Last night (28 June) marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 1969, which kicked off the LGBTI liberation movement. At the historic Stonewall Inn, a rally was held featuring various speakers and performers.
Among the speakers were New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Representative Jerry Nadler, the owners of the Stonewall Inn, and some of the veterans of that original 1969 uprising.
‘Right here, 50 years ago, this is where it all started,’ Sen. Gillibrand stated at the rally. ‘50 years later, those battles were not in vain. Gay marriage is the law of the land. Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell was repealed. HIV+ members of the community are living longer lives. And our Stonewall Inn is a national monument.’
However, Gillibrand noted that there are still struggles the LGBTI community are facing today. For instance, conversion therapy, the trans military ban, the fight for X gender markers on official documents, and anti-LGBTI discrimination at blood banks and adoption agencies.
‘We must never give up, we must never give in, we must march on,’ Gillibrand concluded.
‘I’m here to deliver a message on behalf of the House of Representatives. Because the rest of the federal government won’t,’ Rep. Nadler began his speech. ‘And that message is: Happy Pride.’
Nadler went on to discuss how when this country was founded, the phrase ‘All men are created equal’ did not include Black men, Latinx men, women, nor LGBTI individuals. He spoke about how it’s still legal in 26 states to fire someone for being gay.
Nadler also spoke about how the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, and that they’re determined to pass it into law. Yet, because of the Republican-controlled Senate, that’s still a struggle.
Bill de Blasio
When Mayor de Blasio took to the stage, he spoke about the Stonewall uprising, the struggles LGBTI people still face today, and the rise of white supremacy in the last couple years.
‘I believe we are about to have the greatest Pride celebration in history,’ he said. ‘And we remember, 50 years ago, when people right here said enough is enough.’
‘People have been free to be themselves,’ de Blasio continued. ‘But some people have been trying to take us backwards.’
Mayor de Blasio went on to talk about the LGBTI-inclusivity of New York City.
‘In NYC, we’ve proven that when you give more people more rights, it benefits everyone,’ he stated. ‘In NYC, we believe you are able to use whichever bathroom you feel comfortable with, and the sky didn’t fall.’
Mayor de Blasio explicitly mentioned how this country needs to do more to help and protect trans and non-binary people as well. He spoke of Layleen Polanco, the trans woman recently found dead on Rikers Island. He demanded justice for her, and stated that she shouldn’t have been in jail to begin with.
The Mayor also brought up the fact that soon, NYC will be home to statues of Stonewall pioneers Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. They will be the first monuments of trans heroes in the history of this country.
‘Marvel Comics has nothing on these heroes,’ de Blasio stated, before officially declaring 28 June Stonewall Day in NYC.
Why it all matters
GSN spoke with a few people in attendance at the rally about what the event meant to them.
‘[It represents] how far we’ve come, but also how far we need to go,’ said Tony from Portland, Oregon.
‘I mark the halfway point between Stonewall and now,’ said 25-year-old Danny from San Diego. ‘I’m so thankful for the people who have sacrificed more than I have. It makes me want to do more and shows me what change can do. In one word: this is beautiful.’
16-year-old Piper was in attendance with a sign which featured Steven Universe characters on one side and a message about gun control on the other.
‘I think this event and Pride in general is my favorite part of living in New York,’ she said. ‘[This event] shows the middle ground between what we’ve fought for in the past and what we’re fighting for in the future.’
A change in queer safe spaces
Indeed, the LGBTI community has come far in the last 50 years. Where back in the day, one wouldn’t be able to speak of same-sex love and attraction, there now exists dating apps explicitly for LGBTI people. For instance, Scruff, which has over 15 million users worldwide.
‘In an increasingly hostile political climate for LGBTQ Americans, the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots reminds us of the importance of safe spaces for our community,’ said Eric Silverberg, the CEO of Scruff. ‘In 1969, gay bars were not just a place to grab drinks and meet friends, dates, or hook-ups. They also served as a place of refuge for the LGBTQ community. Today’s safe spaces take many forms, ranging from physical locations like LGBTQ Community Centers, to digital spaces provided by queer apps.’
‘Our community continues to depend on these spaces and should have a right to gather without fearing for our safety, harassment, or judgement. We should also take this time to encourage those with the power to create, influence, and moderate queer spaces to understand how to make them welcoming for all members of our community.’
‘The Stonewall Inn was unique in 1969 in that it was more welcoming to trans women and men, drag queens, and people of color. In the years following the riots, the gay rights movements became largely focused on white, gay males, relegating many other members of our community to the background. Our activism today must be intersectional, inclusive, and conscious of the impact to all members of the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer community.’