Stonewall Is Still A Riot!

Jul 1, 2020

Stonewall Is Still A Riot!

NYC Memories and Reflections of Queer Resistance
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Unceded Territories - June 28 marks World Pride Day: a day to celebrate the ongoing queer resistance and struggle for LGBTQ rights and liberation.

In 2019, the largest International Pride celebration in history happened in New York City. That weekend, over 150,000 marchers and 5 million spectators poured into Manhattan for the Stonewall 50 - World Pride NYC 2019 celebration, which commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the June 28, 1960 Stonewall Uprising. And it was absolutely fabulous and phenomenal!

The Stonewall Uprising (aka Stonewall Riot, aka Stonewall Rebellion) was a series of demonstrations by the members of the LGBTQ community in response to the violent police raids at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan. At the time, discrimination, violence and state repression against the LGBTQ community was routine. The Stonewall Uprising helped bring these issues to the limelight.

In 2019, I had the opportunity to visit NYC. It was a colourful NYC Summer, and one of my stops was the Stonewall Inn – for obvious reasons. 

It was an inspiring trip. And in large part, it was made possible thanks to African-American gay liberation activist, Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992), who helped made the Stonewall Inn more accessible to trans, Black, people of colour, queer, and lesbians.

A self-proclaimed drag queen, Johnson was one of the first trans women and drag queens to visit the Stonewall Inn, which had previously only allowed gay men.

Johnson was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and co-founder of the radical activist group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and is recognized as one of the three individuals who “sparked” the Stonewall Uprising. Johnson was also an artist, performer, and model who at one point worked with Andy Warhol. 

As I stepped inside the bar, I noticed a sign on the wall by the door: “THIS IS A RAIDED PREMISES." It was a striking sign that succinctly summarized the ongoing struggles of the LGBTQ community. 

As I ordered a pint of beer, I sat and observed the historical surroundings. In addition to rainbow flags and decorations for the 50th Anniversary celebration, photographs and memorabilia from the 1969 Stonewall Riots lined the bar's walls: individuals pushing back against the police during those fateful early mornings, as well as various photographs of Johnson. Across the Stonewall Inn, a Heritage Park commemorating the Stonewall Uprising 50th Anniversary was created. 

The 2019 Pride celebrations lasted for weeks, and NYC establishments, transit rides, hotels, and public spaces teemed with rainbows, tourists, and patrons. Even after the Pride Weekend march was technically over, many people lingered in NYC that summer. 

Now, in 2020, many Pride Day and Month celebrations have been cancelled or moved to online and live-streaming platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major international Pride events such as the Vancouver Pride Parade and the Toronto Pride Parade have been cancelled altogether. Other cities are following suit.

Yet, 2020 shall not only be remembered for ravaging wildfires and cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for increased racism and police brutality. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in particular have faced threats, violations of rights, and state-sponsored extrajudicial killings at alarming rates.

There are also growing reports of violence against the LGBTQ2SIA+ community here in Turtle Island and around the globe. In NYC, for instance, police unleashed what reports are calling an “unprovoked attack” on LGBTQ people as they attended the 2020 Pride Parade. A new report titled Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020 from the Human Rights Campaign organization documents the rise of these attacks.

Given all this history, I’ve wondered what the essence of the 2019 50th Pride Anniversary was, when on the same year police brutality, racial discrimination and violence against LGBTQ2SIA+ communities in Turtle Island and around the world increased?

Pride parties are fun, undoubtedly. Endless capitalist ventures and business opportunities  flourish during Pride. Everyone is invited. Ads paint cities bright and colourful.

However, for me, as a queer Filipina in Turtle Island and the diaspora, the struggle against racial, class, gender-inequality, patriarchy, white supremacy, and all forms of oppression are what the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising was all about.

From 1969 to the present and the future, make it Gayer! 

Stonewall Is Still A Riot! Happy Pride!

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