Pride (noun)- 1. the quality or state of being proud 2. a reasonable or justifiable self-respect 3. ostentatious display 4. a showy or impressive group
To close out Pride Month, I just wanted to write a bit about Stonewall and the power of pride. I’ve run across accounts online of LGBTQIA people saying they don’t feel the need to be proud of their sexual orientation because it’s not an accomplishment, not something they can control. I’ve heard that message mirrored in my daily life and online adventures by straight people stating it is obnoxious to be proud or even open about one’s sexuality. If you personally are a minority and don’t feel the need for pride surrounding your sexuality/gender, that it perfectly okay. But for those who do, it is an incredibly powerful thing. You are taking an aspect of yourself that in the past people would have been diagnosed as mentally ill for (and still may be), standing against the most hateful of people, against deeply engrained societal norms, norms so enmeshed in cultural conscious that we may not even realize just how deeply they run and saying, “I value myself.”
I just finished reading “Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights” by Ann Bausum. The following is a quote that I found absolutely beautiful, supposedly written by Leo Skir, a poet and gay activist advising a closeted friend in 1970: “You can cure yourself, in a day, in a minute, a second, with three words, with six. I’m-not-sick – three words. Three words more: I-love-myself.”
It’s insane to think that until 2003, just 16 years ago, there were still sodomy laws in the United States. Just sixteen years ago, it was illegal for a significant part of the population to express themselves in the privacy of their own homes. Country wide marriage equality has only existed for four years, which I find a bit mind blowing. I remember finding out the news coming home from a camping trip, and I was elated that civilization had shifted whilst I lacked internet access. I had come out to myself as asexual about two weeks previously, and I had no idea how such a ruling would come to mean so much to me personally. An outrageous amount of progress has been made in a relatively short amount of time, but there is still a long way to go for the LGBTQIA community. I did some brief research on how attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have shifted in recent years and found (of course) statistics mainly on gay men and lesbians, but it’s still rather encouraging. From 1984 to 2012, the general public has periodically been asked by the American National Election Studies their feelings toward gay men and lesbians, how “cold or hot ” they viewed them, based on a scale of 1 to 100. In 1984, the average response was 29, and in 2012 it was 55. (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/POP-natl-trends-nov-2014.pdf)
Every identity in the LGBTQIA community faces unique challenges, but I am hopeful that hate, intolerance, and pure ignorance will disappear with time.
To end on a cheerful note, here are ten fun facts I learned from Bausum’s book:
- The Stonewall was one of few gay bars that not only had music, but allowed dancing between people of the same sex.
- Many 60s gay bars were run by the mafia. Police raids reinforced a system of payoffs by mafia owners to corrupt officers.
- The reason the Stonewall was raided on June 27, 1969 was, in short, because of blackmail. The establishment had been in business for just over two years when Inspector Seymour Pine received order to shut it down. International authorities had alerted New York’s Police Department about sales in Europe of negotiable bonds that could be traced back to the United States.
- In the 1960s, “homophile” was used by the gay community as an alternative to “homosexual”.
- The Stonewall grossed $8,000 ($35,000 today’s money) each weekend and allotted $1,200 a month for payoffs ($8,000 today’s money).
- Stonewall was on Christopher Street, and ironically not far from Christopher Street was Gay Street, named after a man who led an anti-slavery riot in 1834.
- The bars female patrons were more likely to be arrested than the male patrons. The cross dressing laws of the time dictated that one must wear three items of “gender appropriate clothing”, including underwear. Some women had chosen to eliminate bras, and so they easily could have found themselves in trouble.
- Supposedly, what turned the tides of the evening, turned the street onlookers into a mob, was a lesbian in man’s clothing who was struggling against the police. According to Bausum, she was said to have turned to the crowd and yelled, “Why don’t you guys do something?!” “The tension of that night and countless previous nights and hundreds of lifetimes of abuse burst the dams of person after person. The crowd became a mob, and the mob began to riot. People began screaming obscenities at the police. They started throwing copper pennies at them as a sign of disrespect: Copper coins for the cops” (Bausum, page 42).
- Parking meters were uprooted and turned into battering rams by “an unlikely team of effeminate and muscular gays”.
- Hilarious quote that I couldn’t leave out: “The TPF had never seen anything like it. Nothing in tis training or experience had prepared the officers for such a response. They knew how to stay in formation when confronting a wall of anti-war passive resistance, advancing toward the immobile crowd and penetrating the grid of resistance. They knew how to stay in formation when confronting walls of violence, advancing step by step even as bottles and rocks bounced off their shields and helmets. But a broadway kickline? Never!”
Happy Pride month! I hope it has been one of celebration and self care. Remember all year that you are valid and you are worthy of respect. 💙✊
Until next time,
Keep on Aceing It!