality, and that the police wouldn't do anything except direct traffic. And all because they decided they were tired of being told that there was something wrong with them; that their love wasn't every bit as beautiful as anyone else's.

I hope everyone had a wonderful pride, and that you did something to make the world a better place during it. Because that is what this is about. Everyone has the right to love, and the government cannot stifle that. No matter how hard they try, love is going to win.

Thank you, New York. I've never been prouder to be a New Yorker or a gay man than I am this week. Governor Cuomo had better start getting ready to run for president in 2016, because I'm voting for him even if he doesn't run.

Happy Pride!

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
tashar
Jun. 29th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
I didn't know this history. Thank you for writing it, and sharing it.
electrichobbit
Jun. 30th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
A lot of people don't know, even in the GLBT community. I think it's good to have some perspective.
qdot
Jun. 30th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
I accidentally ended up at the Paris gay pride this year. There were actually LESS completely nude people than SF pride. But a higher ratio of good looking ones. :)
electrichobbit
Jun. 30th, 2011 05:06 am (UTC)
I've been to a lot of pride parades around the world, and SF is definitely the nakedest. I have the feeling this is just because I've never been to Berlin.
wyvernmoon
Jul. 2nd, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting this. Always good to look back again and reflect.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )