It’s the month of June, and in this scorching heat there’s at least one reason to go outside: Pride. This year, there are a couple things to celebrate. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan, Carly Rae Jepsen finally released her follow-up to Emotion, and on June 28, 2019, half a century would have passed since the Stonewall Riots, the very reason we have Pride in the first place.
One of the most jarring things about this historical event is how little people know about it. They don’t teach this in school, and many of those outside and even within the LGBTQ community are largely unaware of its significance. So whether you’re straight, gay, bi, cis, trans, or otherwise specified, here’s what’s what on this pivotal moment in the fight for human rights.
What happened at Stonewall?
In the summer of 1969, in New York City, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people had already formed pocket communities in the West Village of Lower Manhattan. Many of these people suffered from unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination. One glaring issue that the LGBTQ faced at the time was rampant police brutality. Policemen were allowed to arrest anyone not wearing at least three articles of what was deemed gender-appropriate clothing, and that they did, while revelling in the humiliation and suffering of so-called “sexual deviants.” Most establishments turned away anyone who cross-dressed or exhibited homosexual behavior. One of the few spaces that didn’t was a Mafia-owned dive bar called the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street.
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the NYPD. Most of the time, the inhabitants of the bar fled the scene in time or yielded to police action. This time around, they fought back, and for the next three to five days, resistance and protests ensued. No one knows who threw the first brick, but what matters is that someone did. Contrary to some claims made by the media (including a certain drag queen media mogul), it was not the collective grief over the death of Judy Garland that fueled Stonewall, but the united cries of a people that enough was enough.
How did it turn into Pride as we know it today?
It’s important to note that Stonewall was not the beginning of gay rights groups as a whole, but rather, a new and urgent shift in LGBTQ activism with the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front. On the night of Stonewall, activists like Marsha Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Stormé DeLaverie rebelled, and they returned the nights after to continue their protest. The following year, the Christopher Street Liberation Day was organized, not only in New York, but in other US cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Even more cities followed suit as the years went by, and June was named Pride month to commemorate Stonewall. Pride had different causes at its helm through the decades, from the ruling out of homosexuality as a mental illness, to the fight against AIDS, to the passing of anti-discriminatory legislation.
What does this mean to us as Filipinos?
Stonewall will always act as a reminder that while Pride is a celebration, it is, at its core, a protest against political, economic, and societal oppression. It has been 25 years since the first Pride march in the Philippines. On June 29, 2019, Metro Manila Pride, the largest Pride gathering in the Philippines, will be held in Marikina Sports Center with the slogan “Resist Together”. In other parts of the Philippines, Prides are held throughout the year as well. This year, we fight for the passing of the SOGIE Bill after 19 years of delay, we fight for LGBTQ people who have been brutalized on the basis of their sexual or gender identity, and those who suffer from workplace discrimination without protection from the law. Other than that, we also champion the interests of women, farmers, workers, indigenous people, and other groups that have been neglected by the current administration.
It’s been 50 years since the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front. The movement was imperfect — in its early stages many trans people of color were sidelined in a group already on the fringes of society. The LGBTQ movement is slowly, but surely working to be more inclusive to different subgroups, such as the homeless and people with disabilities. We’ve come a long way, but many still die and suffer around the world for their identity. Last month, two gay men and a trans woman were killed in Detroit, and most recently, a gay couple in London was beaten up because they refused to kiss for a man’s entertainment. A lot of stories like this pass under the radar, and it’s our responsibility to make them known. It’s our responsibility to fight for a world where we can exist without consequence. This month, we make like the participants of the Stonewall Riot and show them that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re here to stay.