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Stonewall Riots: The Road to Freedom for the LGBTA Community (Fall 2012)

            The stonewall riots were an influential stepping stone to have equality for the LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally) community. In the 1950’s and 1960’s when people who were gay started coming out more and more, it was illegal to have homosexual tendencies. The anti-gay legislation was even tighter than that of the Warsaw Pact countries. In this time of civil rights movements people were fighting for their freedom. People from the LGBTA were ready for some changes.

            Around the New York City area in the 1960’s, you could not find very many gay bars. If you did find one, they did not offer dancing of any sort for their customers. At the time, the Mafia bought out the nightclub at the stonewall inn to turn it from a heterosexual nightclub to a bar for homosexuals. There were some things about the stonewall inn that people could complain about. The toilets were always out of order from being backed up, there was no running water so people would have to drink out of used glasses most of the time, and there was also no alcohol because the inn did not have a license, but that didn’t stop them. When people would enter, they would be greeted by some green flashing lights, or by black lights. This made it easier for people to know when the police were there for a raid because they would turn on normal lights to indicate to the people to stop what they were doing and get ready. Despite all of this, the bar was called “the gay bar of the city” because they were the only ones to offer openly gay dancing. Even though it was very open within the bar, that did not mean that they were accepted by their heterosexual friends and family.

            Police officers could raid bars if it was presumed it was a homosexual hangout and arrest anyone they wanted just for the suspicion of being gay. A rule of thumb would be it there were men with identification, they could go, but if you were either a drag show dancer or a women that was not wearing at least 3 articles of “feminine” clothing, you were arrested.  In 1969 on June 28th, police smashed down the doors to the stonewall inn to find many homosexuals just out for a casual drink. The stonewall inn was not going to put up with this unfair treatment after having so many raids on local bars right before this incident. 

            That night, at 1:20 am when the police crashed their party, the people attending the bar’s festivities were asked to line up like usual to check their identification. When the men dressed as women refused to go with the female police officer to have them verify what sex they were, the men that were asked to produce their identification refused to that as well. The police decided to take all of the people to the station. Then things started to get out of hand. A couple of officers proceeded to roughly search some of the lesbians to the point of assaulting them inappropriately. 

            As the police dragged people out of the bar, a crowd had gathered outside. People yelled things like “gay power” and the homosexual bystanders put on a show by saluting at the officers as they brought out the mafia behind the stonewall inn. All these antics were supposed to be taken as humorous, but the more that happened, the more the patrons grew hostile. When a lesbian was pulled out of the inn and she attempted to escape several times and was caught by officers, she complained about her cuffs being too tight. The policeman holding her hit her several times over the head with his billy club. Suddenly, an unknown women in the crown yelled at the bystanders, “Why don’t you guys do something?” This was what is called the “last straw.” A huge fight broke out.

            The protesters outside that had grown tenfold all had the same mental state. They were not going to be treated like this any longer and they were ready to smash everything in their way to make a point. Rioters set fire to trash and stuck it in the window of the stonewall inn after they had been smashed by people that had pulled a parking meter out of the ground and struck them. The police tried to restrain the crowd by the use of a water hose, but the water pressure was lacking and just made the people rioting even angrier. They busted down the doors of the stonewall inn and raided the inside just like how the police raided them. Some officers were waiting inside with no other form of protection except for their guns. They were forced to threaten the patrons with their pistols just to keep them from killing them. This went on for forty five minutes before they were stopped. 

Personal Identities
            The people of the LGBT community struggled with personal identity in the 1950’s and 1960’s because they were discriminated against for being different from heterosexual people. People who grow up identifying as heterosexual do not notice discrimination against LGBT because of their sexual identity. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, people who would identify as homosexual if they could are more likely not have society accept them so they did not talk about their feelings for others. When groups started to pop up all across the map, so did the people who were willing to put their personal life on the line to get their rights as a LGBT member. Families and friends struggled with accepting people they knew as gay because for so long it had been completely under wraps and viewed as a sin. 

            In 1957, lesbian women were said to have been able to be “cured” by having psychologists teach them how to do their hair and makeup in the fashion that was popular at that time. Most psychologists thought of being gay as a mental disease and that’s how they got away with this. 

            When bars were raided to arrest gay people, they would be brought back to jail and most of the time the police officers would sexually assault the people. Sometimes, the policemen would rape LGBT people in the jails that they would be put in. This was a huge problem with the LGBT community because the police would not be there to help when they were getting assaulted in the streets either. 

            After the stonewall riots, there were more places that were accepting of gay people so more people started to come out. Groups all around the country gained more support as the years passed but it was not because people were suddenly gay; it was because they now had support systems all around. Pride parades started in places like Chicago and New York City in 1970 and are still going on annually at the end of June to signify the events that took place at the stonewall inn. These parades create a great identity for the LGBT community because it gave them the freedom to come out and tell the world who they are in a big festivity that several people can get involved in.

Politics and Government
            According to the fourteenth amendment, any person that suffers discrimination due to sexual orientation violates the fourteenth amendment equal protection clause because it grants equal protection to all people in the United States. Since the government protects people who are discriminated against by sexual orientation, we should not have the issue of denying equal rights to homosexuals. 

            In 1950, the Mattachine Society was created by gay men as a support group for gay men in Los Angeles. Their activities consisted of normal support group behavior but they still landed a spot to be under surveillance by the FBI from 1953 to 1956. They had a publication titled the Mattachine Review that featured articles on legal and cultural trends. The society started the gay and lesbian movements in America. 

            When 1953 came around, Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the mandatory removal of all people that were homosexual from jobs in the federal government. He worded the mandate saying that the people of the LGBT community were “sexual perverts.” This showed that the government and officials of the government were not accepting of homosexuals because they did not want their operations to be reflected in a homosexual light. This was a law until 1975 when it was disbanded until 1998 when President Bill Clinton made a law that was exactly opposite of Eisenhower’s law. He stated that homosexuals in the work place cannot be discriminated against for their sexual orientation. 


Sources
  1. "A Brief History of Homosexuality in America." Allies & Advocates. N.p., 28 Nov. 2011. Web. Dec. 2012. <http://www.gvsu.edu/allies/a-brief-history-of-homosexuality-in-america-30.htm>.
  2. "Coming Out In America An Historical Perspective." Coming Out In America. N.p., 2 Sept. 2007. Web. Dec. 2012. <http://cowboyfrank.net/archive/ComingOut/02.htm>.
  3. Faderman, Lillian. "President Eisenhower Prohibits Lesbian and Gay Federal Workers." Salem Press. N.p., 2005. Web. Dec. 2012.
  4. "FBI Records: The Vault (Mattachine Society)." FBI. N.p., n.d. Web. Dec. 2012.
  5. "Mattachine Society." Wikipedia. N.p., 11 Sept. 2012. Web. Dec. 2012.
  6. "Primary Documents in American History." 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress). N.p., 24 Aug. 2012. Web. Dec. 2012. <http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/14thamendment.html>.

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