Billy here. Forty six years ago today, police raided a little gay tavern in Greenwich Village, arresting patrons and seizing the alcohol. This was not the first time this had happened. Queers were routinely rounded up and arrested for as little as wearing the wrong clothes. There was a law on the books enforcing the wearing of at least three garments appropriate to one’s “actual gender”. But this night in 1969, there was an electricity of defiance in the air. Customers who usually fled the bar at the first hint of a raid instead gathered close, waiting for the right moment without knowing why. Mark Caldwell’s book New York Night: The Mystique and Its Mystery describes the scene:
Gradually at first, a small train of scuffles flashed like sparks along a fuse. A drag queen, shoved by a cop into the van, hit him over the head with her purse. When he clubbed her in response the crowd began first shouting, then beating the sides of the paddy wagon. A hail of pennies began flying out of the crowd, clinking off the van and falling at the cops’ feet, a silent but contemptuous reminder of the payoffs they’d been pocketing for years.
Then the bomb went off. A lesbian – never afterward identified, either by herself or by anyone else – balked when the police locked her in handcuffs and tried to push her into the van. At one point four cops at once were clawing at her as they tried to force her, flailing and screaming, toward a patrol car, but she burst out and fought them all the way back to the bar entrance; at one point, according to one witness, she pleaded with the crowd: “Why don’t you guys do something?” Suddenly, a man pried a cobblestone from the pavement and heaved it across Christopher Street, where it clunked onto the trunk of a police car. This was the first volley of bricks and cobblestones…
The cops were pushed and trapped into the bar, Stonewall Inn. Molotov cocktails were tossed. When the riot cops were called in they met a front line of men with arms linked, advancing with chorus-girl kicks, apparently chanting:
We are the Stonewall girls!
We wear our hair in curls!
We wear no underwear;
We show our pubic hair!
This event sparked other riots and has gone down in history as the Stonewall Riots, igniting the gay liberation movement. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride parades kicked off not only in New York, but also in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, starting a tradition of Pride being held around late June to commemorate the anniversary of the riots. These first Pride Parades took great courage – it had only been two years since the riots, and policies were yet to be changed.
The last five years has seen a huge turnaround in the support for queer rights and acknowledgement. In Barack Obama’s second inauguration speech in 2013, he linked civil rights, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights, mentioning Stonewall and LGBTQ issues for the first time ever in a presidential inauguration speech.
And a few days ago, on June 26th, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage throughout the entire nation. This is a happy step for all people interested in the integration of all of us into a whole and just social fabric. I know that it is far from over. I know that after the victory of the North in the Civil War and the abolishing of slavery (happy belated Juneteenth, y’all!) the infamous hate group, the Ku Klux Klan, formed in the backwoods of Tennessee as a backlash. So let’s celebrate, let’s be proud, and let’s keep a watchful eye on the extremists in the backwoods who now feel that their religious “freedom” to hate is being impinged upon by the freedom to love!
We can now walk the streets without being arrested. Hurray! But none of us are truly free until my black trans sisters stop being murdered faster than any other group in the world. I love my queer tranny husband. I’d die for him and our love. But I’d rather not! We are going to keep fighting for our freedom to exist. Isn’t that the American way?
Spence here: I will begin with an aside: we may have taken liberty with some of the names of the flowers in these photos, but some of the names of the roses at the garden were pretty inventive…About Face, All the Rage, Liverpool Echo, Drop Dead Red, Pinocchio, Easy Going, Strike it Rich, Rockin’ Robin, Vogue and Montezuma to name a few! Also, recently we have been inspired to name our new band, Crazy Stamens. I might not be kidding, so don’t steal it.
While Billy and I were walking around, taking time to literally smell the roses and try out our new digital camera, the Supreme Court made a monumental ruling guaranteeing under the Constitution, rights to same-sex marriage–even Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was “the right decision”! I loved what Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had to say in during the ruling:
In forming a marital union, two people become greater than they once were.
I think this quote is important because it eloquently illustrates, in part, my feelings about why I wanted to marry Billy, but also because it is what should be true for all people when thinking about getting married. I am so happy everyone has been openly given this chance.We took the opportunity to celebrate with mimosas, tears and texts to family. I really thought it would be another 20 years at least for this victory. It has taken people standing up and courageously claiming space by being themselves and being positive examples of what love can look like. Part of why this is so important is because of visibility–not to “flaunt it”, or “rub it in” or make others feel uncomfortable–but to let people see and understand that they already probably know some gay people, and that we have the capacity, just as anyone else, to make a loving, committed difference in people’s lives. Granting these rights will give more people the opportunity to do so, with pride.