When I was 16 years old I used to volunteer at this all ages venue in Eugene. One night I was stamping some hands when my coworker, a guy called Spinner, told me to let an older woman in for free. “That’s a Stonewall veteran,” he explained, “She’s my hero.” Stupidly I asked, “What’s Stonewall?” Well, my ignorance had its benefits, and I was lucky enough to receive the Cliffs Notes version of the night that the cops decided to raid the Stonewall Inn, a secretive gay club in an era when queer sex was illegal and even dressing outside your assigned gender could land you in jail. The NYPD, as brutal then as ever, took money from gay bars in exchange for leaving the patrons alone, but often times even after they collected bribes they would harass, beat, and arrest people anyway. And so it went on June 27th of 1969, but this time as the Po-Po lined people up in front of the bar word spread around Greenwich Village. Soon people from all over the neighborhood arrived and surrounded the cops and began pelting them with rocks and bottles, chasing them from the street and into the bar. The riots persisted for the next 5 nights, and with this act of angry resistance a revolution began to spread- a revolution that is still advancing.
Tomorrow marks the 43rd anniversary of the day when an oppressed class of people rose with courage and fought back. The Stonewall vets knew that there are things worth fighting for- worth facing riot squads for in fact. These things include personal dignity, the freedom to do as we choose without the interference of governments and their armed lackeys, the liberty to live outside of cultural norms, to love in a world that does everything to beat the joy and passion out of us. That message reached me as a dumb punk kid in small town Oregon, just as it reaches millions more all the time.
This year remember that gay pride is not about rainbow colored beer advertising, it is not about the things that you purchase. It is about resistance against those who would dare to dominate our lives! Respect to the Stonewall Vets and all who have fought before and since!