New-York Historical Society commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the dawn of the gay liberation movement this summer, as New York City welcomes WorldPride, the largest Pride celebration in the world. Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society features two exhibitions and a special installation, as well as public programs for all ages.
Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall highlights the ways in which nightlife has been critical in shaping LGBTQ identity, building community, developing political awareness, and fostering genres of creative expression that have influenced popular culture worldwide. Serving as oases of expression, resilience, and resistance, LGBTQ bars, clubs, and nightlife spaces were hard-won in the face of policing, unfavorable public policies, and Mafia control.
NYC’s LGBT Community Center, with Support from Google, Created Stonewall Forever, a Living Monument to 50 years of Pride
Tel Aviv, Israel Pride Parade 2019
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi During Gay Pride 2019 in
San Francisco with three of her Grandchildren
BROADWAY BARES 2019 - NEW YORK CITY
STONEWALL 50: The exhibition begins with gay bars in the 1950s and 1960s continues through the rise of the gay liberation movement and the emergence of LGBTQ clubs as places of community activism.
By the Force of Our Presence: Highlights from the Lesbian Herstory Archives, curated by the Lesbian Herstory Archives Graphics Committee, highlights community-building, organization, and networking within the LGBTQ movement with a focus on the contributions of lesbians and queer women.
A grassroots organization established in 1974 in response to the widespread erasure of lesbian lives and voices, the Lesbian Herstory Archives houses the world’s largest collection of materials by and about lesbians.The exhibition features photographs, books and manuscripts, periodicals, posters, zines, flyers, and clothes.
A special installation, Say It Loud, Out and Proud: Fifty Years of Pride, features imagery from New York City Pride marches and other LGBTQ protests from the 1960s to the present day, as well as a timeline of milestones and objects from LGBTQ history.
GAY PRIDE 2018
First Pride Parade in Disneyland in California in 2019
Fifty years after the Stonewall uprising, Oscar-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and host Raymond Braun travel to three diverse communities – Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama – for an unflinching look at LGBTQ Pride, from the perspective of a younger generation for whom it still has personal urgency.
Michael Bronski's Book "A Queer History of the United States" Explores How LGBTQ People Have Always Been a Part of our National Identity - Contributing to the Country and Culture for Over 400 years
Michael Bronski is a Harvard professor who specialises in activist and media studies, looking at the LGBTQ community. He explains the Stonewall uprising in June 1969: The first stirring of an LGBTQ uprising—a modest one, not a riot—in the U.S. was the formation of two groups in the 1950s that lobbied for equality, as well as acceptance for gay men and lesbians. The Mattachine Society, formed in Los Angeles, was for gay men who were arrested for their sexual activity. The group provided legal support as well as giving men a sense of group identity.
Daughters of Bilitis was formed in 1955 in San Francisco and provided lesbians with a social life outside of bars, as well as emotional and legal support. Many women at the time who had been married, had children and then came out, would lose their children because lesbians were seen as bad mothers. Both of these groups did public education as well, to their members as well as heterosexuals.While both groups seem very mild by today’s standards, they were very radical for their time. You have to understand that in the 1950s all U.S. states had laws criminalizing same-sex sexual behavior. You could be arrested and even imprisoned for even proposition someone for sex in public. Lesbians and gay men were routinely fired from their jobs if their boss or coworkers discovered their sexual orientation. The laws criminalizing same-sex activity gradually disappeared from state penal codes over the years but the U.S. Supreme Court only called them unconstitutional in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. The Stonewall Riots (there were three instances of fighting with police over three nights) happened in June of 1969. This was a more militant approach—in a more militant era—in which gay people demanded respect and equality, rather than asking for it, or trying to educate the heterosexual population.
Stonewall 50 1973 - Pride Month 2019
Button from the 4th Annual Christopher Street Gay Pride Day held in Greenwich Village, NYC. Button shows illustration of the Stonewall Inn, scene of a riot prompted by a police raid.
