Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why Today Matters...40 Years Since Stonewall

The Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, NYC, June 28th 1969.

A pivotal point in American history that, if you are one of my straight friends and readers, you probably never heard of. This blog is about our life with our daughter Sabrina, but I can't let this day go by without my thoughts. If you don't know what Stonewall is, briefly...

During the 50's and 60's things weren't the same as they were today. The Civil Rights Movement spoke for many minority groups, but not gays and lesbians. Being gay was a mark of shame at the least, and dangerous at the most. Gays were routinely beaten, arrested, fired, and ousted from society as a whole just for being who they are. Police would routinely round up gays at bars and clubs or on the street and charge them with lewd behavior or sexual deviancy. Raids were common; the police would arrest you just for being in there. Names were published in the paper, leading to ostracizing and loss of employment. The FBI and police kept lists of "known homosexuals" and the places they gathered. The Post Office kept records of homes receiving "gay friendly" material. The American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a sociopathic disorder. Even the US State Department included gays with Anarchists and Communists as un-American. Gays felt shameful about themselves and who they were. Until that night at Stonewall, which changed everything.

Judy Garland, a gay icon, had died that week and was being mourned by the gay community in New York gay bars like the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall was the only bar in the city where dancing was allowed, at least until the police showed up. They began rounding up the usual suspects. People were marched out into the streets. Slurs were thrown. Then a bottle. Before you knew it, more bottles. Drag Queens refused to get into the police vans. People began to mass in the streets watching, then joining in the protest. Suddenly people who carried around loads of guilt and self hatred finally had enough. No more. The riots continued for a few more nights. No more hiding in the shadows. Gays began expressing themselves in public. No more trying to fit in. No more faking it and not showing the real person. A year later, the very first Gay Pride Parade took place in front of the Stonewall on Christopher Street. Two years later, most major cities in the US had Gay Pride Organizations. The Rainbow Flag was invented and became our symbol. The world had changed.

But the best thing that came out of Stonewall happened 40 years later, when a little girl named Sabrina Marie was born and joined her two fathers to complete a family. Today I'm thinking of those Drag Queens who stood up and said no. Thanks ladies.


Lola said...

Yes, it does matter and we all have so many to thank who came before us. We have it so easy because of them.

I couldn't make Chicago's Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, but I'm watching a broadcast of a portion of it on local tv now. Yes, they relegate it to late night, but at least I can watch it.

mygrl said...

Thanks for sharing that part of history for everyone. I am so happy that things are different now.

Carole said...

Thank you for posting the history of Stonewall. I knew of it, but many of the details you shared I had forgotten and that's just not cool. I'm off to share with my homeschooled 11 yr old son, so that he can have another history lesson for the day.

On a side note, I know that Judy Garland was a gay icon, but what I don't know is why? Probably totally stupid question, but I thought I'd ask here. :)

Bobby said...

Good question Carole. I guess because she FABULOOOOOUUUUS. LOL just kidding. I think the gay community latches on to strong, independent women who can take care of themselves. Through in a wry wit, over the top wardrobe, some overdone make up, maybe some booze and a fair shake of drama, and voila. That answers for Judy, Cher, Liza, Bette (Midler and Davis) etc. Not scientific but my best guess! Ya know 'em when ya sees 'em.

Anonymous said...

De-lurking to say #1 - Congratulations on your beautiful daughter! #2 - Thank you for sharing your story. #3 - Thank you for the history of Stonewall

I can't even remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but I did (I do know that it is about 100 times removed from a friends blog). And I read your story. And I was moved by it. And by others with similar stories.

It is in your honor that this past Sunday I, a straight white 40 (ish) women attended the Pride Parade in Denver. However small my support and voice may be in the big picture, please know you, your family & your community have it.

Denver CO

mommy3 said...

Great post. I knew a little of the Stonewall story but not nearly enough. I want to share this with my son, whom I want to really support as he grows as a young man (now 12 y/o) and who'd not surprise me at all if/when he comes out. I try to infuse little bits into conversations here and there to help him into adolescence, no matter what. News at 11 (or 13 or 14 or 15).

Carole said...

Thanks, Bobby! Makes perfect sense now. :)

Bobby said...

Julie, you're awesome! We'll give you honorary "Fag Hag" status!

I bet you had a blast. My sister and her husband went to LA Pride with us a few years back, and to this day my BIL says it was the most fun he ever had at a parade. We have great pictures!

Anonymous said...

Bobby - YOU are awesome! I proudly accept my honorary status (please tell me there's a sash involved...HeeHee).

And you are correct - we had a B L A S T. Our plan was the parade, we had no idea of the party that came after. Let's say once we saw the line up of performers: Nina Flowers & Deborah "Only In My Dreams/Shake Your Love/Electric Youth" Gibson (see aforementioned "40ish/white" girl comment) we HAD to stay. 9 hours and a sunburn later we left Downtown Denver with some great memories!