Today, June 27th, is the 43rd anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, in Greenwich Village in the borough of Manhattan, in the city of New York which launched the public movement for LGBTQ rights (even though some of those letters were not recognized at the time–and some people still refuse to include their choice of certain of those letters).
Back in early 1998, I was in front of the Stonewall Inn on a trip into NYC with some exchange students from Oxford that I was showing around. One of them made it a priority to go there, as it is such a spot of significance for queer people internationally. And, what did he do? He went in, looked around for a second, and then picked up a free newspaper and came out again. I said “That was it?” And he said, with stars in his eyes, “Yeah!” Well, honestly, given that not everyone in our group was of legal drinking age, and another riot wouldn’t have been started just because some young American and British queer activists turned up, I don’t know what else could have been expected, but still…!?! (That was also a memorable occasion for me because later in the evening, we did something rather similar with Windows on the World at the World Trade Center–we waited a long time to go up there, took the elevator up, stood around for a few minutes listening to the music, and then said “Okay, let’s go.” Weird trip in general, that was…?!?)
In any case, from those particular beginnings, the yearly Pride festivals across the U.S. and the world have taken place. I’ve not been to a Pride event on a large scale since 2003 in Dublin (in early July), which was unforgettable; the last one I’d been to before that was in 2000 in Seattle. While still relatively friendly, it was rather impersonal and over-commercialized, even more than a decade ago. The Dublin event was different: more people marching (and watching!), less banners and floats and acts and such in the parade (almost none, truth be told), not really any commercialism at all, and the people who were watching weren’t necessarily there to cheer us on and show their acceptance of LGBTQ people, they were just ordinary citizens on their way, who probably knew nothing about the event to begin with. A very good straight friend of mine happened to see me in the parade (which was perhaps better described as a “march” than a “parade”), and ran out into the street to give me a kiss, and then she walked with me for the rest of the march to show her support. That was wonderful…
While I, like many others, enjoy a parade (I don’t know that I’d say “love,” as that might cause this entry to become a musical, and though I love musicals, it wouldn’t be a good musical if that happened!), part of me still feels that it’s not yet appropriate to have a parade rather than a march over these matters. “March,” to me, has some militaristic overtones (that’s what legions and armies do, after all), but also conveys the notion that we’re not here to be a spectacle, we’re here to accomplish something. Are we really in a position as far as LGBTQ rights in this country (and any country, for that matter–excepting a few in Europe) are concerned to where we can simply “parade” rather than “march”? And while some might say (including myself on occasion!) that that’s the very best time to have a “parade,” I think the “march” aspect of it also needs to not be forgotten.
Meanwhile, the parents of Tyler Clementi, who is an Ekklesía Antínoou Sanctus, have spoken out for the first time since his death two years ago, and one of their statements is one that needs to be taken to heart by many people: the notion of sin needs to be removed from the concept of homosexuality. Of course, the notion of “sin” is not really an issue for many religions, and even for those which do have that notion, some of them already don’t consider homosexuality a sin; but the rest of society still doesn’t, particularly in the U.S. (but in many other places as well–and perhaps even excessively so in other places, where one can still be jailed if not executed for homosexuality, which is not only a sin, but also a crime).
So, I think the name of the place where it all started, “Stonewall,” is an interesting one to consider. In British English, to “stonewall” something means to argue with or attempt to block it, and it occurs particularly in the context of parliamentary bills, where stonewalling is a tactic used to stall a bill or an investigation particularly if something embarrassing might result from it. The name “Stonewall Inn,” therefore, almost sets itself up as something potentially argumentative and defensive; but perhaps we can turn it around.
The concept of homophobia, itself, has one and only one thing about it that many of its proponents don’t want others to find out about: it’s entirely based in religious rhetoric, and not in anything scientific, social, or anything else that is legitimately objective or non-partisan. Homophobia, thus, is still in a position of “stonewalling” everything that might attempt to contradict or correct it; and yet, likewise, we who are not homophobic and heterosexist, and who are actively attempting to dismantle the system and the procedures which homophobic viewpoints would like to create, must likewise attempt to “stonewall” its further progress in our legislatures, both literal and figurative. We have nothing to be embarrassed over or ashamed of; but homophobia does. I think the time is still upon us that requires us to march in an effort to carry on the legacy of Stonewall, and to continue to “stonewall” the progress of homophobia and heterosexism (as well as sexism, transphobia, and a variety of other negative forces) whenever and wherever possible.
I hope that your month has been filled with wonderful things (even though it’s not quite over yet), and that you carry that legacy of Stonewall with you deeply, no matter what your gender identity or sexual orientation happens to be. March on, dear friends, and don’t be afraid to take up the banner of that march when called upon to do so. Antinous the Liberator marches with us when we do!