Celebrate Pride: Remember Stonewall.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual Pride Month (LGBTQIA+ Pride Month) is currently celebrated every June to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 in New York, which was a major tipping point for the LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement. Following the riots, the last Sunday of every month (i.e. today!) was celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” although the actual day was flexible, and this gradually turned into the month-long celebration we now know. As New York City and many other cities nationwide hold parades and other activities this weekend to celebrate LGBTQIA+ pride, today’s #DailyRevolution is to pause to take a look at the origins of these festivities to see how far we’ve come, and recognize the work that is still to be done.
Efforts to accurately preserve and spread the story of the riots at Stonewall Inn have been growing in recent years: Last year President Barack Obama designated the bar the first national monument to LGBTQIA+ rights, and Google just granted $1 million to preserve the oral history of Stonewall National Monument. Here are a few things that everyone should know about the circumstances surrounding the Stonewall riots:
On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar and dance club that also functioned as a safe space for many displaced LGBTQIA+ people. Several people were arrested on questionable charges, and as they were loaded into the paddy wagon, the crowd began throwing bottles at the police officers, sparking riots that lasted six days, and brought national attention to the persecution of LGBTQIA+ people, galvanizing the gay liberation movement.
The targeting of Stonewall Inn was not an isolated incident. In 1969, it was common for gay bars to be raided by police because it was still illegal for LGBTQIA+ people to congregate in public. Bars, restaurants, and cabarets were threatened with losing their liquor licenses for employing, serving, or allowing LGBTQIA+ people to gather.
At the time of the Stonewall riots, homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness by the American Psychological Association, and LGBTQIA+ individuals who expressed themselves were often subjected to electroconvulsive therapy or institutionalized.
Contrary to how the story is whitewashed in Roland Emmerich’s film Stonewall, it was not white gay males at the forefront of the Stonewall Inn conflict, or the subsequent efforts of celebration and resistance. Two trans women of color, Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, led the charge in resisting the police raid. It was Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman and the “Mother of Pride,” who organized the Christopher Street Liberation Day march one month after the riots, and co-organized the first Pride march a year later. Howard is also credited with proposing the weeklong Pride celebration that laid the groundwork for today’s month-long festivities.
Many gains have been made for LGBTQIA+ rights worldwide, but there is still much work to be done. Between 2013 and 2016, 253 bills were introduced at the state level to restrict the rights of LGBTQIA+ people -- and 20 of these became law. One such bill signed into law by Indiana’s then-governor Mike Pence, allows people to openly discriminate against gay people. Although Pride has been in existence for 40+ years, only two American presidents, Clinton and Obama, have given the White House’s formal recognition to the designation. This month as we celebrate Pride, remember the fight that goes beyond the floats and festivities, both past and present.
Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson - Frameline Films