When I first heard about the Stonewall Riots, I think I was in a university class that dealt with gender. This was around late 2014 or early 2015. I don’t remember what the name of the class was but I wish I paid more attention. At this point on my life, I was struggling to understand my sexuality and I wasn’t sure how I identified on the spectrum.
Many credit the start of the LGBTQ+ movement to Marsha P. Johnson as being one of the first individuals to stand up against the police when they raided the Stonewall Inn in 1969. Victoria Cruz was also involved in the movement. It is not known who exactly threw the first punch but these two women were at the forefront of it. There is one particular individual that is unknown that had been among the first arrested at the Stonewall Inn that yelled out, “Isn’t someone going to do something?” According to the video above, that person was accredited to starting the Stonewall Riots since everyone after that started the fight back. Stormé DeLarverie was thought to be the individial that got arrested and yelled out those words.
According to the History website, the “New York State Liquor Authority penalized and shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals, arguing that the mere gathering of homosexuals was ‘disorderly.’” In 1966, the regulations changed and LGBTQ individuals were able to be served liquor thru activists’ efforts. The mafia also owned several bars and some were able to open without liquor licenses.
The Genovese family owned the Stonewall Inn and patrons were expected to bring their own liquor. The family bribed the police so that they would not raid the inn. Without that police interference, the owners could do whatever they pleased. There were some safety measures that didn’t exist, like an emergency exit and running water was not something that inn had. When raids occurred, corrupt cops would tip off the mafia owners so that any “illegal” activities (i.e. alcohol and LGBTQ activities) would be hidden or controlled. According to All Things Interesting, being “gay was as illegal as stealing cars or embezzling money.” Public displays of affection or dressing in drag were frowned upon and could lead to being charged with gross public indecency and lewdness. LGBTQ individuals could be arrested.
The Stonewall Inn became a place where gay or queen runaway teens or drag queens could go to. At this point in history, drag queens weren’t as accepted in other LGBTQ establishments. It was also, “large and relatively cheap to enter,” according to the History website.
On June 28, 1969, a surprise raid occurred at the Stonewall Inn. I have read several accounts as to how the raid started on this day. One of them being that there were undercover cops that had gone to the inn that later left to get back up. The other is that there were rumors about a raid occurring but no one thought that the Stonewall Inn would be hit. There were individuals that were arrested if the sex on their IDs did not match their physical sex. LGBTQ individuals pushed back against the police for discrimination against them. The Stonewall Riots were a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ community because pride month started the following year, June 1970. The lasting importance of the Stonewall Riots allow for a celebration of life, love, expression and truth.
My Own Story
I came out on November 2017 when I was 23. When writing this portion, I realized that I still have a lot of anxiety and sadness associated with this memory, one that I am not ready to relive yet. It has been a year and a half but it’s definitely an experience that has shaped me into the person that I am today because it has been one of the hardest moments in my life. The relationship with my parents has definitely gotten better and they’re more accepting of the relationship with my girlfriend.