Fifty years on from the landmark Stonewall riots, the circumstances for NYC’s LGBT+ culture have changed exponentially. i-D celebrates the freedom given to today’s young LGBT+ population as a result of the previous generations’ fight.
Oh, Stonewall. Many people do Pride Month and really do not grasp what it was like to be gay BEFORE there was a month dedicated to being gay. We tend to forget that the people who were there, in the trenches when you could get arrested for wearing clothes that belonged to the other gender (!!) were transgressing way before we had same sex marriage and all that jazz. It's been fifty years since the Stonewall uprising and we need to remember that.
Yesterday I went to Milwaukee Pride and I had a blast. I had a blast because from the moment I stepped in that park it felt like another world. Really. Everybody was happy and there were people in colorful outfits and people in jeans and t-shirts and people wearing all kinds of combinations of bondage gear and older people and younger people and the whole spectrum of LGBTQ people were there. Without fear of judgement. Without fear of violence. Without fear of being beaten up because they are who they are. Without fear of being killed because they are who they are.
But still, we had to go through metal detectors. Once inside it was all rainbows and HRC stickers, without street preachers telling kids they’re going to hell. It’s a price we keep paying because there’s still the repugs and the religious right we have to fight. Those queens fought the police and the mafia. And now even NYPD has issued an apology for their appalling behavior against gay people during the late sixties.
We also tend to basically forget those people. We tend to forget that we, as LGBTQ will also get old. Nobody is a twink for life. The people who were there, fighting for our rights are now in their seventies. They survived the raids and the attacks from the religious right (may Anita Bryant forever rot in the hell she always talked about) and AIDS. But we tend to forget about that. We tend to forget that it was trans women of color who were there, throwing bottles to the police. We tend to forget that it was probably mainly sissy boys of color who, fed up with police brutality and mafia mistreatment, took to the streets and basically started a revolution.
And the ones who survived are now in their late sixties and seventies. And they are living proof that we cannot just sit and wait for the system to keep working. There's no such thing as sitting pretty when we still have the religious right to fight against and people in the government working behind closed doors to strip us from hard-earned gains in the social scene. You saw how easy was for Cheeto to strip trans servicemenbers of their right to serve the country. You know that republican lawmakers are working to tear down same sex marriage one state at a time.
So, listen to your elders: the fight does not stop. Yes, celebrate Pride and let your freak fly. But don't forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I wish I knew LGBTQ people who were there in the fifties and sixties and have got the chance to see all the changes society has gone through in the last fifty years. I bet the stories would be incredible. That's why I'm posting this today, in celebration of those who threw those bricks and faced the police for my right to wear a rainbow t-shirt this June and kiss another man while walking down the street.
The fight is not over.
P.S. By the way, the Stonewall riots may not be what you think they were.... checking your knowledge as I type...