Being gay in America has never been easy. While we’ve made strives in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to be done in regards to equality and education. There are two primary reasons why it has never been easy to be gay and why we have to fight for equality. The first reason is religion. So many people use their religion as a weapon to excuse discrimination against the LGBT community. The other reason is one I want to explore more in depth here – ignorance. Many individuals buy into the myths about homosexuality. Some people think we’re promiscuous, we’re pedophiles, our relationships are only about sex, being gay is a choice. They believe that if we’re given equal rights then other people will want those same “rights.” They buy into the notion that sex offenders that prey on children will fight for their “right” to offend. They believe in fallacies and use slippery slope arguments to scare people. It’s important for us to educate those ill-informed individuals by showing them we are no different from them.
In order to help people with their ignorance about the LGBT community, it is important that we all know our own history. As pride month is upon us, I have been surfing blogs on WordPress about LGBT pride. I notice a recurring theme as people celebrate the arrival of June. They don’t know why June is pride month, they don’t know the significance the pride parades hold. How can we expect others to learn about our struggles and learn that we are no different form them when many of us don’t know about our movement?
On June 28, we will be commemorating the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. While the timeframe in which the gay rights movement really got its start is in debate, the Stonewall Riots can easily be argued as one of the most significant moments in LGBT history. The Stonewall Riots is the reason June is pride month. After the riots, pride fests and pride parades were born to raise awareness about the inequalities in the gay community. I don’t want to get too far into the history of the riots, but I will give a brief introduction and allow you to research the whole picture if you wish to.
In the 1950s, homosexuality was considered unAmerican and gay people were considered subversive. In 1952, despite evidence to the contrary, homosexuality was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, better known as the DSM. It was classified as a sociopathic personality disorder. It was illegal for bars to serve drinks to homosexuals and if they did, the bar was often raided with arrests made. Raids occurred about once a month on gay establishments.
Around 1:20AM on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village in New York City. People inside the bar were not cooperating with police instruction when they were ordered to produce identification. As the police sorted through the people in the bar, they released some individuals into the streets of NYC. While they usually dispersed after a normal police raid, these people weren’t. They started hearing that people were being beat inside and lesbians were being sexually assaulted by the police. The crowd outside continued to grow. As word about what was going on inside started spreading, a woman yelled out, “Why don’t you guys do something?” After that, all hell broke loose. Police barricaded themselves instead the Stonewall Inn with about 10 people they had arrested. People outside the bar were setting things on fire and lobbing them at the bar. They also threw anything they could find towards the bar. Reinforcements were called in by the police and nearly three hours later, the streets were cleared.
The Stonewall Inn opened the next day. That evening, people returned to the streets to demonstrate. They started vandalizing police cars and setting trash cans on fire again. Police responded and it took several hours for the police to calm the storm.
Days after the riots, The Village Voice, a newspaper in New York City ran articles condemning the riots and calling gay people “faggots,” and “limp wrists.” A mob came back out to Christopher Street. They looted businesses, vandalized buildings and cars. They called for the burning down of The Village Voice’s offices. This riot dissipated after about an hour.
A year after the Stonewall Riots, the Christopher Street Liberation Day was held. People marched from Christopher Street to Central Park. LA and Chicago also held marches that day. On June 28, 1971, several other cities joined the movement and help marches of their own. Throughout the following years, more and more cities began having their own marches, thus giving birth to the gay pride parade.
National History Day 2012 Documentary – Stonewall: The Riots that Revolutionized a Movement
The above video is a short documentary highlighting the history and progress of the gay rights movement.—————————————————————————————————–
For more information on the Stonewall Riots, I suggest you read Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter. For more immediate information and a brief overview, you can check out the Stonewall Inn’s history on their website: Stonewall Inn History. I will be reviewing Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution in my first book review later this month here.
I wanted to write a brief overview of the Stonewall Riots to inform people of the importance behind the pride events we hold every June and to use it as a springboard for my own message about pride parades and pride fests. I’m getting close to the word limit I imposed on myself for these blog entries, so I will save the discussion on modern pride parades and festivals for my next entry. While you wait, what do you think of gay pride parades and events? I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, bi, whatever or if you’re for, against or indifferent about the events. What do you think of gay pride parades and events?