51 years feels like an eternity.
In 1969, astronauts landed on the moon and the earliest version of the Internet popped up. For queer folks and allies during June, we also remember the Stonewall Riots, the linchpin of the modern-day LGBTQ Rights movement arguably began.
Before the Stonewall Riots, actions coded as queer were criminal offenses; if your clothes or demeanor were seen as too different from the typical Christian heterosexual person, you would be arrested. Being outed as queer could get you fired. By the end of the 1960s, several covert gay/lesbian clubs popped up around the country. The police routinely raided and arrested patrons of underground gay bars, and LGBTQ people had had enough.
On the night of June 28th, 1969, undercover cops tried to raid the Stonewall Inn, but those in the bar – especially trans people of color – refused to go. More police came, and a riot broke out. Some say bricks were thrown, others say drink glasses and rocks, but this was the breaking point. A mob of queer people shouted “gay power” and sang, causing the world to wake up and look towards this small bar in the middle of New York’s Greenwich Village.
That was an extremely shortened version of the full story (I’m reading Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman). It was a time of unrest, where the public wasn’t on the side of queer people, and things had to get loud and uncomfortable for change to come.
As a gay man, I’m in awe of what previous generations had to go through to be accepted and heard. And 51 years later, the world is waking up again, this time to police brutality and racial injustice.
No one has the luxury to remain silent anymore. It is our responsibility to stand up and support these protests calling for fair treatment and institutional change.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder. Just this week, Merriam-Webster is amending their definition of racism to better reflect the systemic issues faced by people of color. The tides are turning, and Jews/LGBTQ people know the feeling of the world against them and the need to speak up.
In the 1960s, Rabbi Abraham Heschel stood with MLK and other Civil Rights leaders. He famously said, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” Jews remember our past, so it’s troubling to see history repeating.
To the queer folks reading this, happy Pride Month. Let us remember the riot 51 years ago that changed the world forever, and support the ones going on now.
History will remember.
Written by yours truly,
Ross Weisman, Engagement Associate at Tribe 12
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