Most of you know that June is designated as LGBT Pride month because of the Stonewall Riots, which began on June 28, 1969.
At Wikipedia, one can find the following statement:
They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
The only problem with the words above is that they are not quite true. Almost three years before, there had been a blow struck for freedom on the other side of the country.
- Note: The video inserts are fragments of The Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria, which was produced by Victor Silverman and Susan Stryker. Here is some background from Stryker on the making of that documentary.
Transwomen were not welcome in San Francisco gay bars, since crossdressing was illegal and the presence of one transperson in a bar could get it raided and perhaps closed down.
Compton's was also a hangout for street hustlers and members of a gay youth known as Vanguard (the first known LGBT youth organization, organized at Glide Memorial Church, along with a lesbian group called the Street Orphans.
The next day Compton's adopted a policy prohibiting transfolk from entering the establishment. This caused more transfolk to gather at the scene, along with the hustlers and other denizens of the Tenderloin...and even some gay and lesbian folks...to picket the cafeteria. That demonstration ended with the newly installed windows also being broken.
Along with the political expression of the riot that we were human beings and deserved to be treated as such, July of 1966 brought the publishing of Harry Benjamin's earth-shattering book, The Transsexual Phenomenon (pdf), which affirmed our existence socially and medically. This book established a procedure through which we could attain our life-long dreams.
The events of that hot August night were commemorated in 2006, with the installation of a plaque at the corner (the youtube of the first part of the commemoration doesn't work properly...the second half will be displayed below).
It should also not be lost on anyone that the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was a drag bar.
It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth.
In the words of my former hair stylist...and one of the queens who claims to have been there on the night of June 28, many of the queens were "serious about it"...meaning that they viewed themselves as women.
I share this story tonight so that people will know that we were there at the beginning and hence deserve to be there when equality is achieved.
Fair is fair, don't you think?