From Stonewall to Pulse
By Jude Samson
It’s a spectacle, it’s loud music, drag queens, sexy men dancing in the street, women on motorcycles, trans people, queer, and a truly rainbow explosion of people. It’s floats and banners declaring equality, stop the hate, and we will not be afraid. It’s politicians trying to eke out a few votes by showing support and its businesses trying to pinch more pennies from extra customers but declaring themselves LGBT friendly/proud companies. But that’s not what this is actually about.
JUNE 28, 1969 – 47 years ago an event took place that many know nothing (or very little) about, including those of us in the LGBT community.
“IT WAS A SPARK THAT IGNITED A POWDER KEG AGAINST SUPPRESSION THAT SOON EXPLODED INTO A FULL-BLOWN HALF-CENTURY FIGHT FOR LIBERATION. IT WAS THE NIGHT THAT STARTED THE STONEWALL RIOTS.”
The annual event held every June in New York City is to mark that historic moment. While the vast majority have forgotten that purpose – seeing it more as an opportunity to get drunk and free swag with maybe some hook-ups by the end of the night – it started because we were tired of being assaulted and treated like the dirt under cis-het shoes.
In the more recent years prior it was certainly cause for celebration as the LGBT Rights Movement made massive headway. After decades of legal battles and personal struggles, by 2014 state-after-state starting falling in line by being “on the right side of history” as they slowly trickled in affirmative votes for marriage equality. That momentum continued strong into 2015 as more states disposed of antiquated and unconstitutional laws and on June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor if national marriage equality right on the heels of that year’s NYC Pride Event.
“THE MAJORITY OF THOSE IN THE YOUNGER GENERATIONS HAVE NO IDEA WHAT STONEWALL IS OTHER THAN A FEW MAYBE KNOWING IT’S A “FAMOUS BAR” IN NEW YORK CITY.”
Over the span of nearly a half-century generations have passed, generations have taken their place, and an entirely new set of generations are coming up behind in a new wave. The majority of those in the younger generations have no idea what Stonewall is other than a few maybe knowing it’s a “famous bar” in New York City. It is so much more than that and it’s so important to our legacy but they are not without their price-paid. Today’s Stonewall is now known as Pulse.
When a man – regardless of his motives – walked into the Pulse gay bar on Latin Night on June 12, 2016 and took the lives of 49 innocent men and women. While blood was shed those 47 years ago during the riots of Stonewall we were lucky enough to not have lost anyone in the battle. There can never been a way to make the loss of those 49 human beings acceptable but if we forget them or hide back into the closet with fear then we disgrace those beautiful people.
NYC Pride 2016 on June 26 was filled with many tributes whether it was “NOT AFRIAD” written across our rainbow flag, we are Orlando, Orlando Strong, or signs with the faces of our brothers and sisters lost that day to 49 people shrouded in white, each bearing the image of those slain to the massive tribute outside Stonewall itself.
It became our battle-cry and it made the entire world wake up to the on-going daily plight we face. While we are in a world where anyone is at risk of being killed for no reason at all from anyone who is a fanatic of any kind we have to remain strong and battle on. So we do not attend the NYC Pride Parade but rather we come to cheer on our marchers. Those who march in protest, in love, in equality, and in solidarity.