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Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Legacy of the Stonewall Uprising

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As Pride Month enters full swing, the queer community celebrates the past and future of the LGBTQ+ movement.

Arguably the most well-known event in queer history, the Stonewall Uprising, sometimes referred to as the Stonewall Rebellion or Riots, has taken on a life of its own.

The New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, on June 28, 1969. The queer patrons of Stonewall rebelled against the police, inciting the famous riot. The rebellion was followed by a series of protests on subsequent nights.

The uprising is often misrepresented as the inception of the gay rights movement.

Although Stonewall was a pivotal turning point in the fight for queer liberation, organizations such as the Lesbian Rights Group Daughters of Bilitis and the Los Angeles-based Mattachine Society pre-date the historic events of 1969.

The Stonewall Uprising directly led to the first Pride March of 1970, and the creation of the Gay Liberation Front, an influential leftist LGBTQ+ activist organization.

The Stonewall Inn provided a space for queer people to congregate relatively safely. Despite routine police raids, mafia exploitation and overall poor condition, the Stonewall Inn endured as a place where queer folks could hang out, slow dance, and sleep if need be.

Stonewall Participants Sylvia Rivera, a Latina trans woman, and Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, pioneered the way for the inclusion of transgender people of color in the queer movement, which was largely white and cisgender.

Johnson and Rivera founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. In addition to political activism, STAR provided housing for queer youth, mainly from funds earned from sex work.

There is no moment more synonymous with Stonewall than the throwing of the first brick. Although Johnson and Rivera have both been credited with hurling the first projectile, both have denied it in subsequent interviews.

Many Stonewall participants deny bricks were thrown at all, with stones and bottles cited as the primary tools of rebellion.

Nevertheless, the events of Stonewall Inn hold a mythic status in the queer community, and the story holds a place in many queer creators’ hearts.

Transgender Directors Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel collaborated on the 2018 short film “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” The film pairs archival footage of the Stonewall Uprising with interviews of Johnson and segments of speculative fiction, which follow Johnson in the hours leading up to the uprising.

The Stonewall Uprising and the movements which came from it paved the way for a more intersectional and inclusive queer community.

“My experience as a woman. My experience as a lesbian, My experience as a Black person,” said Cofounder of Salsa Soul Sisters Achebe Powell in the 2019 documentary “Stonewall Forever. “Become equally important in terms of how we do this work to dismantle the whole house, to bring it all down.”

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