Before Stonewall

The pressures of oppression were building long before Stonewall. Let us not forget the many who trudged the unknown paths prior to June 28, 1969.

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Leaders

Many attribute the uprising of Stonewall to the drag queens and transgender present the night of the raid 50 years ago. Today much of our leadership is inspired by those same members of our diverse community.

Diversity and acceptance are character qualities I support, admire and strive toward. I applaud those who step up and out, to lead us through living their own truth. It is through their vulnerability that courage and strength are born.

Thank you to Peppermint, Lady Bunny and Sasha Velour for your inspiration and leadership.

Tipping Points

While the video’s title didn’t thrill me by starting with the words “Old Gays”, I was interested to see what insight the video held. My takeaway is when the one immediately responds that the significance of Stonewall is what happened afterwards and that is still unfolding.

As pride month continues in its 50th year after Stonewall let us continue the significance of this humble rebellion and it’s aftermath. Happy Pride.

Harvey Milk

Trailblazer.

Harvey’s foray into politics followed closely after Stonewall yet it took him several tries to finally get elected into office. However as he did, he blazed a trail. Like those who took a stand the night of Stonewall and into the days that followed, Harvey took a stand and he persevered.

Neither the rioters nor Harvey knew where their new paths would lead, yet look where we are today. Let us make all of them proud and continue our march forward. America and the whole world can only be great if we keep moving forward toward better horizons of understanding, respect and equality. It’s up to us as there is much left to do.

Christopher Street West

While Stonewall is commemorated as the flash point into LGBTQI activism and equality, LGBTQI history is diverse and lengthy.

This short documentary gives a glimpse into the life and movement out here on the west coast prior to, during and after Stonewall.

We have come a long way, yet we have a long way ahead of us as well.

If they ever do find a cure,

I just want to be there.

 

1989 was the year the film Longtime Companion was released. 1989 was the height of the  AIDS crisis. My friends, and lovers, were being diagnosed left and right. My friends, and lovers, were dying left and right.

Needless to say this movie was a timely written timeline of the short decade that proceeded it. The short decade that was my coming of age as a gay man. I came out while in high school in 1980. Almost, not all, of my early friends and lovers in the gay community at the least became infected, or died. At the time this movie was released I was but one of very few I knew who remained HIV negative.

It wasn’t if I would succumb, it was when. Somehow I remain, thankfully, uninfected.

When this final scene came up on the big screen in front of me and my friends with which I sat, we began to cry. Sobbing with ugly tears. Tears of grief, loss and yet hope. Hope that one day our nightmare would end. Hope that one day we might once again see, hold, love and kiss those we once knew. Hope that at the least we wouldn’t loose any more loved ones to this horrible disease.

Time passed, infection rates dropped. We learned and eventually treatments improved.

Today there isn’t yet a cure but there is prevention. With science and research, particularly STEM CELL RESEARCH, a cure may one day become reality. Remember that your vote counts, your future vote may be needed to not only ensure the necessary research we now have but to restore it.

It’s pride month. Be proud of who you are. Respect others for being who they are. Understand those who are different. Love your sister and your brother. Vote for progress. Strive to be better.

(This Post is dedicated to Jerry Smoot who was my first friend, and occasional lover, I lost to AIDS. At a young 38 years, he was just coming into his prime. Jerry, when the scene came on the screen I envisioned you running onto that beach to hug me, kiss me and hold me.)

Stonewall

The accuracy of many varying accounts of exactly what happened at the Stonewall Inn the night of June 28, 1969 are often debated. The story below offers several first hand recollections laying to rest several myths as well as confirming other truths.

What we do know is that it was a chaotic scene which resulted in a movement. A movement which simply asked for respect.

 

Be true to yourself, be who you are

It was late June 1969, a few pissed off queens had finally had enough.

This is a transcript of the above article below:

Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad

The New York Daily News, July 6, 1969
By JERRY LISKER

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

The thick glass shut out the outside world of the street. Inside, the Stonewall bathed in wild, bright psychedelic lights, while the patrons writhed to the sounds of a juke box on a square dance floor surrounded by booths and tables. The bar did a good business and the waiters, or waitresses, were always kept busy, as they snaked their way around the dancing customers to the booths and tables. For nearly two years, peace and tranquility reigned supreme for the Alice in Wonderland clientele.

The Raid Last Friday

Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.

All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.

Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.

The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.

Queen Power

The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.

Urged on by cries of “C’mon girls, lets go get’em,” the defenders of Stonewall launched an attack. The cops called for assistance. To the rescue came the Tactical Patrol Force.

Flushed with the excitement of battle, a fellow called Gloria pranced around like Wonder Woman, while several Florence Nightingales administered first aid to the fallen warriors. There were some assorted scratches and bruises, but nothing serious was suffered by the honeys turned Madwoman of Chaillot.

Official reports listed four injured policemen with 13 arrests. The War of the Roses lasted about 2 hours from about midnight to 2 a.m. There was a return bout Wednesday night.

Two veterans recently recalled the battle and issued a warning to the cops. “If they close up all the gay joints in this area, there is going to be all out war.”

Bruce and Nan

Both said they were refugees from Indiana and had come to New York where they could live together happily ever after. They were in their early 20’s. They preferred to be called by their married names, Bruce and Nan.

“I don’t like your paper,” Nan lisped matter-of-factly. “It’s anti-fag and pro-cop.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t see what they did to the Stonewall. Did the pigs tell you that they smashed everything in sight? Did you ask them why they stole money out of the cash register and then smashed it with a sledge hammer? Did you ask them why it took them two years to discover that the Stonewall didn’t have a liquor license.”

Bruce nodded in agreement and reached over for Nan’s trembling hands.

“Calm down, doll,” he said. “Your face is getting all flushed.”

Nan wiped her face with a tissue.

“This would have to happen right before the wedding. The reception was going to be held at the Stonewall, too,” Nan said, tossing her ashen-tinted hair over her shoulder.

“What wedding?,” the bystander asked.

Nan frowned with a how-could-anybody-be-so-stupid look. “Eric and Jack’s wedding, of course. They’re finally tieing the knot. I thought they’d never get together.”

Meet Shirley

“We’ll have to find another place, that’s all there is to it,” Bruce sighed. “But every time we start a place, the cops break it up sooner or later.”

“They let us operate just as long as the payoff is regular,” Nan said bitterly. “I believe they closed up the Stonewall because there was some trouble with the payoff to the cops. I think that’s the real reason. It’s a shame. It was such a lovely place. We never bothered anybody. Why couldn’t they leave us alone?”

Shirley Evans, a neighbor with two children, agrees that the Stonewall was not a rowdy place and the persons who frequented the club were never troublesome. She lives at 45 Christopher St.

“Up until the night of the police raid there was never any trouble there,” she said. “The homosexuals minded their own business and never bothered a soul. There were never any fights or hollering, or anything like that. They just wanted to be left alone. I don’t know what they did inside, but that’s their business. I was never in there myself. It was just awful when the police came. It was like a swarm of hornets attacking a bunch of butterflies.”

A reporter visited the now closed Stonewall and it indeed looked like a cyclone had struck the premisses.

Police said there were over 200 people in the Stonewall when they entered with a warrant. The crowd outside was estimated at 500 to 1,000. According to police, the Stonewall had been under observation for some time. Being a private club, plain clothesmen were refused entrance to the inside when they periodically tried to check the place. “They had the tightest security in the Village,” a First Division officer said, “We could never get near the place without a warrant.”

Police Talk

The men of the First Division were unable to find any humor in the situation, despite the comical overtones of the raid.

“They were throwing more than lace hankies,” one inspector said. “I was almost decapitated by a slab of thick glass. It was thrown like a discus and just missed my throat by inches. The beer can didn’t miss, though, “it hit me right above the temple.”

Police also believe the club was operated by Mafia connected owners. The police did confiscate the Stonewall’s cash register as proceeds from an illegal operation. The receipts were counted and are on file at the division headquarters. The warrant was served and the establishment closed on the grounds it was an illegal membership club with no license, and no license to serve liquor.

The police are sure of one thing. They haven’t heard the last from the Girls of Christopher Street.

“We May have lost the battle, but the war is far from over”.

Fifty years later, thanks to some courageous individuals, the world is a better place. I salute them with deep gratitude. Today, because of their lead, many battles have been won …but the war is far from over.

Veterans Day 2018

The Music used in the attached video is from my childhood. I remember it playing at the swim club during summer as well as emanating from behind my older brother’s closed bedroom door. I always loved this tune.

My childhood was innocent. I thought people always landed on the moon. I come to find out later that the moonlanding I watched was the first ever. I thought Seasame Street and color televisions had always exhisted. Turns out that season of Seasame Street I was watching in 1969 was the very first season, and that color TV we had was the first my parents had ever owned.

I hated war. Vietnam reinforced that fact. The TV showed horrible scenes. I didn’t understand why people had to do such destructive things. It was wrong. I knew it was. Innocence tainted.

My uncle was in Vietnam. My father and another uncle served in the Korean era. My father’s uncles served in WWII and his father’s uncles in WWI. War stole innocence. War destroyed lives.

My brothers and I avoided the service. No war drafted us nor demanded our service.

Even though I hate war, I respect and I wish to honor those who serve. The serve their country. They serve their family, community, neighbors and each other. They didn’t start nor cause any war. Those who serve do so for a common good of service to something greater than themselves.

I am deeply grateful.

If you served, either in war or hopefully in peace, I thank you.