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Inspired by Explorerboy…
The following is a text exploring gay pride events, riots, and political mistreatment led some gay and lesbian people to form organizations to protect gay rights in the United States. This seems to always be a hot topic around election time and with the President speaking out in favor of gay right in some part, its heating up again. So let’s find out what it takes to spark a gay movement, what it entails, where it’s been and where it’s headed. This text is a quick snapshot of some events leading up to riots, and then onto a political gay right movements.
(Click on picture or here to view video on gay rights movement)
Is President Barack Obama a 2nd class citizen? This may sound silly today, but just a few decades ago African American people were not considered an entire citizen in some states. Can you imagine living life where you are not even considered a citizen, a whole person, or that you are not worthy of being allowed the right to vote in some parts of the United States. There is still a group of people that are feeling this way in 2012, gays and lesbians. What was it like to be a gay person in the United States back in the 60’s or 70’s? Has things really changed for gays now, possibly gay people are still fighting the battles of social stigma, religion and political mistreatment from decades ago? “President George H. W. Bush asserted that homosexuality was not ‘normal.’ Vice President Dan Quayle questioned the suitability of gay and lesbian parents” (Miller 528). These are statements from high ranking officials running the U.S. Through this text, I will explore some gay protest and events that sparked some gay rights movements in the past decades. From the riots in New York back in 1969, to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it’s been a long journey for gay people to try and be recognized as a full-fledged U.S. citizen. Gay, what does it mean? Dictionary.com defines gay as: 1. homosexual; 2. of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interest or issues: a gay organization; 3. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music; 4. bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments. Margaret Cruikshank states in her book The Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement, “the causes of homosexuality, like the causes of heterosexuality, are unknown” (26). Many people in the U.S. speak out and call homosexuality unnatural, when
there is no cause for heterosexuality being natural. I have gay and lesbian friends and I never thought anything other than they are friendly, fun people. But there are a lot of other people who don’t feel the same way about gays and lesbians. My friend Jared says, “Each day I walk down the street, because I’m a bit feminine I get dirty looks from guys, and I’ve had one woman say to my face, what a waste of a good looking man.” Jared ignores these incidences and goes on about his day, but in the back of his head “thinks one day someone may do something to harm me, just for the fact that he is gay.” Mary and Jane are two friends of mine, who have been a couple for a long time, twenty six years to be exact. Mary and Jane say, “They don’t really care about marriage; we just want the option of being able to get married if we wanted to.” Jane was in an accident a while back and when Mary got to the hospital, they would not let her back to see Jane, because she was not family. Although they have lived together for years, own a house together, even have kids together, but she was not allowed in to see her. Jane was ok, and later was moved to a room where she could have visitors. A visitor, now is that really what Mary should be considered? I’ve heard some horror stories where one partner was hurt in the hospital and their partner was not allowed to see them, and they died. I personally feel this is the underlying reason for gay movements; just to be treated with RESPECT. (Click here for a related story) The Stonewall riot (New York City, 1969) was a pivotal event for gays and lesbians which ushered in a modern political gay rights movement. This riot was ignited due to the continued harassment and arrest of gays and lesbians by police and the numerous numbers of laws that the New York
City had in place against homosexuals. In his online article “A Brief History of the Stonewall Riots and the Gay Rights Movement,” Roman Johnson offers a glimpse at the laws gays and lesbians were subjected to:
LGBT people were subjected to civil laws that criminalized sodomy and, in New York City, allowed bars to refuse service to LGBT patrons. Arrests, harassment and instances of entrapment by police were frequent. Civil laws reinforced their actions. Establishments often cited Section 106, Subsection 6 of the New York State Penal Code to refuse service to queer patrons. The code barred premises from becoming "disorderly houses." Many, including the courts, considered homosexual patrons to be disorderly. And, in establishments where LGBT patrons were served, they could not touch each other while they danced. Section 722, Subsection 8 of the New York State Penal Code made it an offense to "solicit men for the purpose of committing a crime against nature." Again, it was argued that homosexuality was an act against nature. Queer patrons were often entrapped by plain clothes police officers, posing as regular bar patrons. Transgender people were openly arrested on the streets.
