45 years ago tonight, actually in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969, drag queens, homeless kids and hustlers fought police after they raided Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn. As the night turned to morning, the fighting escalated to the point of rioting. The riots continued throughout that weekend into the early part of the following week. Though many people incorrectly think that this event was the start of the gay rights movement, it was merely the final straw after years of silent organizing against oppression, persecution, and murder. It was the moment when the LGBT community said, “No more.”
One year later, to commemorate the anniversary of the riots, rallies were held in New York City and Chicago and a parade (the first) was held in Los Angeles to show the world that we could no longer stay in the closet and that we as a people would find the opposite of the shame that had been imposed upon us and call that opposite ‘pride’. We did that as a community, but that moment is repeated daily by individuals — kids and adults who take that one day in their lives and say “this is who I am and I am no longer ashamed of it.”
Personally, it took me more than 20 years to get to that moment. I attended my first Pride Parade and found my community 21 years ago, shortly after I moved to Chicago. It was the height of the AIDS crisis and we were losing large portions of our community. Again society met us with derision, with oppression, with calls for us to be rounded up and put into camps. And it made us even stronger when we said again, “No more.”
We’ve come a long way in the past two decades and even farther in the past 45 years. AIDS still plagues the world but, in America at least, it is no longer the automatic death sentence it once was. We’ve made strides in legal protections (in some states) to ensure that we won’t lose our homes or our jobs for being who we are. Kids are now comfortable coming out at ages much younger than I ever could have imagined (or handled) myself and many are being met with loving families who embrace them rather than throw them out (though there are still far, far too many homeless LGBT youth on our streets).
For me, I have worked to be an even more integral part of our community, mainly through my work with The Lavender Effect. I’ve been lucky enough to have found the love of my life who brightens every single day for me. I’ve gone from attending the funerals of friends in my 20s to attending the weddings of friends in my 40s. I realize that that is the opposite experience of many of my straight friends, who attend the weddings of their friends in their 20s and often the funerals of their friends in their 40s.
I’ve found a lot of opposites.
I’ve found the opposite of shame.
Happy PRIDE everyone. Here’s to the next 45 years.
(this was reposted from a public Facebook post of mine, which can be found and shared here)