Starting this month, and extending through summer and fall, cities and towns worldwide are holding Stonewall 50 Pride Celebrations. At a time when the President of the United States and his …
Starting this month, and extending through summer and fall, cities and towns worldwide are holding Stonewall 50 Pride Celebrations. At a time when the President of the United States and his administration oppose the LGBTQ Equality Act and actively work to eliminate transgender protections, the importance of these events cannot be understated.
Almost 50 years ago, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the patrons of the Mafia-run Stonewall Inn bar on Christopher Street in New York’s West Village actively resisted discrimination, criminalization, and abuse.
Subject to an unjustified police raid on one of the few places where they felt free to comingle, share affection and celebrate, these young men and women - a genuinely diverse mix of sissy boys, “transvestites” (as they then self-identified), and lesbians of all races and classes - refused to stay silent. As they were being led out of the bar to police cars and paddy wagons, people began to resist. While debates rage as to who was the first to fight back - reliable witnesses report that it was a butch lesbian, while others advance alternative self-serving mythologies - what is certain is that the police were forced to retreat inside the bar, lock the door, and protect themselves from a hail of pennies, nickels and quarters, and a small Molotov cocktail, until reinforcements arrived.
That night changed everything. Stonewall was, in effect, what the Freedom Rides and Selma were to African-Americans, except that it was a spontaneous act. While Stonewall was not the first act of LGBTQ riot/rebellion/resistance in the United States, the multiple nights of demonstrations around the Stonewall Inn that followed were publicized around the world.
Within a month, a protest march called by Martha Shelley and others had given birth to the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Within the next few years, GLF chapters had sprung up around the United States and in many parts of the world, and movements were afoot to decriminalize same-sex love and abolish classification of God-given homosexuality as a mental disease.
To some, Pride month seems nothing more than a big party where LGBTQ people dress up and parade down the street. But we who are LGBTQ know that the fight for our rights is about far more than a yearly parade or a chest full of feathered boas. We know that trans people sometimes have a hard time of it in Port Townsend, and that our LGBTQ youth are sometimes so conflicted, bullied, and abused that they end up committing suicide. We realize that any number of older LGBTQ Americans, including a bunch in Jefferson County, feel safest blending in and sticking to themselves. We are keenly aware that, around the world, our brothers and sisters are being taunted, stoned, and murdered, and that any number of dictators and wannabes continue to make us into scapegoats as a means of disguising their crimes. Ultimately, as much as we may know “how good it now is” for some of us in some parts of the United States, we also know that forces are actively working to either return us to marginalized and criminalized status or eliminate us altogether.
As articles, podcasts, and TV broadcasts about Stonewall 50 continue to appear, and Port Townsend Pride approaches on July 13, please sit up and take notice. As we much as we celebrate and cheer, we are also saying, “We are strong. We are Proud. We are invaluable resources and asset to our communities. We deserve our full rights and freedoms, and the ability to pursue our happiness with dignity and respect.”
Jason Victor Serinus founded the New Haven Gay Liberation Front in the spring of 1970, and was a member of the NY Gay Liberation Front 1970-1971. He writes about music, the arts and audio for multiple publications worldwide, and lives in Port Townsend with his lawfully wedded husband and three adopted canine children.