Monthly Archives: June 2019

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Path to Take

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (KJV) ( Proverbs 3:6 ) 

Usually we reserve the big decisions for God to throw in His two cents, such as job options, marriage partner, and moving possibilities.  Yet we are quick to make “smaller” decisions without giving any thought to God’s will.  Where we spend our time, who we spend it with, and the words we say are decisions we make daily, but don’t think twice about inviting God into the process.  It’s quite possibly these smaller decisions which make a greater impact on our lives when we ask God to show us His will.  The next time you make a decision, invite God. 


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Moment of Zen: Pride


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The West Coast LGBTQ activism that predated Stonewall

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By Julia Wick

It’s simple and powerful to say that the gay rights movement began 50 years ago today, when the first brick was thrown in the early hours of June 28, 1969, outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.

Movements are unruly, with ragged edges and a penchant for flaring and sputtering in many directions. But the weight of history has a way of condensing things. And the spin cycle of time will slough off the footnotes and find the linear narrative.

The three nights of rioting sparked by a routine police raid at a New York City gay bar and the even more routine police harassment of the gay community were unbelievably important and symbolic. But they also followed years of organizing and numerous previous eruptions against police harassment in community spaces. Much of that groundwork was laid in California, particularly in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“The spark of Stonewall goes exponentially beyond what the actual events created,” Terry Beswick, the executive director of the GLBT Historical Society and museum in San Francisco, explained over the phone earlier this month. “At least in the popular culture, [Stonewall] swallowed up a lot of the very real and even more significant organizing that was happening for decades before that — and afterwards.”

In San Francisco, police raided a 1965 New Year’s costume ball organized by the newly formed Council on Religion and the Homosexual. Officers sought to photograph all the attendees and made two arrests. The event galvanized organizing in San Francisco’s gay community and helped draw broader attention to the police harassment gay people faced.

“That was really what most of the pre-Stonewall real spontaneous actions were about — police harassment of our gathering places,” Beswick said.

“In the 1960s and back into the ’50s, gay bars were our community centers,” Beswick said. “They were where we found each other. They were where we found fellowship and emotional support, as well as sex.”

In Beswick’s view, those bars were “like homes,” sometimes “even more so” than the places where their denizens actually lived. “For police to invade those spaces really fought against the notion of any kind of self-determination and safety for us,” he said.

Two and a half years before Stonewall, the Black Cat bar in Silver Lake was raided just after midnight on New Year’s Day 1967. Police beat patrons and arrested more than a dozen people. Several weeks later, hundreds peacefully gathered outside the bar in a protest — a demonstration that was considered a seminal turning point in the early gay rights movement.

[Go deeper: “Before Stonewall, the Queer Revolution Started Right Here in Los Angeles” by Jason McGahan in Los Angeles Magazine]

And nearly a decade before Black Cat, a group of transgender women, lesbians and gay men fought back against police harassment in what turned into a melee outside Cooper Do-nuts in downtown Los Angeles. That was May 1959, and it’s believed to have been the first LGBTQ uprising against police harassment.

“Stonewall, at least in the rear-view mirror, has become a place of demarcation for historians, where we can sort of measure our progress,” Beswick said.

“But it’s important for us to resurrect those stories around other events. It’s important for the pride of LGBT people in San Francisco to know that the New Year’s Day ball event happened and that Compton’s [Cafeteria riot] happened,” Beswick said, and he didn’t stop there. He listed off the names like a litany of early organizations and leaders and places that have been turned into symbols by virtue of what happened there.

“The same kind of stories can be told all around the country, in Philadelphia and D.C. and Chicago,” he said.

 

From Joe:

What marks the Stonewall Riots as most significant in the Gay Rights Movement is that it became a catalyst for more action. The next year was the first gay pride parade and there has been one ever since. Activists in California may have laid the groundwork for Stonewall, but Stonewall lit the fire that became the Gay Rights Movement and we can’t let that be slowed down. Pete Buttigieg did us proud in the debates last night. He’s my frontrunner candidate. He’s eloquent and always has an answer. I have yet to hear him give an answer to interviewers or moderators question that I did not agree with him 100 percent. He is obviously a brilliant man and one that we need as president. If Biden wins the nomination, as I suspect he will, he would be fortunate to have Pete as his vice-president.

 


Gay Rights Movement: Post Stonewall

Not all gays believed that the riots and “revolution” were a good thing. The older and more wealthy gay men who frequented Fire Island in the summer either ignored the riots or were embarrassed by then. They belonged to the beliefs of the Mattachine Society who believed in assimilation and accommodationist tactics. The Mattachines wanted gays to act like heterosexuals and thus blend into the greater society.[1] The differences between the accommodationists and the liberationist will be a trend in gay politics to this day.

