In the Darkness, came the Roar
by Heidi Hirsch
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. In 1969. the discrimination, the humiliation, and the arrests were met with an explosive roar of enraged voices.
Our history did not start with the riots at Stonewall. Yet what took place there was the catalyst for change. For 3 days in June, gay bashing met its match.
If you don’t know what happened, it’s time you did.
In the early hours of June 28th, armed with a warrant, police stormed into The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, in Greenwich Village. They roughed up customers, typical of those days, and finding bootlegged alcohol, arrested 13. New York still had a gender-appropriate clothing statute and people were taken into the bathroom to check their sex.
Fed up with constant police harassment, angry patrons and neighborhood residents hung around outside during the raid. As the events unfolded that night and in the days to follow, riots erupted. Our brothers and sisters came together and stood up to the status quo.
I’ve listed just a few of our heroes that confronted the police. Learn their names, know them by heart. Be proud of your heritage.
Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson – African-American transgender woman who was an LGBTQ rights activist and an outspoken advocate for trans people of color. (Credit: 1)
Stormé DeLarverie – Butch lesbian, gay civil rights icon and entertainer. “It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience – it wasn’t no damn riot.” Stormé is often referred to as “the gay community’s Rosa Parks.” (Credit: 1)
Tammy Novak- Was an 18-year-old trans woman lived with mob owner of Stonewall Inn, Fat Tony. She was one of the few allowed to enter the bar in full women’s clothing. After her arrest, she disappeared. (Credit: 1)
Sylvia Rivera – Sylvia was a 17-year-old Puerto Rican drag queen and trans activist on the night of the riot, persuaded by Tammy to attend. She was a founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance, as well as co-founding the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries with her close friend Marsha P. Johnson. She dedicated her life to helping homeless young drag queens and trans women. (Credit: 1)
Robert “Bob” Kohler – A gay rights pioneer of LGBTQ+ equal opportunity. Who happened to be walking by Stonewall Inn with his dog when the turmoil was in full swing. “The cops were totally humiliated. This never, ever happened. They were angrier than I guess they had ever been because everybody else had rioted… but the fairies were not supposed to riot… no group had ever forced cops to retreat before, so the anger was just enormous. I mean, they wanted to kill.” (Credit: 2)
Scott G. Brown – At age 76, in 2017, Brown was one of the oldest survivors of the 1969 Stonewall raid and riots. He devoted his life to advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people through writing, speaking, and educating people about HIV prevention. (Credit: 3)
There were others – Allyson Allante, Diane Kearney, Zazu Nova, Miss Peaches, Ellen Shumsky, Kay Lahusen, and so many more. (Credit: 3)
Why is it important to remember them?
Danny Garvin – Who was also a part of the riots, told NPR that before Stonewall, “we never realized how connected we were as a community’. He said: “It didn’t make a difference if you were a drag queen, or if you were a leather queen, or if you were just a young kid, or if you were an older person over 30, we were all fighting for a right… to get back into the bar, to be able to dance, not be oppressed.” (Credit: 1)
There is a point in all of our lives when we simply say “No”. It was that single syllable word that set off a chain of events during those few days in June that changed all of our lives.
Many of you hadn’t been born yet. But, the course of your life was set in motion in a way that would have never been conceived or dreamed of if the men and women at Stonewall hadn’t said, “No more!”
Take a moment today, think about your life as a gay person. Think about these men and women that paved the path you walk, or dance, or swish to your heart’s content. The clothes you freely wear, the ability to introduce your companion as “My husband, my wife, my lover,” to walk into a gay bar without looking over your shoulder. Today we have gay characters on TV and in the movies. We have extraordinary support from major corporations, health insurance, benefits, the right to marry, and to raise children. While we are still waiting for the Today Show to marry us on morning TV, I shall save my comments for another day. Our lives are the dreams of many before us.
Be thankful for those who had the courage to live openly and not accept society’s opinions. We benefited from them.
For every one of our Stonewall heroes and all those that came before, let us keep the flame lit and keep moving forward.
I am grateful and I am proud
(Credit: 1 www.gaystarnews.com)
(Credit: 2 www.womensrepublic.net)
(Credit: 3 www.Huffpost.com)
Heidi Hirsch lives in the Los Angeles area with two birds, a bunch of Koi and very demanding squirrels. As a project developer for Reveal Studio, Inc. she oversees the production and development of the themed entertainment division. Heidi has recently achieved the status of “Seasoned Citizen”. In her downtime, she fancies herself as an urban farmer. “Never did I think I would get so excited over tomatoes and cucumbers without salad dressing!”.