HONOLULU (KHON2) — Pride. The celebration has spread across the globe as people feel safe, supported and accepted enough to follow their hearts.
It defines entire communities and provides a way of indulging in the acceptance of people on their terms.
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The history of 2SLGBTQ+ peoples spread across history, cultures, politics and religions. From the Greek poet, Sappho, to modern-era political leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt post-modern leaders like Pete Buttigieg, queer people have made indelible marks on all spectrums of societal existence.
For centuries, monotheistic religions that began in Western Asia dominated society’s opinion and interactions with anyone who did not fall into the prescribed binaries that stabilized monotheistic religions.
But, beginning in the 1960s, queer peoples began to stand up and say NO to the abuse, murder, humiliation and marginalization that they had been and were experiencing.
The history of the Stonewall Inn is extremely well documented. It took place three years after the Compton Cafeteria Riots.
In 1969, hundreds of New York queers also decided they’d had enough.
As the TV series Book of Queer explains, most of the gay, lesbian and queer bars in New York had been owned and operated by mafia groups.
“I hate to say, but the Stonewall Inn was gross,” explained the narrator for Book of Queer in episode 5, Pride or Die.
Eric Cervini, Ph.D. and 2SLGBTQ+ historian said that the Stonewall Inn was part of larger network of illegal bars that proliferated in 1960s New York.
“When Prohibition ended in 1933, the New York State Liquor Authority deemed it illegal for establishments selling alcohol to employ or serve queer folks,” explained Cervini. “So, we had to carve out our own spaces or just take the best we could get.”
He went on to explain that mafia run bars would charge exorbitant prices for drinks that had been severely watered down. The businesses were often run down and unsanitary and paying off police to ignore them. But queer folks had no other options, which led to some of these bars blackmailing their patrons.
So, what happened on that fateful night of June 27, 1969?
The story begins with two undercover police officers posing as lesbians inside the Stonewall Inn. They were in search of queer people to harass and arrest. The bar was raided by police who entered the building; and, along with the undercover cops, began arresting patrons.
As the patrons began moving outside the bar and into the street, NYPD officers targeted a non-binary lesbian named Stormie DeLarverie. Of course, DeLarverie resisted the arrest attempt which led to an officer hitting them in the face.
DeLarverie is quoted as saying, “he hit me; so, I hit him back.” As their queer community stared in awe, DeLerverie screamed, “why won’t you guys do somethin’?” And the Stonewall Riots officially began.
The police ended up being outnumbered by the queer protestors which led many police to seek refuge inside the Stonewall Inn where they barricaded themselves inside. So, the protestors broke the windows, doused the Inn with lighter fluid and burned it down. As police were fleeing the fire, they began attacking the protestors.
The riot lasted for six days and drew in queer citizens from across New York’s boroughs. It was considered to be a full-blown revolution.
For a full eyewitness account of the beginning of the riots, you can click here for the Village Voice’s original article that covered the riots. The revolution officially began that night in the West Village.
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The role of people of color and of transgender and non-binary people will continue to play out as the Stonewall Inn Riots sparked the new tradition of Pride. Check back with KHON2.com on Thursday, Oct. 12 for Part 3 of how Pride began.