On the evening of July 4, 1969, the New York Mattachine Society called a meeting. The purpose of the gathering was to stop anymore riots and to get gays and lesbians to follow more closely their view of how the revolution should proceed, mainly for them to act like straight people and gain respect among normal society. Most of the gays in the room that night were tired of the Mattachine’s tactics. They wanted a new movement, one that challenged what normal was, one that was more militant, and one in which they did not have to change who they were. That night, the gays and lesbians at the Mattachine Society meeting formed the beginnings of the Gay Liberation Front.[2]

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) never had the same organizational hierarchy that the Mattachine Society had. The GLF allowed for each chapter to move in its own direction and determine how best to achieve their overall goals in their local area. The GLF was also more visible than many people actually preferred to be, but for the GLF to succeed they had no choice but to use the “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” tactics.[3] The GLF had their share of splinter groups and unlikely alliances, such as with the Black Panthers.

The gay liberation movement also moved into more proper politics in the early 1990s. The AIDS epidemic took a great deal of the steam out of the movement that had continued to build during the seventies. In the early nineties, groups like the Human Rights Council, the largest gay and lesbian political action committee, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund tackled legislative and legal issues pertaining to gay and lesbian rights. Gays and lesbians even entered the political arena with a branch of the Democratic Party, the Stonewall Democrats, and with a branch of the Republican Party, the Log Cabin Republicans. The same old issues of whether gays should assimilate into society or make society accept them for who they are and at the same time have equal rights are still apparent in the splits that exist within the gay community.[4]

[1]Ibid., 206-207.

[2]Ibid., 211-212.

[3]James T. Sears, Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 60, 64.

[4]Benjamin H. Shepard, “The Queer/Gay Assimilationist: The Suits vs. the Sluts,” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 53:1 (May 2001): 49-63.

Further Reading:

“ 4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid,” The New York Times, 29 June 1969.

Duberman, Martin. 1994. Stonewall. New York: Plume.

“Hostile Crowd Dispersed Near Sheridan Square,” New York Times, 3 July 1969.

Meeker, Martin. 2001. “Behind the Mask of Respectability: Reconsidering the Mattachine Society and Male Homophile Practice, 1950s and 1960s.” Journal of the History of Sexuality. 1:78-116.

“Police Again Rout ‘Village’ Youths,” New York Times, 30 June 1969.

Sears,James T. 2001. Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Shepard, Benjamin H. 2001. “The Queer/Gay Assimilationist: The Suits vs. the Sluts.” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine 53:1, 49-63.

Smith, Howard. “Full Moon Over the Stonewall,” The Village Voice, 3 July 1969.

Suran, Justin David. 2001. “Coming Out Against the War: Antimilitarism and the Politicization of Homosexuality in the Era of Vietnam.” American Quarterly 3: 452-488.

Truscott,Lucian, IV. “Gay Power Comes To Sheridan Square.” The Village Voice. 3 July 1969.

“Village Raid Stirs Melee.” New York Post. 28 June 1969.


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Gay Rights Movement: Stonewall Riots

