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Stonewall, Today

Pride 2020 is about remembering the origin of a community’s fight for justice and highlighting the parallels to present day.

(Victor Ospina/Rowdy Magazine Archives)


Today marks the first day of Pride month for 2020. This is a time most of us in the LGBTQ+ community have come to associate with happiness and freedom, but in light of killing after killing of black Americans by the hands of police, we instead find ourselves mourning once again.

Pride 2020 is about remembering the origin of a community’s fight for justice and highlighting the parallels to present day.

Celebrating Pride would not be possible without black trans women and the other LGBTQ+ people of color who helped lead the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

What started as a police raid of a gay bar in Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, turned into an adamant and resilient display of the LGBTQ+ community’s defiance.

The police would often raid gay bars and terrorize the patrons throughout the 1960’s. It was illegal to serve alcohol to known or suspected LGBTQ+ individuals until 1966, and even afterwards, you could still get arrested for display or solicitation of same-sex relations in New York City. What the state called “cross-dressing” was also an arrestable offense.

After years of tolerating blatant systemic discrimination that dehumanized the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, the patrons at Stonewall Inn fought back through the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

The battle began when someone threw a shot glass into a mirror, spurring the riot. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans activist, is accredited with throwing “the shot glass heard around the world,” although she denies throwing it. Either way, she was the spark that lit the match with resisting police during the riots.

Chaos followed as the number of demonstrators racked up to the hundreds. Patrons of Stonewall Inn joined with patrons from neighboring bars in the resistance of their oppressors. Windows were smashed as glass littered the ground, glinting like snowflakes in the summer heat. Stones and bottles were thrown at the police violently attacking and detaining patrons. Fire engulfed cars on the street, and even the Stonewall Inn itself went up in flames, though the fire department salvaged the bar later.

It was a brawl for the books, and the rioters did not let up. Thousands returned to Stonewall the next night to finish their fight and continued to show up for the next six days.

The protests and riots that have spread across the country today –– similar to the flames that burned at Stonewall –– signify the people have reached another breaking point.

People are tired of literally watching innocent, unarmed black lives get taken.

In the case of George Floyd, his murderer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. All four of the officers present for Floyd’s killing, including Chauvin, were fired. All except Chauvin walked away without charges.

It may not be enough for his loved ones, for his family, for a community that has and continues to be taken from, but there is even more to be done for so many black lives that get no semblance of justice.

Disturbingly, today we find a parallel between the LGBTQ+ community’s and the black community’s fear of police. Even more so at the intersection of the two.

Just this last week, Tony McDade, an unarmed black trans man, was shot and killed by the Tallahassee Police Department after officers suspected him of being involved in a stabbing. Due to Marsy’s Law, the name of the officer has not yet been released, but eyewitnesses reported he was a white officer. While TPD can’t tell us any details on whether there was body camera footage or even how many shots were fired, the unnamed officer is on paid administrative leave.

The Human Rights Campaign found that black LGBTQ+ individuals face unique and disproportionate violence when compared to their non-black counterparts.

If you’re non-black and LGBTQ+, you should reconsider celebrating Pride if you’re remaining compliant with or tolerant of the brutal treatment of black Americans by police officers across the country.

You could be dishonoring the history of a movement that directly services you. Black lives were at the helm of the riots that catalyzed the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing trek toward equality.

People have a right to doubt and question violence at riots or demonstrations, but in doing so, consider first expressing those same grievances with the violence spurring the vehement pushback. If we are to criticize all rioters for rioting, we can first acknowledge and criticize the systemic violence that has brought them there.

Pride is about more than wielding rainbow flags and partying with your friends. As our country reaches its boiling point, use this month to reflect on past measures of resistance to better understand where we find ourselves today.


Natalia Galicza is a contributing writer for Rowdy Magazine. You can find some of her past work in Rowdy Magazine Vol. III, "A Sensible Guide To Raising Hell."


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