• The Gender Security Project

The Summer of ’69: Remembering Stonewall


Written by Sourya Banerjee On June 28, 1969 at New York’s Greenwich village, something extraordinary unfolded. When the police had raided a gay bar to arrest members of the LGBT Community, the patrons of the Bar and the neighborhood decided to do something that changed the course of history, while galvanizing the LGBT rights movement. They fought back.

The US in particular and the world at large was neither respectful nor tolerant towards LGBT rights during and before the 1960s – a trend that we see continuing in many ways. Though some places remain just as bad if not worse to date, in the 1960s, consensual same-sex relations was illegal in New York City. A “); letter-spacing: -0.063px; text-decoration-line: none;” target=”_blank”>criminal statute allowed the police to arrest people wearing less than three gender-appropriate articles of clothing. New York’s law prohibited individuals from assembling “disguised” in public places. California had also passed a law that prohibited individuals from “masquerading” in another person’s attire for unlawful purposes. Both laws were used by the Police and authorities to target target cross-dressers. The catalyst for change In the early hours of June 28, 1969, when the New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid evoked action from the bar patrons and neighborhood residents. The police hauled the employees and patrons out of the bar rather aggressively. Fed up of constant police harassment and social discrimination, angry patrons and neighborhood residents agitated, even as people around them continued to be manhandled aggressively. At one point, an “); letter-spacing: -0.063px; text-decoration-line: none;” target=”_blank”>officer hit a woman on her head, as he was arresting her. This incited the crowd to begin throw pennies, bottles, cobble stones, and other objects at the police.

Within minutes, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people began. Stonewall Inn was set on fire. The fire department and a riot squad were eventually able to douse the flames, rescue those trapped inside, and disperse the crowd. But the protests, sometimes involving thousands of people at a time, continued in the area for five more days. A fillip for mobilization Though the Stonewall uprising didn’t officially “start” the gay rights movement, it was a galvanizing force for political activism in support for LGBTQIA+ rights. Though older groups such as the Mattachine Society, which was founded in southern California as a discussion group for gay men and had flourished in the 1950s, after the Stonewall incident, many new groups including the “); letter-spacing: -0.063px; text-decoration-line: none;” target=”_blank”>Gay Liberation Front“); letter-spacing: -0.063px; text-decoration-line: none;” target=”_blank”>Human Rights Campaign“); letter-spacing: -0.063px; text-decoration-line: none;” target=”_blank”>GLAAD (formerly Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and “); letter-spacing: -0.063px; text-decoration-line: none;” target=”_blank”>PFLAG (formerly Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) emerged. Stonewall soon became a symbol of resistance to social and political discrimination that inspired solidarity among non-binary individuals for decades to come. It called for individuals to come out onto the streets with pride, to demand their rights, instead of living in the shadows. It is this sense of Pride that we remember as we celebrate June as a month of pride in honor of those who protested at Stonewall, and the protests that followed all over the nation, in memory of all those who were and continue to be marginalized because of their gender and/or sexual identities and expressions.  In 2016, President Barack Obama designated the site of the riots — Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, and the surrounding streets and sidewalks — a national monument in recognition of the area’s contribution to gay and human rights. 

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