Donna Louise here taking time to commemorate the Stonewall Inn Rebellion of Saturday, June 28, 1969. On that night, forty three years ago, the New York City Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. The people in the bar and on the streets cooperated at first just like they always did when the police came to harass them. But something strange occurred as the process unfolded, the bullied and oppressed fought back giving birth to the new Gay Power movement.

The Mattachine Society of America had been hard at work trying to convince Americans that homosexuals were just like them (sound familiar?) and their protests had increased awareness of the problems and issues facing the members of the subculture, but they were too nice with their orderly protests and too easy to ignore by the those in power.

Early that Saturday morning, the niceness wore off. The drag queens, transvestites and homosexual street kids stood up and said, “We’re not running away and hiding anymore.” And they didn’t.

The rioting provided the impetus the nascent Gay Power movement needed to burst from the social confines of polite behavior to a movement fighting for equal rights, one that would not turn away from the violence of the police and the society. Gay people came out and haven’t gone back in.

Surprisingly, Stonewall was not the first riot against unofficially condoned police brutality directed at the homosexual community. In LA, police raided and beat patrons of The Black Cat on New Year’s Eve 1967. (Funny how LA police still have a reputation for beating up people.) The Advocate, a “gay” paper, began as a source of information for local activists and blossomed into a national magazine.

In August 1968, police raided The Patch, a well-known gay bar in another LA suburb. The drag queens resisted. One of the men arrested, Tony Valdez, went home and told his partner “God doesn’t care about us.” His partner, Troy Perry, started the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) which believes everyone is a cherished member of God’s family. Over 200 branches of the United Fellowhsip of the MCC, a Protestant denomination, exist worldwide.

Despite how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go, let’s take some time today to thank the people who started it all and all those who’ve died or been hurt along the path to equality. As Mama always said, “We’re all queer in one way or another.” I don’t think she meant sexually, but, hey, I’m going with it.

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