Stonewall at 50

There truly aren’t words sufficient to thank and honor everyone whose riot at Stonewall began 50 years ago tonight.

The drag queens.
The trans women.
The trans men.
The homeless LGBT youth.
The LGBT people of color.
Those who were working class.
Those who were economically exploited into poverty.
Those who had everything to lose and those who had nothing to lose (who were often the same).
And, yes, the cisgender, white LGB adults.

They fought for three days and nights. They threw bricks and trash cans. They sang and chanted. They taunted the police. They felt the beating of police batons. They were carried away in paddy wagons but came back to riot some more. They turned the police’s game on them, trapping law enforcement in the Stonewall Inn and threatening to burn it down. They endured cuts and bruises and broken bones. They were maligned by an openly homophobic, transphobic press. But they pressed on.

Stonewall wasn’t the first LGBT riot; that honor goes to San Francisco’s Compton’s Cafeteria riot — also led by trans women of color and drag queens of color.

But something about Stonewall touched off a movement, a movement that would change the world. That riot lead, eventually, to my proud queerness and my genderqueer identity. That riot changed my life.

Stonewall created a group of radical, proud GBQ men and trans women (and their LBQ cisgender women and trans masculine allies) who were ready to organize and fight for their lives when the ravages of “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” (GRID, eventually renamed AIDS) started taking them en masse 12 years later.

ACT-UP at 15 YearsThat riot helped create queerness, queer identity, radical queer politics. Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers and the Transexual Menace. And, yes, ACT-UP. (Act up, fight back, fight AIDS!)

From those rioters eventually sprung the trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary children and tweens with whom i’ve volunteered for the last 13 years.

To Marsha and Sylvia and Stormé. To the others whose names we don’t know. To those who wouldn’t take the shit of the corrupt, abusive, homophobic, transphobic, racist NYPD anymore. To those who refused to be ashamed any longer. To those who jettisoned the shame-based politics of pleading for pity, in favor of the politics of radical self-acceptance and love. To those who tossed “homosexual” out the window in favor of “gay” and “lesbian” and “bisexual.” To those who could never have imagined, on so many levels and for both better and worse, the world we live in today. To those who literally shed blood for themselves and for the future.

I was born just three years later. Three years, three months, and a handful of days. I am part of that future. Almost all of us in the LGBTQ2SA community today are.

It is 11:58pm ET on June 28, 2019. In 1969, they were rioting right now. Right now.

May we be worthy of even 10% of your legacy, of your strength, of your pride.

Thank you.

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