Stonewall, helped from social change movement Gay Liberation, addressed many aspects of inequality in American society. The movement did not call for “equality” per se, but rather argued for wide-scale social change that would eliminate many of the factors that caused inequality, such as heterosexism, misogyny, racism, and poverty. When we are discussing Stonewall, it is also vital to place it squarely in the historical context of the political and street activism of the 1960s. This includes the Black Power movement, Radical Feminism, the anti-war movement against the war in Vietnam and the counter-culture (hippies, drugs, sex and rock and roll.)
There had been many bar raids in New York for decades, and I am sure some patrons resisted at times. But it is at the height of a national wave of political protests—of public demonstrations, vocal political demands, grassroots organizing—that set the climate so that the riots would happen (as they were happening across the country) and set into motion organizing.
What we call the “battle for LGBTQ rights” in the U.S. is a series of legal and policy reforms that removed the formal barriers to complete freedom for LGBTQ people. These demands were articulated in the 1950s by the "homophile groups." These included the decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity; making it illegal to discriminate against gay men and lesbians in the workplace and housing; allowing gay men and lesbians to legally adopt or foster-care children; stopping the unofficially sanctioned police or street harassment of gay people; and allowing same-sex couples to marry.
25th June 1989: Two women wearing "Wife" signs around their necks, smile for the camera, at the 1989 Gay Pride Parade in Greenwich Village, Manhattan commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
All of these issues were taken up by the Gay Rights Movement—a reformist aspect of the more radical Gay Liberation Movement—in the 1970s. They have been—to some degree—successful, but there is more work to be done. As of now, there is no federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 28 states, you can get fired for being lesbian, bisexual, or gay. In 30 states, you can be fired for being transgender. That being said, 22 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity by statute.
While same-sex couples can get married, many adoption agencies discriminate against same-sex couples. Also, much discrimination in jobs and housing happens below the radar—it is easy to turn down an application for an apartment by simply choosing someone else.
There is much for work to be done with laws and policies. Recently the Trump administration has been repealing Obama policies that forbade discrimination against transgender people. In many cases, I would argue that this is less a battle for “equal rights” than for “basic rights."
There have always been people throughout all of this history—not just American history—who have had sexual, affectional feelings and relationships with the same sex. This is not new. What is new is that we have these terms—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—which are all very recent additions to our common vocabulary. But just because we didn’t have these words 200 years ago doesn't mean that those people did not have these emotions and relationships.
In U.S. History many of These People are Intrinsic to What we Think of as American History:
Albert Cashiere - Who Was Assigned Female at Birth but Lived as Man
Was a Civil War Hero
Jane Addams - Who Helped Found American Social Work
Lived with a Long-Time Woman Lover
Charlotte Cushman - Shakespearean Actress of the 19th Century (U.S. and Europe)
Lived Openly with a Series of Women Lovers
Bayard Rustin who Organized Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March in Washington was an Openly Gay Man
There are Deeply Emotional, Passionate Letters Love Letters
Between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette
There are Also Similar Letters Between Abraham Lincoln
and his “Friend” Joshua Speed
Eleanor Roosevelt was a Lover to Lorena Hickok — During her Time as the First Lady and when Hickock was a Journalist Covering Her - Documented in Letters
Philadelphia Informsal Same Sex Wedding c 1950
There is no point in U.S. history in which same-sex loving people did not play a part in American social life, culture formation (especially in social work and the arts), policymaking, or shaping the future of the country. As I say in my book A Queer History of the United States, "there is no such thing a gay or lesbian history: it is all American history and we just need to uncover this lost history—much of which has been suppressed either consciously or accidentally—and see where it fits in the larger picture. This history is like a giant puzzle and we need to find the missing pieces and where—and how—they fit."
There has always been resistance by LGBTQ people, against oppression—from the law, the police, government officials, church doctrine. So it is a mistake to elevate “Stonewall” as the sole example—however, most of these episodes of resistance have not been recorded so have had little impact. The Compton Cafeteria riot of 1966 in San Francisco, in which transpeople battled the police and broke windows in the cafeteria when they were forced to leave, is one to note. I think that it is useful not to look at how one or two “riots”—Stonewall, Compton Street—had a big effect but rather how all of the small manifestations of resistance had an overwhelming cumulative effect on the lives of people and the society in which they lived.