Why This Year’s Stonewall Riots Anniversary Is More Important Than Ever

In 1969, same-sex New Yorkers couldn’t legally hold hands in the streets. Police routinely raided gay bars and arrested anyone who seemed to be cross-dressing or didn’t have their ID.

In this environment, the Stonewall Inn was a place of solace. The seedy Greenwich Village establishment may have been controlled by the Mafia, but it was still one of the few places that allowed drag queens and homeless youth.

Bar patrons often complied with raids in fear of being outed, but they were sick of the discrimination and harassment. When police came for Stonewall’s patrons on June 27, they fought back.

The Stonewall riots lasted for days. The first Pride parade happened the following year, and LGBTQ rights groups gained momentum.

Less than 50 years later, we still have a long way to go to protect LGBTQ rights. Here are a few reasons why we need to remember the Stonewall uprising this year.

1. Our Health Care is Still Under Attack

The Stonewall riots happened just a year after the DSM-II classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration looked the other way as tens of thousands of gay and bisexual men died of HIV/AIDS

Even today, it’s true that a lot of LGBTQ people are sick – just not in the way that bigots meant. Our communities face a disproportionate amount of mental and physical health problems, including high rates of depression, substance abuse and anxiety, which still aren’t being addressed.

The Trump administration rolled back LGBTQ health care protections this year. One proposed rule would’ve allowed doctors to choose not to treat someone due to religious objections.

The World Health Organization may have just stopped classifying being transgender as a mental illness, but significant work remains in the fight for LGBTQ health care rights.

2. Transgender People Are Still Forgotten

Transgender women and drag queens of color took leading roles at the Stonewall uprising, but history regularly erases that fact.

These individuals were instrumental in a wider fight for human rights, but they didn’t blend in. Transgender activist Miss Major Griffen-Gracy tells Autostraddle:

There were people trying to help gay and lesbian people assimilate into the real world. Okay, that’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. But I’m six feet and two inches tall, wearing three-inch heels and platinum blonde hair and the lowest-cut blouse and the shortest skirt I can find, I’m not assimilating into anything! So that was out of the question for most of us. We’re not exactly the most passable bunch of people, but we’ve got good hearts and we’re strong characters and we’re courageous people and we have a right to live and be here like everybody else does.

The modern LGBTQ movement continues to overlook transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

3. The Justice System Still Cracks Down on LGBTQ People

The riots started as a protest against police crackdowns on the bars where LGBTQ people gathered. Our communities — especially those of color — are still hurting under our current criminal justice system.

Transgender inmates disproportionately go into solitary confinement “for their protection.” They’re punished for defending themselves in a world that targets them too often. A 2014 report put the average life expectancy for U.S. transgender women of color at age 25.

At the same time, the Trump administration recently opted to roll back the few protections trans prisoners have in May. Senior official Diana Flynn just left her position at the Justice Department, citing Americans’ civil rights as being “under assault.”

As Pride Month comes to an end, we need to keep LGBTQ history in mind –  not just to remember how far we’ve come, but to see how far we still have to go.

Photo Credit: mathiaswasik/Flickr

17 comments

Mike R
Mike R2 months ago

Thanks

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Lesa D
Past Member 7 months ago

we *MUST* do better...

thank you Emily...

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 months ago

ty

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Karen H
Karen H9 months ago

We have to stand up for who we are. With Trump about to nominate another right wing SCOTUS justice, we stand on the precipice of losing our rights, including our right to marry the person we love. If we're not careful, we could have another Stonewall riot when Trump's stormtroopers arrive.

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Leo C
Leo Custer9 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Lisa M
Lisa M9 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M9 months ago

Noted.

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Leo C
Leo Custer9 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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Danii P
Past Member 9 months ago

TYFS

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