June 27, 1970: the first Gay Liberation Day in America. In New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago, hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people took to the streets demanding to be seen, heard, and recognized. These demonstrations commemorated the scene precisely one year before, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Instead of standing down, the bar’s patrons — mostly sex workers, trans women, people of color, the young, and the poor — fought back, inciting violent demonstrations over the next several days.
Forty-five years later, every major corporation in the country waves a rainbow-colored flag in June, National LGBT Month, and celebrities and brands tweet and post messages across social networks in support of “gay pride.” In this week alone, the United States Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage and the city of New York has voted to make Stonewall Inn a historical landmark. Two days ago, the first black president stood in a room in the White House to congratulate young LGBT activists from around the country on the work they’ve done and the work that lies ahead.
But when a young woman — Latina, undocumented, transgender — spoke up, demanding that the president answer for the thousands of LGBT immigrants held in detention every year, he silenced her. “You’re in my house,” he said. “Shame on you.” She was booed by her fellow activists.
Though pride has become a commercial success and a boozy summer pastime for many, it is important to remember the history of the gay liberation movement. Its roots — reaching years before the Stonewall protests — are still strong, as demonstrated by the queer youth of color who take to the streets today to lead demonstrations against police brutality, racial violence, and systemic oppression. For those still in detention centers, still living on the streets, still at the highest risk of sexual assault, incarceration, suicide — sex workers, trans women, people of color, the young, and the poor — there is still much to fight for.
Below is a list of salient essays and transcripts to remind us that Pride did not begin as a celebration, but as an uprising.
History is a Weapon by Silvia Rivera
Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement With Everything We’ve Got by Morgan Bassichis, Alexander Lee, and Dean Spade
Dis-membering Stonewall by Irene Monroe
Where Did the ‘Gay’ in ‘Gay Pride’ Go? by Amin Ghaziani
Reclaiming Our Lineage: Organized Queer, Gender-Nonconforming, and Transgender Resistance to Police Violence by Che Gossett, Reina Gossett, and AJ Lewis
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