On June 28, 1969, some gay people fought back against the police that raided the local gay bar in Greenwich Village, called the Stonewall Inn. In Neil Miller’s book Out of the Past describes the event “at 1:20 A. M. eight officers from the Public morals Section of the First Division of the New York City Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located on Christopher Street, just off Seventh Avenue, in Greenwich Village” (365). Normally the people in the bar who did not get arrested would run out the bar in shame and retreat home trying to hide their face so not to be seen coming out of a gay bar but not this night. Some drag queens and young men were drawing a line in the sand and ready to fight back against the police for raiding yet another gay bar. “Gay bars held a central place in gay culture: often they were the only places where people could be open” (Cruikshank 69). The drag queens and young men started fighting with police in the bar; stilettos, bottles, coins, bricks and trashcans were being thrown at police. The incident spilled out on the
street in front of the bar, where others joined in the fight. Eric Marcus’ book Making History illustrates an eye witness account of the event:
Then some people in the crowd started throwing pennies across the street at the front of the Stonewall. Then someone apparently threw a rock, which broke one of the windows on the second floor. The tension escalated. A few more rocks went flying, and then somebody from inside the bar opened the door and stuck out a gun. He yelled for people to stay back. Then he withdrew the gun, closes the door, and went back inside. Somebody took an uprooted parking meter and broke the glass in the front window and the plywood board that was behind it. Then somebody else took a garbage can, one of those wire-mesh cans, set it on fire, and threw the burning garbage into the premises. They had a fire hose inside and they used it to on the fire. Then they opened the front door and turned the hose on the crowd to try to keep people at a distance. That’s when the riot erupted. (201)
Word of the riot spread fast in the Village and more people came out to join in. The police finally got control over the crowd when the Tactical Police Force (SWAT/Crowd Control of the time) joined in to back up the trapped police. The Stonewall Inn riot received local and national press, which got the word out to many gay communities around the world. This event is classified as a “movement” because it united gay and lesbian people to organize and turn their attention to battling this opposition on a political level. Vowing to continue
this fight all the way to the Supreme Court if need be.
Gay pride parades and gay pride
month are events, which helps to foster the gay rights movement by creating awareness and promoting acceptance. Gay pride month is celebrated in June, which happens to be Black History Month as well. There is no link to the two being honored on this month but I like to think of it as a great reminder to all, don’t treat or judge anyone badly because of skin color or sexual orientations. Many may question the validity of these events, but I think they spread awareness. Pride parades and gay pride month are now celebrated in many cities as well as countries around the world on June 28th. Some companies, even the Pentagon in the United States have events during June to honor their gay and lesbian employees. (Click here for related story) This tradition was started by Craig Rodwell, a gay rights activist. Rodwell came back from a protest in Philadelphia and felt that the methods of calm pretesting used were not enough. So once back in New York, he organized Christopher Street Liberation Day. The first march of the organization was held on June 28, 1970. Historical facts from Robert Vaux’s online article “The History of the Gay Pride Parade” state:
In the wake of the riot, the LGBT community felt a need to assert their rights more publicly, through marches and demonstrations. The first gay rights parade took place on June 28, 1970, to commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall. Activist groups marched in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, using terms like “Gay Liberation” and “Gay Freedom” in support of their cause. The parades had a playful side to them, but were also focused on increasing awareness within the LGBT community.
Another modern day tactic used to support gay rights is the use of gay pride symbols. These are a quick way for gay people to recognize each other and supporters, putting out
there that they are gay and proud. Some of these symbols include the rainbow flag, pink triangle, human rights symbol, the Labrys, black triangle, and the lambda sign. One of the most recognized and widely used symbols is the rainbow flag. This flag started to be used in 1978 out of a need for an easily recognized symbol, which could represent gay pride year after year. Charles Riffenburg writes in his article “Symbols of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Movement,” about the origins of the gay pride flag:
Gilbert Baker and thirty volunteers hand-stitched and hand-dyed two huge prototype flags for the parade. The flags had eight stripes, each color representing a component of the community: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony and violet for spirit. The next year Baker approached San Francisco Paramount Flag Company to mass produce rainbow flags for the 1979 parade. Due to production constraints, such as the fact that hot pink was not a commercially available color, pink and turquoise were removed from the design and royal blue replaced indigo. The six color version spread from San Francisco to other cities and countries and soon became the internationally known symbol of gay pride and diversity it is today. It is even officially recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers.
