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When the rainbow lights up our streets

Pride is a beautiful feeling. But is self-esteem and pride only a virtue for the ‘normal’? How does the LGBTQ+ community, those who are termed ‘sexually deviant’, reclaim this feeling in a world that continues to deny their existence at best and decimate it at worst?

June is celebrated as Pride Month by the LGBTQ+ community all around the world. The tradition dates back to the 1970s as it honours the Stonewall riots of 1969, where members of the New York LGBTQ community fought for their rights against a rabidly homophobic police force.

WHAT WERE THE STONEWALL RIOTS?

World War II had brought many changes for the American society. Cold War between the US and USSR was on the horizon. American society saw sexuality to be just as dangerous as communism, to the extent that homosexuals were termed security risks in a list that included anarchists and communists.

Gay Americans in the 1950s and 1960s faced an anti-gay legal system. A criminal law allowed the police to arrest individuals who wore less than three items of gender-appropriate clothing.

In fact, the American Psychological Association termed homosexuality a mental disease in 1952. Thousands of gay men and women were publicly humiliated, physically harassed, fired, jailed, or institutionalised in mental hospitals.

In such a hostile environment, the LGBT community sought refuge in gay bars and clubs. These locations provided them the opportunity to express themselves freely even as display of same-sex affection in public was outlawed. The police continued to harass these spaces.

The mafia saw this as a lucrative opportunity. They could profit by catering to the ostracised gay community and in 1966 the Genovese crime family bought the Stonewall Inn and remodelled it as a gay bar. Stonewall soon became an institution — a home to the poorest and marginalized sub-groups of the gay community — drag queens, transgenders and homeless gay youth.

On June 28,1969, the New York Police conducted a raid at Stonewall, roughed up the patrons and arrested 13 people. Frustrated with constant police scrutiny and harassment, tensions between the gay community in New York and the police flared. A full blown riot happened. The mob tried to set the bar on fire. The police managed to quell the flames but it had ignited among the gay community the fight for their self-esteem. Rioting at the Stonewall continued for five days.

Graffiti appeared on the walls of the bar, declaring “Drag power”, “They invaded our rights”, “Support gay power”, and “Legalise gay bars”, along with accusations of police looting, and — regarding the status of the bar — “We are open”.

The symbol of Stonewall riots became Marsha P Johnson, a black transgender woman and drag queen, who was the first person to throw a brick at the police that for so long, delegitimised the existence of the LGBT community.

The riots sparked the gay liberation movement across America. Pride parades that have become the most visible markers of the queer rainbow, started in 1970 to commemorate the Stonewall riots and are a tradition that continues even till today.

WHERE DO GAY RIGHTS STAND TODAY?

Laws affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people vary greatly by country or territory; everything from the legal recognition of same-sex marriage to the death penalty as punishment for same-sex romantic/sexual activity or identity.

 

 

 

 

News credit : Indiatoday

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