Stonewall and Remarkable Resiliency
Two thousand and nineteen marks the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots and before the book closes on 2019 at the end of this month, I felt it was important to write an article about all that the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual/Bi-gender, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Allies, and plus) Community have overcome and what is still being fought for every single day.
To start off, the 1950s, 60s, and 70s were trying times of tremendous change to the social fabric in the United States, due to the post World War and the coming of age of the “baby boomer” generation. Not only was there a need for civil rights for Blacks, but many organizations began demanding equal rights overall; it was a trying time in the United States. There were many activist groups and movements during these times as well, such as the anti-war group, Black Power, youth counterculture, and the women’s liberation movement and they were all seeking the same things; change and equality. Empowerment was sprinkled everywhere due to these different groups fighting to see the change the United States so desperately needed. This article is meant to pay tribute and respect to the community of remarkable resiliency.
There was one liberation group that built on these foundations and utilized the already changing nation and it is the Gay Liberation Group. They created organizations that are still relevant today, such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign. The LGB Community (I just use the LGB part due to the TQIA+ not being recognized and added until after the late 1990s, for the T, and in the 2000s and beyond for the other identifiers; which are still growing today), the LGB Community had to accomplish much before there were such successes in the Gay Liberation Groups. There had to be that spark, that final straw where the LGB Community believed they had to take a stand and come out of hiding. And that spark started the summer of 1969 when the Mayor of New York City, John Lindsey, ordered a “crackdown” on all gay and lesbian bars. One such place in New York City was called the Stonewall Inn.
The Stonewall Inn was packed on June 28th, 1969 with patrons of the LGB Community when the police started the raid a little after midnight. The police started making arrests immediately, but the patrons would not have it this time around; they were not going quietly. They literally pushed back and resisted arrest by fighting, pushing, and throwing anything they could get their hands on. This went on until four in the morning when there were so many mobbing protestors outside that the police barricaded themselves inside. They took sanctuary in the very place they were making arrest hours earlier. The LGB Community would not allow it; a few used a parking meter as a battering ram to break through the doors and others threw bottles, trash, any objects they could find to throw; even Molotov Cocktails. Thankfully no one died in this battle that lasted for days, but in the end, there were injuries to police officers and protestors alike.
The riot at the Stonewall Inn marked the dawn of a new era. It was then known as “The Stonewall Riots” and 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary year of the events that took place on that fateful Summer night and the few days proceeding it in 1969. The LGB Community no longer was silent and in the future; they would be seen and heard. Stonewall and the remarkable resiliency of the LGB Community and allies are what shaped and motivated the battle of rights and equality to where it is today.
Five months after The Stonewall Riots, activists came together at the Eastern Conference of Homophile Organizations in Philadelphia and proposed an annual commemorative march for the Stonewall Riots. When it was approved, it was time to create a slogan for such an event. What could the slogan be, especially when it was the era of “power”? You are incorrect if you thought it was “Gay Power”. The LGB Community knew they did not have power at that time. It was L. Craig Schoonmaker who suggested the word “pride” in place of the word “power”. It was then decided that the official chant was, “Say it loud, gay is pride”. Thus, the birth of the Gay Pride Parade and the usage of the term Pride for all those in the LGB Community henceforth.
Even with The Stonewall Riots, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign’s help in the movements towards equal rights, there is a reason that even 50 years after the Riots, there are still activist groups fighting for the rights of the LGB and more recently TQIA+ Community. The Stonewall Riots birthed movements after movements in its wake that have turned hard times into successful accomplishments. Infoplease stated on their website that, “The Stonewall riots transformed the gay rights movement from one limited…small number of activists into a widespread protest for equal rights and acceptance.” The Stonewall Riots marked a time for change and in 1973, The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from their official list and in 2015, June 26th to be exact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five to four that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry and no state has the grounds to say otherwise.
With the successes listed above there are still many obstacles to overcome. A phrase that is currently circulating, “get married on Sunday, get fired on Monday”, is one of many battles and the reason for this phrase is that there are still places that have the grounds to discriminate. For example, the LGBTQIA+ Community can get married legally, but technically they are not protected under law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states that employers and businesses cannot discriminate against sex, which means that in the work force, men and women cannot be treated differently, it does not talk about the discrimination of sexual orientation, let alone discrimination against transgenders. A company has to say that they will not discriminate against sexual orientation, for the employee to be protected; this is a broad topic where it is not only a state by state basis, but a county and city basis as well.
Another example of a current battle is the one of homelessness. The LGBTQIA+ youth makes up 40 percent of the overall homeless population in the United States. There are even some states that force the LGBTQIA+ youth to be segregated from the others seeking shelter, for example in Michigan, they are not only segregated, but are even required to wear orange to show that they are different than others that are homeless. The discrimination does not stop at our youth either, elderly LGBTQIA+ people that need to go to a home for care, are often denied because in the law system under “We the People” there is “Religious exemptions of LGBT Discrimination” which means that those that are religious have the freedom to discriminate and be exempt from any laws that provide equal protection in housing, services in the public square, and even public accommodations. AARP wrote a report and took surveys that showed the fear the LGBTQIA+ community, 45 years of age and older had due to the allowance of discrimination in home care and long-term facility home care. Lastly, there are states that still allow Gay Conversion Camps where it is unfortunately, completely legal. Click here to see the map of states that have banned Gay Conversion Camps and those do not have laws protecting people against them.
With all the accomplishments that the LGB and now, LGBTQIA+ Community have overcome over the past century, a big thank you needs to be given to those who participated in the Stonewall Riots because they took that stand and said, “enough is enough” and fought for the rights of all the LGB Community in a time when power did not exist for the small activist groups. They were the fire that sparked decades of successful movements. The rights of the LGBTQIA+ Community can be traced back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots and a debt of gratitude is owed to those men and women who fought for the rights the LGBTQIA+ Community has today. Stonewall and the remarkable resiliency that can be seen today is why there has been as many successes not only listed in this article but many more beyond this article as well. Remembering and paying tribute to the Stonewall Riots, is important because knowing where it started and how far this resilient community has come, gives the strength to never give up in this battle for equal rights.
Please take the time and read my travel and advice articles and look out for future articles about the LGBTQ+ Community and Allies. Thank you all for stopping by.