June is Pride Month and pride celebrations this year are particularly festive because this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots. Beginning in the 1950s, with the founding of the Mattachine Society, and into the 1960s, LGBT rights and liberation organizations were working to increase awareness and decriminalize the lives of LGBT people in the United States. Most people though, trace the critical event that launched the LGBT rights movement in this country, to the riots that began at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. At the time, police raids on bars catering to LGBT patrons were common, but the surprise raid by the police that night pushed patrons and the gathering crowd to fight back.
Police raids were common during that period as a way to enforce gender laws such as appropriate dress and prohibitions on same sex dancing. Stonewall had been raided before, and there are various stories about what happened that night to incite the crowd. One of the most common stories is that night center around Stormé DeLarverie. Stormé DeLarverie was a bi-racial lesbian who worked as a bouncer in some of the gay and lesbian bars. After trying to defend Stonewall patrons who were being arrested by police, Stormé was also attacked and arrested. During the arrest, an officer used his billy club to hit her on the head. As she was bleeding and being dragged to the police van she yelled to the gathering crowd “Why don’t you guys do something?” It was her call to arms that many credit with rallying the crowd and setting off the protests and resistance.
This year, as part of the 50 year celebration, two community leaders and key figures of the Stonewall protests will be immortalized in a new monument commemorating Stonewall. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both transgender women of color and drag performers, were in the forefront of the liberation movement and later jointly founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). Johnson and Rivera played key roles as community leaders and the monument is an overdue recognition and re-writing of the Stonewall story to recognize the leadership and role that transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, played in the protests and the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement.
Pride events throughout the United States reflect the diversity of the LGBT community. Here in Texas, numerous Pride events are planned for June. Explore our Events page to learn more about how Achieving Together partners are recognizing Pride Month.