On June 28th, 1969, the New York City police raided a local gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn was known for its inclusivity, welcoming gay men, drag queens, trans individuals, etc. While places like these offered a safe space for the LGBTQ community, the New York City police targeted these institutions with raids, often under false pretenses of “liquor licensing violations.” In actuality, NYC police hoped to make arrests of crossdressers, an illegal act until 1974, which largely motivated the raids at Stonewall Inn on July 28th, 1969.
Initially, the patrons of Stonewall Inn complied with the police’s requests to leave the bar. However, police began to take individuals to the restrooms to check for crossdressing. Several individuals were found “guilty” and police began making arrests. The brutal and cruel arrests of these individuals incited protest from several patrons outside, with tensions escalating. Eventually, what began as a routine raid resulted in a six-day uprising, changing the pride movement and the discourse surrounding it forever.
One of the protesters at the Stonewall Riots was Marsha P Johnson, a young, Black, drag queen, who later identified as a trans woman. At the time, the larger LGBT community largely alienated those who were not white or male. Despite this alienation, Marsha P Johnson and other transgender activists like Sylvia Rivera fought long and hard for the larger pride movement. Part of the impact of the Stonewall Riots is due to individuals like Marsha and Sylvia, who fought for pride rights despite their disadvantages and unlikely gain.
So today, 53 years later, we remember icons like Marsha P Johnson and the many other Black, trans women, queer persons of color, and sex workers who laid the necessary, foundational work for the LGBTQ+ rights movement. We can remember and thank them for the way pride is discussed and celebrated today.
Thank you to our intern Zoey Dugat-Burge (she/her/hers) for writing up this post!