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Stonewall 50: Honoring the Rebellion

By Ellyn Ruthstrom, Executive Director

Today is the 50th anniversary of the night LGBTQ+ people fought in the streets of New York City against the harassment of police and said enough is enough! 

The Stonewall uprising of 1969 was not the first time the queer community stood up against oppression and violence, but it was a pivotal moment that captured the anger and frustration of a marginalized community. The sparks that ignited a movement after Stonewall spread across the nation and inspired many LGBTQ+ organizations to form and build a political movement that would better the lives of our community and encourage millions to live out and proud lives. 

Those nascent sparks led to the development of SpeakOUT in 1972, when members of the Homophile Society and the Daughters of Bilitis joined together to form the original Gay Speakers Bureau. The founding SpeakOUT activists believed in the power of “telling the truths of our lives.” It was a deeply personal form of activism to engage in dialogue with strangers in the hope of opening minds and changing attitudes. Our members still live by that mission with the commitment to share our stories to create positive change for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Today we have an out legally-married gay man running for the Democratic nomination for president! That idea was not in the minds of those street warriors on June 28, 1969, but it is a direct descendant of those flying bricks and loud chants that filled the air for six days outside the Stonewall Inn. From standing up against police harassment and violence to decriminalizing our identities and sex lives, from HIV/AIDS direct action demanding queer lives be taken seriously to creating legal protections in housing and the workplace, from federal marriage equality to banning conversion therapy. All of these issues and more are part of the legacy of those heroes who stood their ground 50 years ago. 

On Sunday, millions of LGBTQ+ people and allies will be marching through and lining the streets of New York City during World Pride to both commemorate what occured at Stonewall in 1969 and to celebrate our queerness as we proudly live it in 2019. We can celebrate how much change our community has fought for and achieved already, and we must also honor those street warriors by continuing to fight for those in our community who are still marginalized and oppressed. 

Stonewall was an important instigator for our community’s activism. Let this anniversary celebration be another source of rebellion for us!