If you’re new here my name is Cory Guinn. I’m a professional photographer, artist, and extremely gay. After reflecting on Pride 2019 and thinking about our community, I wanted to shed some light on why we celebrate each year and why we continue to fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. Since this year is the 50th Anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, it feels appropriate to talk about this now.
BONNIE’S STONEWALL INN
This is, according to most, where Pride truly began. The history behind The Stonewall Inn is actually quite lengthy and dates back to the 1930s. To make it easy to understand I’m going to simplify the timeline for you a little…
1930—Bonnie’s Stonewall Inn opens as a “tearoom” on 7th Avenue South, but is actually operating as a speakeasy. Later, in December, Stonewall was raided by the police.
1934—Stonewall moves to Christopher Street in Greenwich Village and operates as a bar and restaurant primarily for heterosexual couples.
1964—The interior of Bonnie’s Stonewall Inn catches fire and is completely destroyed.
1966—A few members of the mafia decide to invest in the building turning it into a gay bar. This bar becomes wildly popular within the local queer community because it is one of the only gay bars that allows you to dance intimately.
The police would collect cash from Stonewall in exchange for turning a blind eye to drug deals, prostitution, and other illegal activities happening there. This bar is often portrayed as one of the only safe-havens for LGBTQIA+ people, but it is definitely glorified by recent social media outlets. The bar was rundown—the toilets were overflowing, the mob was in and out of the place, and they had to wash dishes in a tub.
Because they were operating without a liquor license they also became the subject of frequent police raids. Once a month the police would confiscate all of their liquor. Most of the time the bar owners were aware of the raids before they happened and were able to resupply the bar pretty quickly to resume business. This happened for years until…
June 28, 1969—The police attempt an ill-prepared raid on Stonewall, inciting riots.
1:20AM—Seymour Pine of the NYC Vice Squad Public Morals Division and four other officers joined forces with undercover police inside of the bar. This was different from their usual raids. They broke down the door and started lining people up and detaining them. Poor planning on their part meant that the patrol wagons, which were to escort arrested patrons and illegal substances, did not arrive in time. While attempting to control the patrons and waiting on the patrol wagons, the situation became more complicated.
As the night went on more people began to arrive. The large crowd had collected outside of the bar, effectively trapping the undercover officers inside. When the patrol wagons showed up, there were several small scuffles as police attempted to control the crowd. One woman, believed to be Stormé DeLarverie (although many accounts recall differently), continued to fight against and escape from the police officers who were detaining her. After complaining that the handcuffs they had her in were too tight, one of the officers beat her down with a baton. DeLarverie, who was broken and bleeding, looked up to her community from the pavement of the street and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?”
When she was hauled into the back of a patrol wagon the crowd began fighting back. There were things being thrown—stones, shot glasses, kicks and punches—but ultimately the police were able to end the riot.
There had been several organizations attempting to push forward gay rights at the time, but they were honestly not very successful. After The Stonewall Riots, the Gay Liberation Front was formed. This is truly where the movement took off. Within a year, the Gay Liberation Front organized three simultaneous gay pride marches in three major cities. These are considered to be the first gay pride parades. In addition to this they also opened the first LGBTQ+ community center and organization for gay youth.
Throughout the years we would continue to fight for our rights. Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt, bans on gay/trans people in the military were lifted, gay marriage was legalized, and this year we celebrated the largest international Pride Parade ever.
But the fight for equality is not over for us. There are more problems in our community than ever before. This includes internalized homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, racism, etc. With social media at its highest, there are many people willing to go online and be nasty to everyone and anyone. In these times, no matter where you are in the LGBTQIA+ community, we need to continue to fight for equality. We can overcome hatred and fear if we carry the vigilance of those who came before us.