There was a time in history when they called it a mental illness that had reached epic proportions. When there were public service announcements to curb the practices of so called ‘sexual psychopaths’. If you were queer in the 1960’s you would have been strapped to a chair and shocked into re-orientation. It was life imprisonment without really being in a prison cell. But some said they would go through fire for the experience of simply kissing someone of the same- sex. Then in 1969, the house of cards that was the oppression of gay people began to crumble.
I was moved by a mini-documentary that recently aired on PBS about the ‘Stonewall Uprising’. The film recalls moments before, during and after the riots that followed police raids of the Stonewall Inn in 1969. What struck me most about the film was that prior to these events, most queer folk had only one way of being. They were victims… of circumstance, of religious doctrines, of outrageous laws and of self-entrapment. They saw themselves as victims without much of an alternative. But, one fine day, they said, ‘That’s it!’ and owned the night. They owned the human spirit and united against their passive tendency for victimization. I wonder if it was courage that drove them out of their cocoons or plain restlessness. It was likely both. Maybe the different voices and different faces noticed a common goal and stuck together to make a commitment to strength rather than to continue in misery. When the walls of suffocation are no longer an option and you grow impatient with the world you are driven to a powerful force of reinvention.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with what happened that night and how these events sparked the Gay rights movement around the world, but for those of you who are not, I hope you can take the time (internet bandwidth permitting) to educate yourself here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/