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Saturday, June 6, 2009

what a riot

underneath it all, one of the basic reasons that my life has had a chance to reflect joy and happiness, is that 40 years ago this month there was a backlash against stigma and prejudice against authority. the stonewall riots (a six day series of protests, demonstrations, and confrontations), happened after a very hot hot week in the village and on the tail end of the death of homo-icon judy garland. the girls (and the guys and the women) just weren't gonna stand for bullshit one more moment. prejudice and bigotry are harmful. make no mistake about it. if you haven't experienced it, then you are probably not paying attention, cuz it happens in our culture every day. i grew up in a small town in illinois and i was a sissy. and i repeatedly was draped in insults, comments, and jokes about me. and i became hardened to the heartbreak and hurt that accompanied it. for me, it made sense that i would find comfort in changing my feelings.

i "came out" as a gay person in 1974- a mere 5 years after the stonewall skirmishes. the very idea that i no longer would be required to be pigeonholed by the normies around me was a cool minty fresh breeze. and the opportunity to redefine for myself who i would be and how i would look at myself still shines in any good i bring to our world. and mine is just one story out of millions like it worldwide.

the stonewall riots.... a bar brawl that changed our world....this little skirmish has led to desperately needed worldwide celebrations of diversity as well as saying "yes" to pleasure. the way i celebrate has altered over the years for me, but the reasons have not changed much at all. freedom, self-expression, renewal, shift in perception come to mind initially, but i am sure i can think of more. so the concept of celebrating with pride has depth and and a spiritual context for me.

The Stonewall is an unassuming little bar in Manhattan’s West Village that has become a true landmark in gay history. More than 35 years ago, the New York gay community rose up here in a riot that sparked the modern gay rights movement.

The Stonewall Riots
In the summer of 1969, the New York gay activist movement was born when a group of gay New Yorkers made a stand against raiding police officers at The Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Village. In those days, gay bars were regularly raided by the police. But on June 27, 1969, the patrons of The Stonewall Inn had had enough.

As the police raided the bar, a crowd of four hundred patrons gathered on the street outside and watched the officers arrest the bartender, the doorman, and a few drag queens.

The crowd, which eventually grew to an estimated 2000 strong, was fed up. Something about that night ignited years of anger at the way police treated gay people. Chants of “Gay Power!” echoed in the streets. Soon, beer bottles and trash cans were flying.

Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away. It looked like it was over. But the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before. For two hours, protesters rioted in the street outside of the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd.

On the first night alone, 13 people were arrested and four police officers were injured. At least two rioters were said to be severely beaten by the police and many more sustained injuries.

The following Wednesday, approximately 1000 protesters returned to continue the protest and march on Christopher Street. A movement had begun.

The Stonewall Legacy
Stonewall turned out to be a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement. It united the gay community in New York in the fight against discrimination. The following year, a march was organized in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots and between 5,000 and 10,000 men and women attended the march.

today's sound choice is tracy chapman with "the times they are changin"



Texaco said...

thanks for the reminder.

Mark said...

There was a riot in a bar in LA in 1968 that never got the same press as Stonewall.
But like you, I'm astounded by my coming out in 1975. It was barely the day after, in the grand scheme of things. I think I knew as much as I did because of the sexual revolution in general. I credit "Cosmopolitan" as much as anything else.

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