Jump to content

Remembering Stonewall- Why Pride Can Be Celebrated Openly


Recommended Posts

This seemed important to remember:

posted with permission.

Stonewall+Inn+June+28th,+1969.jpg

By Brody Levesque | NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- On Friday evening, June 27, 1969, plainclothes New York City Police Vice & Moral officers, accompanied by uniformed officers, raided a popular Greenwich Village gay bar on Christopher Street, the Stonewall Inn. Raids on gay frequented establishments by the NYPD were not uncommon, in fact, as NYPD Inspector Seymour Pine later noted in a recorded interview for a documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of the raid, "they [raids] were conducted regularly without much resistance." What made this raid difference was that the patrons of the bar resisted, refusing to be led into police paddy wagons. "It was the Rosa Parks moment," recalled one participant.

The raid sparked a series of riots which gave birth to the modern LGBT Equality Rights movement.

During the 1950s and 1960s, New York and other American cities' law enforcement officials kept track of suspected homosexuals and bars and restaurants that catered to them. In the case of New York City, many of the bars like the Stonewall Inn were owned by organised crime families and operated illegally without proper licencing. Police regularly conducted raids, seizing alcohol, shutting down the establishments and arresting the staff and patrons. In the resulting publicity afterwards, it wasn’t uncommon for gay men and lesbians to be exposed in newspapers, fired from their jobs, jailed or sent to mental institutions.

Homosexuality was then considered to be such subversive behavior that it was listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders I as a “sociopathic personality disturbance.”

The late Dr. Frank Kameny, a founder of the Washington Chapter of the Mattachine Society and an early leader in what was then referred to as 'the Gay Rights Movement,' wrote that there were 1,000 organizations formed within a year after Stonewall. After two years, 2,500. Within three years of the Stonewall uprising, Kameny stopped counting.

In an interview three years ago he noted, “Progress has been enormous. Sodomy laws were repealed, so we’re no longer criminals. Mental health classification changed, so we’re no longer loonies."

Prior to that hot summer evening on Christopher Street, there was little public expression or particularly acknowledgment of the lives and experiences of gays and lesbians. The Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of a movement that has transformed the oppression of gays and lesbians into calls for pride and action. Over the past four decades LGBTQ people around the globe have been witness to an astonishing flowering of gay culture that has changed the United States and beyond, forever.

Before Stonewall when psychoanalysts equated homosexuality with mental illness and advised aversion therapy, and even lobotomies; the countless public service announcements warning youngsters against predatory homosexuals, there was a perception that LGBT people were deviant and sick and needed to be eradicated.

Stonewall+Inn+June+27th,+2010.JPG

Anecdotal archival footage gives life to this reality, when the late CBS news anchor and reporter Mike Wallace announced on a 1966 CBS Reports: "The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in, nor capable of, a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage."

Today, as same-sex couples are allowed to be married in some states, as the fight for LGBTQ equality rights has arrived in the mainstream political arena, and as portrayal of LGBT people in the popular media and culture has been more and more positive, Pride events during the month of June pay homage to a group of gay and lesbians tired of being oppressed, who fought for their rights and ultimately the rights of future generations of LGBT people everywhere.

Link to comment
Anecdotal archival footage gives life to this reality, when the late CBS news anchor and reporter Mike Wallace announced on a 1966 CBS Reports: "The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in, nor capable of, a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage."

Fascinating. 50 years later, and the argument has changed from "They're so depraved, they don't even desire something as stable as marriage!" to "Sure, they want to get married...but they shouldn't be allowed!"

It may seem weak, but that is progress - it firmly puts the focus on those denying equal rights, rather than on those being refused them. Not "They're gay, so they don't want to get married," but "They're gay, so we won't LET them get married." A small twist in language is enough to change from blissful ignorance to open oppression, and while the two are certainly...well, let's say "life partners"...the phrase "We won't let you" is more often challenged. It perks up our ears, and sticks in the throats of even the ones saying it.

"They don't want this," is answered with "Oh, okay."

"We won't let them have it," is answered with "Why?"

And eventually, the kernel of individualism at the heart of even the most conservative person will burst open, and they'll realize that there is no good answer for that question.

Link to comment

During the 1950s and 1960s, New York and other American cities' law enforcement officials kept track of suspected homosexuals and bars and restaurants that catered to them... it wasn’t uncommon for gay men and lesbians to be exposed in newspapers, fired from their jobs, jailed or sent to mental institutions.

Coming of age in middle America during that era, surrounded by headlines like those and without the support of others like us as might be found in the big cities, led many of us to embrace quiet hidden lives of desperation and deception and to form entrenched attitudes of paranoia that still, today, are not fully resolved.

James

Link to comment

It was much the same here James. I don't think I realised we were 'legal' until the day I saw the official company policy document that said that no one would lose their job because of their sexual orientation, and that must have been around 1985.

Link to comment

In all fairness, Wallace apologized for those remarks about 10 years later, and publicly sided with gay activist groups in the 1990s campaigning for equal rights and gay marriage. I think it's fair to say almost no public official, politician, celebrity, or news reporter was on the side of gay rights in 1966.

Link to comment

... I think it's fair to say almost no public official, politician, celebrity, or news reporter was on the side of gay rights in 1966.

In Australia, we had politicians who were very actively working behind the scenes to decriminalise the law on homosexual acts.

I think it was the free love hippie era, 1966-70s, that sparked the change in many people's attitudes.

That generation was in shock from assassinations of political figures. To most of us born in the 1940s, assassinations didn't happen anymore, even though Gandhi had been killed in the then recent times. We were naive, but without that naïveté and without the Vietnam war, there would have been no movement of Love Peace and Harmony, no measure of "We shall overcome," and that too must be taken as a contributing factor to the uprising at Stonewall.

I understand that is all in the past for today's generation, but I think it needs to be remembered as a warning of the possibility of persecution being reinstated, which is a very real objective in the minds of the extreme religionists.

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...