It’s Pride Month. Happy Pride, everyone!
If you don’t know much about Pride, it all began 51 years ago, in Greenwich Village. Cops in 1969 were fond of rounding up gay/trans people into paddy wagons, for the crime of simply existing. Names would be published in the paper, lives would be ruined. One night in late June, the queers had had enough. They did not go quietly. At the Stonewall Inn, they fought back. The riots that ensued would last for six days.
The Stonewall Riots were not exactly America’s first “Pride Parade.” They were violent. There was looting. It was an act of resistance. Buildings were burned. People were angry. People at the time undoubtedly thought, “these crazy queers have lost their damn minds.” Even some gay people at the time, who must have believed that if we just behaved nicely for long enough, at some point, our rights would be given back to us, like a gift, were offended. But the riots, and looting, and burning persisted. For six days. In Greenwich Village, New York’s “gay ghetto.” Had 24-hour news and social media existed, it’s certain that riots would have broken out in every major American city. People were angry. They’d had enough.
Today, the LGBTQ community looks back on those angry, violent rioters as the foremothers and forefathers of our civil rights movement. The Stonewall Riots were a turning point in our own civil rights history. Marriage equality, the right to serve in the military, the ability to hold hands with the one you love as you walk down the street — everything can be traced back to Stonewall.
And 51 years later, the streets of America are alive with protest once again. Most of these protests have been peaceful, but there has been some rioting. There has been some looting. This time, the issue is racism … it’s not a new issue; it’s been with us since before America existed. And there are those who deplore the violence, the incivility. Talking heads, both black and white, go on CNN and talk about how “counterproductive” it all is.
As a gay man during Pride Month 2020, all I can tell you is that history may well record these uprisings differently than today’s journalists and pundits are reporting them. What I know is that George Floyd should be alive today. Breonna Taylor should be alive. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive. If you’ve had enough of the state-sanctioned murder of Black Americans, you are correct to feel that way — and that if your feelings of rage and despair are not met with justice, they will find another way to be heard. I don’t condone violence. I take no joy from the images on my television. But I also believe that righteous anger can, in fact, be a form of love.
Happy Pride. Be well. Stay safe. We’re all in this together.