I have found something disturbing -- the new generation of queer youth is on
the verge of losing touch with the knowledge of their roots. While it is never
good to be obsessed with your past, I would say it is important to remember and
learn from it. This new generation of queer youth is headed out on a newly
beaten path -- some of the old 'mistakes' are still being made, but our
brothers and sisters seem to be more aware of our place in society than ever
before. You can find us on almost every scene, and activism isn't just for
adults anymore. Gay liberation had a definite turning point -- a push in the
direction we're heading in now. That specific point in our history is marked as
the Stonewall Riots.
Very few gay kids I've spoken to have even heard of the Stonewall Riots, let
alone know the facts behind the event. A great deal of the progress we've made
can be traced back to Stonewall, and we owe a great deal to those brave souls.
That said -- let's educate . . .
On June 27, 1969,
at about 1:20 AM in a gay
bar in Greenwich Village NYC, named the Stonewall Inn, a police raid turned
violent -- violence that was returned to the police, as the law was usually
rough with the patrons of the bar. In fact, raiding was almost a nightly thing.
The customers were a diverse crowd, though consisting heavily of drag queens.
In the NY of 1969 it was illegal for men to wear women's clothing or be wearing
less than a specific number of items. The police would beat up the frequenters
if they didn't remove makeup and comply.
The riot was low-maintenance as riots tend to go, but it did what it needed
to do -- start a domino effect that spread across the country. The Gay
Liberation movement was quickly born out of Stonewall.
Before the riot, however, there was a 'liberation' organization, of sorts.
The Homophile Association. This was a group similar to today's gay Republican
shirt-and-tie protestors that get squat done. They were a joke. What we needed
was a little turbulence to get things started. And that was what Stonewall did.
Just imagine a bunch of drag queens beating the crap out of policemen, and if
that doesn't inspire you to feel liberated I feel terribly sorry for you.
The riots were a good omen that things were going to be turning around.
Newspapers of the day, rather conservatively, recorded the news as 'Revolting
Queens Revolt' and other such nonsense. Such a big uproar about a tiny event
means that it had impact. And this impact has brought us to where we stand
today. We can either remember it and honor the participants and veterans of
Stonewall, or forget it - and forget the true direction we struck out on. By
remembering such an event, it gives us inspiration and courage to go farther and
do better things. To be free - this is what the movement stands for.
Another point I need to make is just this -- the transgendered
neighborhood of the GLBT community started our liberation movement, and
although gay and lesbians have 'taken it over,' it takes the more 'radical'
individuals to get the Big Things[tm] done. We gays and lesbians would never
have had the courage and inspiration to do what those brave DQ's at Stonewall
did. And the new thing is that we now want to throw them off the band wagon,
mostly because they're 'too radical' and 'too embarrassing' to be associated
with. Let me tell you -- we'd be a lot worse off than we are today without
them. We need to realize this -- and the idealist in me says that we will.
So let us remember our roots and know that we have a long way to go in the
face of adversity and being accepted for who we are. If we keep on this track,
I'm sure we can manage more progress step-by-step and, every once in a while,
to stir things up in order to keep that progress fresh. In the words of the
playwright Jonathan Larson, there's "no day but today."