50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

Today is the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots. Half a century ago, in the early hours of this morning, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the gay area of New York and then faced an almighty backlash.  This spurred the gay liberation and Pride movements over the succeeding decades.

Raids in gay clubs in New York were a usual occurrence, as police would come in, extort money from the owners, arrest some visibly different people; those in drag, for example, and be in their way. On this night, the raid at this bar which was the second in a week, saw police brutality and many people were thrown out.  It is believed black lesbian called Stormé DeLarverie called out for help after being arrested and frequenters rose up, and decided to fight back.  This sparked protests lasting for days and led to marches being held in New York and cities across America the next year, and then in London, the first official Pride took place in March in 1972.

The Stonewall Riots were monumental in bringing about change.  In the UK, up until 1967, gay and bisexual men could still face a maximum life sentence.  The riots in New York were the catalyst to bring about further changes of equality but there has been strong resistance meaning change was slow.  In 1988 a law known as Section 28 was passed which stopped teachers from “promoting” gay relationships.  It is believed that this altered the culture of even talking about homosexuality in schools.  This was overturned only 2003.  In they year 2000, gay people could now join the armed forces, in 2002 gay people were allowed to adopt, 2004 was the year civil partnerships for homosexuals was allowed, and 2008 meant it was illegal to encourage homophobic hated.  Gay marriage was made legal in 2013.

There has been such a shift in the law and attitudes have slow changed.  But there is still so much to do be done.  There are still countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal.  In the UK, there is still homophobia and still some hated to LGBTQ+ people.  It has become too common to hear about the sudden ride in transphobia.  This needs to change.

At the end of May, I wrote about a few events I had attended that had taken place that month and the more to come shortly.  Last week, I attended Edinburgh Pride and went to a wonderful gay club in Glasgow which I will write about soon.  I will be attending some more Prides over the coming months.

A few years ago, I remember speaking to some ignorant and rather obnoxious people, in, of all places, a gay bar.  When I told them about the Pride events I had attended; Manchester, Leeds, London, Paris, to name a few, they turned their noses up and spoke about its tackiness .  They suggested, with its flamboyance and slightly over the top nature of the parades and after parties, it almost drew too much attention, and was not needed.  Rubbish.  They did mention the commercialisation of Prides, and to some extent, I agreed.  With massive corporate sponsorship, enormous floats from all the big banks and shops join parades.  The question is raised or whether this is supporting the cases or profiting from the pink pound.   As highlighted above, the Stonewall Riots called for equality for a prosecuted minority.  Alas in general, Pride events take place now now not only to celebrate being gay, but do remember the struggles that got us to where we are today, and should be a reminder that there is still more to be done.

If you have never attended one before, and especially if you are LGBTQ+, go to a Pride.  Show your support.  Prides usually have many stalls and opportunities to find out about groups that can offer help and support.  The parades and the gatherings are festival like, and are meant to be enjoyed.  It is a safe space to be who you are.

Samuel x



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