While the two movements described by Meeker and Suran are precursors of the gay liberation movement sparked by the Stonewall Riots, the most often cited catalyst of the gay liberation movement is the series of riots that began on the night of Friday, June 27, 1969, after a raid on the Stonewall Inn, which continued for the next three nights. Raids of gay bars in New York City, particularly Greenwich Village, were not uncommon in the summer of 1969, what made the raid on the Stonewall on June 27 so different was that the patrons of the bar resisted instead of going peacefully. 
The New York Post was the first of the New York newspapers to report the raid and the first “melee” that followed the raid. The Post described the scene following the raid on the Stonewall Inn, “a tavern frequented by homosexuals at 53 Christopher St.” The raid was staged because of the unlicensed sale of liquor. On that first night twelve people were arrested with charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct because of the impromptu riot that soon ensued. As the police drove away with those in custody from the raid, the newspaper describes how “hundreds of passerby” shouted “Gay Power” and “We Want Freedom” while laying siege to the bar with “an improvised battering ram, garbage cans, bottles and beer cans in a protest demonstration.” More police were sent to 53 Christopher Street where the disturbance raged for more than two hours.[1] 
For the next two days and again on July 3, the New York Times ran small pieces about the “Village Raid.” On June 29, the Times reported that shortly after 3 a.m. on the previous day, that the bar had been raided. About two hundred patrons were thrown out of the bar and soon were joined by about two hundred more in protest of the raid. Police seized several cases of liquor from the establishment, which the police stated was operating without a liquor license. The Times reported that the “melee” lasted for only about forty-five minutes after the raid before the crowd dispersed and thirteen people in all were arrested with four policemen suffering injuries, one a broken wrist. The June 29 article also stated that the raid was one of three conducted in the last two weeks, and on the night of June 28, “throngs of young men congregated outside the inn. . .reading aloud condemnations of the police.” [2] image The June 30 edition of the newspaper stated that on the early morning of June 29, a crowd of about four hundred gathered again on Christopher street and a Tactical Patrol Unit was called in to control the disturbance at about 2:15 a.m. The crowd was throwing bottles and lighting small fires. With their arms linked, the police made sweeps down Christopher Street from the Avenue of the Americas to Seventh Avenue, but the crowds merely moved into side streets and reformed behind the police. Those who did not move out of the way of the police line were pushed along and two men were clubbed to the ground. Stones and bottles were thrown at the police and twice the police broke ranks to charge the crowd. Three people were arrested on charges of harassment and disorderly conduct. The June 30 article also states that the crowd gathered again on the evening of June 29 to denounce the police for “allegedly harassing homosexuals.” Graffiti painted on the boarded up windows of the inn stated “Support gay power” and “Legalize gay bars.”[3] A July 3, article in the New York Times stated that a chanting crowd of about five hundred gathered again outside the Stonewall Inn and had to be dispersed by the police, while four protestors were arrested.[4] 
On July 3, 1969, The Village Voice published two, more substantial articles on the incidents surrounding the Stonewall Inn. Of the two articles, Lucian Trusctott IV’s article is written in a tongue-in-cheek style focusing on the several days of riots that ensued after the first raid. Truscott reports that the crowd, which returned on Saturday night, were being led by “gay power” cheers: “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We have no underwear/ We show our pubic hair!” The article is mostly sympathetic to the gay cause and quotes Allen Ginsberg, a gay activist, stated “Gay Power! Isn’t that great! We’re one of the largest minorities in the country–10 percent, you know. It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves.” Truscott is prophetic when he end his article by stating: 
We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled, “Defend the fairies!” and bounce on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of “gay power” and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is under way![5]
The other article, by Howard Smith, is much more subdued. Smith, a reporter for the Voice, only relates the night of the raid, when he stayed with the police for protection. Although his article is not exactly pro-gay, Smith does offer some interesting observations that the other reports of the Stonewall Riots leave out. First of all, Smith reports on the number of men in drag that actually fight back. All other reports in The New York Times and The New York Post only state that the young men who resisted the police were young men, but Smith states that their were men in drag and a number of lesbians who resisted the police. Smith also describes in detail the “melee” especially concerning the attack on the police wagon while he was inside with the police for protection against the mob. Lastly, Smith points out the connection with the bar being owned by the mafia, although he only states that the men who own and run the establishment are Italians. Smith does relate that statements to the police were basically: “we are just honest businessmen, who are being harassed by the police because we cater to homosexuals, and because our names are Italian so they think we are part of something bigger.”[6] 
While the newspapers provide a glimpse at the reaction of the New York press as the riots were happening, several further accounts were later retold in memoirs of the Riot. The most thorough account is given by Martin Duberman in his book Stonewall. Mostly through oral history interviews, Duberman is able to relate the events of the Stonewall Riots with more accuracy than the accounts in the New York City newspapers. 
No one really knows what set off the “flash of anger” that began the riots. Most of the people who were there just say that all of a sudden the crowd grew angry and either began throwing bottles or trying to free one of the men in drag who were being arrested.[7] Even if it cannot be determined what set off the anger that went through the crowd, it must be asked, why that night. Many factors could have contributed to why the people in the Stonewall Inn fought back. It could have been because most of them had reached their breaking point, with the criminalization of their behavior to the Vietnam War that had raged for the last four years in the living rooms of every American with a television. One interesting theory could be that with Judy Garland’s funeral earlier that day, the men in the Stonewall Inn were distraught over losing their greatest icon. Probably what compounded most of the anger that rushed through the crowd was that most of the patrons were high on some type of drugs.[8] Another factor was that the raid occurred early in the morning. Usually raids happened earlier in the evening so that the bar could open back up. Police were being bribed, so raids were rarely major incidents.[9] 
Once the crowd did begin to fight back, the fervor of rebellion and the feeling that a revolution was happening among the gay community swept through the crowd.[10] No longer were gays going to work with the system to make themselves feel more normal. They wanted to be accepted for who they were, not for who the establishment wanted them to be. African-Americans had made great strides in their civil rights struggle, and women were just beginning to make strides for women’s liberation and equality. As pointed out by Alan Ginsberg earlier, gays and lesbians were a large minority in the United States. If they could make themselves heard, this could change everything for them. No longer would they be forced to only socialize with each other in dank and dingy, mafia owned bars, that could be raided at anytime and served watered down drinks so the owners could make more money. The law in New York City stated that a person must wear at least three articles of clothing appropriate to one’s own gender.[11] Gay bars were not allowed to have a liquor license and most were not allowed to have dancing. 
“[1]Village Raid Stirs Melee,” New York Post, 28 June 1969. 
“[2]4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid,” The New York Times, 29 June 1969, 33. 
“[3]Police Again Rout ‘Village’ Youths,” New York Times, 30 June 1969, 22. 
“[4]Hostile Crowd Dispersed Near Sheridan Square,” New York Times, 3 July 1969. 
[5]Lucian Truscott IV, “Gay Power Comes To Sheridan Square,” The Village Voice, 3 July 1969, 18. 
[6]Howard Smith, “Full Moon Over the Stonewall,” The Village Voice, 3 July 1969, 25. 
[7]Martin Duberman, Stonewall, (New York: Plume, 1994), 196-197. 
[8]Ibid., 181-196. 
[9]Ibid., 194-195. 
[10]Ibid., 198. 
[11]Ibid., 196.
Next: Gay Rights Movement: Post-Stonewall



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