Every June, millions of people across the United States and the world celebrate LGBT Pride Month. Although marches, picnics, parades, and festivals attract a multitude of younger members of the community, many don’t know why Pride Month is celebrated in June, or the history of Pride for that matter. The organized movement for gay rights began in 1969, with the Stonewall Riots.
Photo: Steve Johnson on Unsplash
On June 28th, 1969, the police conducted a raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City. The police were legally justified in conducting the raid, as Stonewall was serving alcohol without a license, but then began arresting patrons. Female officers took took customers suspected of cross-dressing into the restrooms and arrested anyone who violated New York’s gender-appropriate clothing laws. Instead of fleeing, the customers remained and watched as others were arrested. When one woman was hit over the head with a baton for saying her handcuffs were too tight, the crowd rioted.
The Stonewall Riots lasted six days, and at the end, the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community had been catapulted into national spotlight. Within two years, gay rights groups had been started in every major city in the United States. The riots were violent and messy, but they were exactly what the country needed. They sparked a chain of events that were critical in getting us to where we are today. From the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, to the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, it’s clear that the country has progressed in leaps and bounds. Without the Stonewall Riots, it’s likely these events never would have happened.
As we celebrate Pride Month, it’s important that we remember the Stonewall Riots. Just forty-eight short years ago, celebrating Pride wouldn’t have just been difficult, it would have been illegal. The amount of progress the United States has made since then is astounding. None of it would have been possible without the Stonewall Riots.