Stonewall — 51 years of LGBT+ liberation

These are personal stories from members of our LGBT+ Network to support Virtual Pride.

The Stonewall riots (AKA ‘Stonewall uprising’ or ‘Stonewall rebellion’) were a series of demonstrations by members of the LGBT+ community. In the early hours of June 28 1969, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. The riots are widely considered as the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement, and the modern fight for LGBT+ rights.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 50s and 60s. Those that did were often bars, ran illegally by the Mafia. The Stonewall Inn was one such bar. Catering to the most marginalised and poor people in the gay community. Drag queens, trans people, male escorts and homeless youth.

Police raids were routine on gay bars in the 60s but in the case of the Stonewall Inn, they quickly lost control. Tensions between the NYPD and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted in to further protests over several nights.

After the Stonewall riots, the LGBT+ community in NYC faced gender, race, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organised in other cities.

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Marsha P Johnson

Many people are aware of key activist figures Marsha P Johnson and Silvia Rivera in the Gay Liberation Movement. Perhaps lesser known, but no less important figures in the same movement include Zazu Nova, Stormé Delarverie and Lani Ka’ahumanu.

Some UK activists were also involved in the initial US movement and on their return to the UK, set up the British arm of the Gay Liberation Movement, with the first UK Gay Pride Rally taking place on July 01 1972.

During the early protests for LGBT+ rights in the 60s and 70s, ‘Gay Power’ was the term commonly used. In 1970, activist Craig Schoonmaker is often credited with popularising the term ‘Gay Pride’ but his organising vision at the time was also exclusionary to lesbians. The term ‘Pride’ these days is used as a shorthand to refer to both celebrations and protests alike.

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