The 45th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots: Still Here, Still Queer, Still Not Used to It

The Gay Liberation Front, pictured here in 1969, formed in response to the Stonewall Riots. Image: PBS

The Gay Liberation Front formed in 1969 in response to the Stonewall Riots.

In 1969, homosexuality was illegal in 49 states. It was classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and it was not unheard of for those who identified as homosexual or transgender to undergo extreme treatments such as lobotomies or castration in an attempt to “cure” their conditions. If it was discovered that you were gay, you were blacklisted. Doctors and lawyers lost their licenses. Your home address was published in major newspapers. You were dishonorably discharged from military service. Non-gender-conforming people were refused service in public establishments, found it difficult to receive health care, and were routinely arrested for indecent behavior — behavior that was often simply being transgender. Society expected that you assimilate with heteronormative ideals by presenting as the gender you were born with, marrying the opposite sex, and having children.


Saturday will be the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. We have come a long way since then, but still have more work to do.


In the late 1960s, Greenwich Village was a progressive neighborhood in New York City that also served as a respite for the LGBTQ community of the time, including the poorest and most disenfranchised. The Village was also home to numerous establishments frequented by LGBTQ patrons in a time when they could not publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation or identity, lest they be arrested. These establishments — which included the Stonewall Inn (a mafia-run bar) — were often the subject of police raids.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the New York City Police Department, just as it had been many times before. This time, Stonewall patrons did not allow themselves to be shoved into the backs of police cars. Forty-five years later, details of the riot remain conflicting and vague, but what is agreed upon is that Stormé DeLarverie — also known as King Stormé, a drag king in the drag group Jewel Box Revue — is credited with throwing the first punch in reaction to being shoved by police. With this punch, the Stonewall crowd exploded into a full-blown violent demonstration. Participants saw the violence of which they were so often the recipients suddenly being turned back on their oppressors. Continue reading

International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

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That’s tomorrow — May 17.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Homophobia and transphobia — or rather, anti-gay and anti-trans thoughts, words, and actions — are deeply rooted in many cultures, including inside the United States. In reality, they need far more than one day of discussion and recognition. One day is not enough.

When I started thinking about this post, I thought of all the ways such sentiments show up in everyday life. It’s so much that I couldn’t possibly write everything. Then I thought some more — this was when Arizona SB1432, the “show your papers to pee” bill, was topping my newsfeeds — and it occurred to me how very much of this discrimination has been coded into law, is being encoded into law even now.

Even then, I had to narrow my search parameters — to the United States, to the relatively recent past. Otherwise, it’s just too much.

And even then, a lot of the bias remains in what’s not covered — people and situations for which the law does not provide. For groups of people who are still discriminated against, harassed, threatened, assaulted, killed by individual citizens or private organizations — this lack of necessary legislation still causes active harm.

This first set examines a number of laws — some national, some state — and Supreme Court rulings from the recent past.

1960 — Is as good a place to start as any. This is because in 1960, every state in the United States maintained laws against sodomy. Illinois was the first state to repeal its statute in 1961; Arizona followed suit 40 years later.

1967 — In Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the United States Supreme Court held that gay folk were included under those “afflicted with psychopathic personality.” They could thus be refused admission — or deported — simply for being gay. This remained in effect until immigration law was reformed in 1990. Continue reading