I have been to several gay pride parades and this flag is everywhere and is waved very proudly by all who carry it. It also can be found flying in most predominately gay areas around the world, and is displayed on most businesses that support gay patrons. If you don’t think that this flag means a lot to the gay and lesbian community just ask the folks over at the Seattle Space Needle. They have flown the pride flag the last two years on the weekend of the pride celebrations in Seattle, WA but chose not to do it this year (2012). The Seattle gay community did not appreciate this decision and took offense. This was a sore spot with many gay people in the area but owners of Qwest Field lit up the stadium in
the rainbow pride colors in honor of Seattle’s gay pride weekend. (Click here for related story) Now I’ve briefly talked about some laws on record aimed directly at homosexual people in the past, let’s move to a more recent one, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). DADT has been recently repealed, but still worth taking a look at. “The policy known as ‘don't ask, don't tell’ was made law in 1993 amid a debate over the role of gays in the military. It limits the military's ability to ask service members about their sexual orientation (don't ask) and allows homosexuals to serve provided they keep quiet about their sexual orientation (don't tell) and refrain from homosexual acts,” as referenced in an article “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Many say this law was put in place to protect gay people. In some ways I can see it helping, a person in the military, because it was not allowed to asked about one’s sexual orientation. On the other hand military personnel could be fired or dismissed service if he/she talked about being gay or was even suspected of engaging in gay acts. The law created a “in the closet” situation for all gay and lesbian military. “An estimated 66,000 gay and lesbian troops are on active duty, advocates say. The prohibition on serving openly forced more than 13,000 from the armed forces since the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was adopted during the Clinton administration,” sourced from Lisa Rein’s article “After ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal, a Gay Pride Celebration.” This had to take a toll on some of the troops still in the military, who wants or needs this type of stress on top of stress already brought on from being in the Armed Forces. Mark one down for the gay rights movement,
this law was repealed on September 20, 2011 (Rein, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”). Don’t think that’s the only law on the books at the Federal level, there is still the Defense of Marriage Act. This law bans same-sex marriage and is basically leaving it up to the States to decide on the issue of gay marriage. Now that you are fired up about gay rights or at least your mind is open to the thought of gay events, symbols and movements, join in the fight. There are many ways to help out, some as simple as signing a petition for same-sex marriage or donating money to a gay rights organization. There is a great article by Ramon Johnson “Top 10 Ways to Support Gay Rights,” listing more ways. Like speaking out against bullying, voting, write letters to your State Senator or Representative, even watching gay television shows can help. How about this, be nice to the next gay person you see. Don’t judge them on something they do in their bedroom, I’m sure they are not judging you that way. I think one of the biggest things we can do in the world for the gay rights is to keep an open mind and see each other as equals.
Cruikshank, Margaret. The Gay and Lesbian Liberation Movement. New York, NY: Routledge, 1992. Print. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The New York Times. The New York Times, 08 Aug. 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/d/dont_ask_dont_t ell/index.html. Johnson, Ramon. “A Brief History of the Stonewall Riots and the Gay Rights Movement.” About.com. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://gaylife.about.com/od/stonewall/a/stonewallhistory.htm. Johnson, Ramon. “Top 10 Ways to Support Gay Rights.” About.com. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://gaylife.about.com/od/gayrights/tp/gayrights.htm. Marcus, Eric. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990: An Oral History. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1992. Print. Miller, Neil. Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. New York: Vintage, 1995. Print. Rein, Lisa. "After ‘don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal, a Gay Pride Celebration." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 27 June 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/after-dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-a-gaypride-celebration/2012/06/26/gJQAkbhX5V_story.html. Riffenburg, Charles. “Symbols of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements.” 24 Dec. 2004. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://www.lambda.org/symbols.htm. Vaux, Robert. "The History of the Gay Pride Parade." EHow. Demand Media, 02 July 2010. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://www.ehow.com/about_6692536_history-gay-prideparade.html.%20. White, Mario. American Flag. Digital Image. 23 July 2009. White, Mario. Christopher/Gay Street Sign. Digital Image. 13 Jan. 2008. White, Mario. Gay Pride Parade. Digital Image. 28 June 2010. White, Mario. Pride Flag. Digital Image. 29 June 2010. White, Mario. Uncle Same Sign. Digital Image. 9 Mar. 2009. Wikipedia. Stonewall Inn. Digital Image. 12 Aug. 2008. Wikipedia. Stonewall Riot. Digital Image. 8 June 2008.
Additional Linked Articles & Websites
Badash, David. "Seattle Space Needle Drops Gay Pride Flag This Year | The New Civil Rights Movement." The New Civil Rights Movement. The New Civil Rights Movement, 21 June 2010. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/1-seattlespace-needle-drops-gay-pride-flag-this-year/politics/2012/06/21/41959. Defense of Marriage Act: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c104:h.r.3396.enr
James, Susan Donaldson. "Lesbians Sue When Partners Die Alone." ABC News. ABC News Network, 20 May 2009. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=7633058. Jelinek, Pauline. "Pentagon Honoring Gay Troops for Pride Month." Msnbc.com. Msnbc Digital Network, 15 June 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2012. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47828083/ns/us_news/t/pentagon-honoring-gaytroops-pride-month/. Stonewall Inn picture: http://www.thestonewallinnnyc.com/StonewallInnNYC/HOME.html Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cBCBzA3NC4
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?