In the 1960s, it was common for police to barge into LGBT venues and gay bars to disrupt the peace. During that time, LGBT people were actively discriminated against in very public and humiliating ways. This was a dark, backwards time in American history.
Tolerance was unheard of, whether in the context of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Terminology was rude and abusive, and treatment of anyone who differed from the heterosexual, white male powers that be often found themselves being discriminated against, often in cruel and violent ways.
The abuse of power and mistreatment of LGBT people was a regular occurrence, and the disturbance of peaceful gatherings was commonplace during that era. On June 28, 1969, a shift occurred in the power differential.
A crowd of regulars at the Stonewall Inn, an LGBT club in New York City, were raided by police, just as so many others had been for years. This time, the determined group decided not to disband and flee the scene. Enough was enough. They were not leaving their peacefully established gathering. This decision erupted into a six-day riot in what is now known as the Stonewall Uprising.
LGBT people stood up and defied social ignorance and abuse of power. It was a landmark event in the LGBT community and paved the way for the gay rights movement, pride events, and a unification of power.
Why It Matters
It is important to honor the events and uprising of Stonewall; it offers a historical relevance to LGBT community and lessons for individuals that should never be forgotten. Let’s look at some of the important messages and wisdom Stonewall provided:
- Passivity can breed complacence: Prior to Stonewall, LGBT people were more inclined to run from the ignorant behaviors of biased people rather than standing up to it. While it is important to protect oneself from harm, being too passive about maltreatment can keep us stuck in abusive circumstances. Sometimes you must make the choice to fight.
- Band with your community: Isolation can be dangerous, not only in situations with ignorant bigots, but emotionally, as well. Stay connected with people who get you and offer you support and compassion.
- Get angry when you need to, but don’t get stuck there: Anger can breed positive change when it is righteous. Standing up for what is right and showing your anger is healthy. Try not to cling to anger, as this can be toxic over time.
- Celebrate who you are: Throw yourself a parade, literally! Join a pride rally, honor yourself as an LGBT person.
- Stand in gratitude: Remember to give thanks for the hundreds of thousands of LGBT people who have paved the way, bit by bit, for inclusion and acceptance. Even though we have a long way to go in our culture, a lot of progress has been made, thanks to Stonewall and the brave actions of those patrons who had had enough.
Regardless of where you are in your journey, whether you are open about your status or struggling with a lot of fears about the way others will treat you, be kind to yourself. Reach out to others and do not try to manage your struggles all alone.