It was June 28, 1969. A club in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood was packed with people. Shortly after 3 am, nine New York City police officers raided the club. As people emptied out onto the streets, the officers took employee’s into custody for operating without a liquor license, roughed up patrons, and arrested anyone not wearing gender-appropriate clothing. The club was the Stonewall Inn, and what happened next was the beginning of the LBGT civil rights movement in the United States.
For years, prior to Stonewall, the LGBT community had experienced an increasing amount of hostility by law enforcement. In most states, homosexuality was illegal, as was congregating in groups. Therefore, any bar thought to be “friendly” to the LGBT community was often raided and shut down. The incident at Stonewall created a flashpoint among the LGBT community and law enforcement. Instead of the crowd disbursing as police emptied the bar, it grew. And after three drag queens were forced into a van, the crowd began jeering and throwing bottles at the police. Taken aback by the aggression from the crowd, the officers barricaded themselves in the bar and called for backup. Around 400 people began to riot outside, starting fires and repeatedly breaking through the barricade.
Over the next five days, demonstrations continued to take place outside the Stonewall Inn. Tired of hostilities, perpetual harassment, and discrimination endured by the LGBT community throughout the 1960s, the uprising at Stonewall became the catalyst for the LGBT civil rights movement. It is important to note, that although gay groups existed before Stonewall, this was the first time gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people came together as a community to fight for their rights.
Exactly one year after the Stonewall Uprising, the first Pride parades took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City. Two years after Stonewall, nearly every major city in the United States had formed LGBT rights group. Over the last 48 years, LGBT civil rights groups have fought tirelessly for equal rights under the law. The fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage, for example, was not so LGBT people could have weddings, it was so they could inherit from their partner, make medical decisions on their behalf, utilize tax-breaks, and all the other benefits straight married couples are allowed. And although the LGBT community has made strides in legal rights, there are many battles left to face:
- Workplace discrimination
- Lack of gender-neutral public restrooms
- Gay conversion therapy
- Housing discrimination
- Acceptance in sports, politics, entertainment, business, etc.
- Health disparities
- Jury selection
- Military service
- Youth homelessness
- Adoption and foster care discrimination
- Placement and treatment of trans people in prison
So, when attending Pride events, remember: there is a painful past and present that accompanies the celebration. It is important to be mindful of this. Pride is a time for LGBT people to freely express themselves in a world that still very much tries to control their bodies. Some will celebrate by wearing sequence and feathers, some will dance in the streets, others will cry as they mourn the loss of a friend of loved one to LGBT violence, and many will love, laugh and be merry. If you choose to attend a Pride event as a straight ally, and I highly recommend you do, be cognizant of the purpose of the celebration, be respectful, and have a fantastic time.
The Annex will be at pride with lots of fun activities: look for us in the Teen Scene!
June 24-25 | 10am – 6pm