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Remembering LGBT history

30 May 2019 12:56 PM | Michael T. Tull (Administrator)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City.  This was the spark from which PRIDE as an annual event was born.  It would be false to suggest that the events of Stonewall in the last week of June 1969 were the genesis of the LGBTQ+ Rights movement, but it was a galvanizing force in LGBTQ+ political activism.  The LGBT version of "remember the Alamo." 

Current members of our community may not fully know our history.  This is not the forum for a detailed account.  While there are notable characters in history who would probably now be considered members of the LGBTQ+ community today, there really wasn't a "community" to belong to then.  By the 1910s LGBTQ+ communities began to form in major cities.  During Prohibition many "speakeasies" formed around specific tastes of the patrons who attended them.  Just as Jazz Bars formed, so did gay bars. While there had been laws prohibiting specific activities for some time new laws appeared against same sex couples holding hands or dancing.  Many cities had laws against cross gender dressing as well with conviction leading to fines and imprisonment.  In the 1940s and 1950s, while suspected "communists" were rounded up, so to were LGBT people in what is now called the "Lavender scare."  Men and women lost jobs and military pensions as governments sought to find and expel any "deviant." 

Gay rights organizations can be traced back to the 1920s where civic leaders tried to band community members together to "fight the system" but most attempts led to failure and getting "members" to sign up was difficult because so much could be denied anyone whose name appeared on such a list. 

The events at Stonewall Inn in 1969 repeated in many ways in many communities across the country during the 60s and early 70s.  Stonewall is remembered because it was big, and it was noticed by the main stream media, and it was followed by an annual gathering by protest marchers a year later.

But the march continues.  While the LGBT community is recognized in ways that would be unimaginable over 50 years ago, there are still men and women fired from their jobs, denied service at public establishments, and risk other forms of discrimination.   Rights we have earned are tenuous if not continuously asserted.  

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