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Stonewall, Where A Few Transvestites Said Enough Was Enough

March 01
14:30 2012
ADAM MICHAEL LUEBKE
Los Angeles

Here’s a smooth summary of that evening:

It was on the night of June 27, 1969, that a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Christopher Street hangout for gays, run by the Mafia, prompted not cowed obedience from the customers but uncharacteristic fury and outrage. It was not unusual for the police to raid gay bars, and they did so regularly, to arrest transvestites and harass the customers. What made the raid of the Stonewall Inn unusual is that the gay and lesbian patrons spontaneously fought back, tossing beer cans, bricks and anything else in reach at the police officers, who responded by beating many of the protesters and arresting dozens of others.
Just why Stonewall’s patrons fought back is anybody’s guess now. Some say it was the heat of the night. Others say it had something to do with the death of Judy Garland five days before in London. Whatever the reason, patience had run out.
More protests followed in the days after the raid, marking a cultural shift at a time when few people were willing to be publicly identified as homosexual. In the aftermath of the melee, gays and lesbians left closets, never to return. At the end of the decade that had witnessed marches on Washington on behalf of civil rights for blacks and protests against the war in Vietnam, gay pride was born. Its time had arrived.

And that might have been the birth of the modern gay rights movement. Started in rage and fury. But how else could it have happened? Brutal, unlawful police forces should be terrorized until they’re on their knees before swelling crowds of irate citizens.

One man writes a sobered version of the Stonewall riots:

Dale Carpenter’s rendition is a more accurate reading of what the Stonewall was like at the time. No drag queens. No trannies. It was a white, middle class somewhat of a masculine bar that wouldn’t have let drag queens in. While raiding bars was already on the decline by the late 60s, it did happen particularly to establishments that never had a liquor license, like the Stonewall.

Okay I wasn’t there but knew firsthand people who were. It was a hot, muggy summer night. Late. People were a little buzzed on the booze and possibly some weed. The cops raided the joint. And suddenly, for no apparent good reason, some gay guy on the street threw something at the cops, the rest joined in and the fight was on. The cops retreated. It made national news. The cops tried it again and the results were the same. Rioting in Greenwich Village. The guys had won. We were just sick of the bull shit, that’s all.

Judy Garland’s death? Please. This wasn’t some weepy sissy bar. She probably wasn’t even on the juke box. I was there that summer and only remembered the standard loud dance music being played. But even then the place had an aura of history about it. You knew things were never going to be the same as they were. And they weren’t.

So there you have it. Or at least a small chunk of it. May the story give you strength and hope to find that fire in your gut and soul, and know you’re powerful.

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