Today is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots that unbeknown to anyone at the time ushered in the modern era of the gay rights movement. For those of you who don’t know, gays were regularly and routinely harassed and physically assaulted at dance clubs and bars. This was common practice coast to coast in the 1960’s. On June 28th, 1969, the local patrons and drag queens had had enough. When the Stonewall Inn was raided that night and the beatings and arrests proceeded, like so many nights before that, the community fought back in protest. Police reinforcements were called in, word spread throughout the local gay community, and a riot ensued. As news crews arrived and the night became national news, police forces withdrew and sectioned off a few-block radius. Throughout the night, rioters and protesters set building ablaze, broke windows, and flipped over vehicles.
Years and years of beatings, persecutions, and police harassment boiled over on that night 50 years ago today. One year later, in 1970, the gay community assembled at the Stonewall Inn for a remembrance and parade memorializing the stand that was taken against police harassment and abuse. It was that parade, in honor of the Stonewall riots, that gave birth to the annual celebratory tradition we call New York Pride. Very soon after Pride celebrations became a nationwide phenomena with cities and metropolitan areas big and small hosting their own parades and festivals celebrating our collective gay pride. It’s a compelling and riveting story that marks our resistance to bullying, abuse, and being demonized as monsters.
Some people argue that Pride celebrations hurt the gay community and are out dated and should go away. I couldn’t disagree more. Arguing that Pride has outlived it’s usefulness is like saying we should stop commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Much like civil rights, gay rights still need to be fought for. Prejudice and discrimination still run rampant in many states across our country. We can never forget where we came from, or the struggle and fight and heroes that risked life and limb to pass the torch to the next generation. National pride helps us remember who we are: we are bankers, CEO’s, mothers, daughters, cashiers, teachers, politicians, husbands, and boyfriends…and everything in between. National pride begets personal pride and that helps us all live our lives in the light of day, for all to see, not the darkness and shadow of the closet.
HAPPY STONEWALL 50TH ANNIVERSARY!!!
If you’d like to read more about the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and a great organization, Human Rights Campaign, you can do so after the jump!