Today we mourn the 50+ lives taken senselessly. They were our brothers and sisters. They were queer, transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and so many other things. They were predominantly people of color. They were celebrating Pride. This is terrifying and heartbreaking. If you have queer people in your family, please check in on them today and this week. Encourage them to talk to grief counselors, even if they were not in the zone of danger this time. Our hearts are broken. We know it could be us next.
The Stonewall Riots are why we celebrate Pride in June. The history of persecuting queers who were visible is long and violent in our country and throughout the world. There were laws prohibiting homosexuality in public in most of the United States. Folks were subjected to mental and physical torture to “cure’ them. People were murdered. People were harassed by law enforcement and the law for being “deviant.” Deviance included women not wearing enough “feminine” articles of clothing. They were harassed for being different and not conforming to that era’s strict constraint of appropriate gendered behavior. Business that catered to LGBT folks were routinely raided and the people subjected to violence of all natures at the hands of the state and ordinary citizens. The laws were part of the problem. Beatings and sexual assaults at the hands of police were common. There are differing accounts of what precisely occurred on the night of Judy Garland’s funeral. Law enforcement raided the Stonewall Inn, again. And someone struck back. Some accounts credit a transgender woman with throwing the first punch or bottle. Some accounts credit a butch woman. Other accounts credit a drag queen.
But someone who refused to live according to dominant culture’s ideas for them struck. And others joined. The riot involved violence, but also group unity in public. There had been secret societies before – don’t think the LGBT liberation movement started at the end of the 1960s. They shouted about gay liberation. They faced their persecutors. The cops eventually sought refuge in the Stonewall Inn. The riot cops came. The queers did not leave. They stood and fought as a group. This happened over multiple days. They sought liberation from police brutality, unjust laws, and a strict society that told them to conform to ridiculous notions of what it means to be a human. What it means to have worth. We are still working on liberation.
We’ve had marriage equality for a year now, but have seen a growth of anti-transgender laws in particular. We are not free. There are other freedoms we seek. We do not have workplace protections in many states. We do not have the privilege of peeing safely in many places. We still have queer kids being abandoned by their families. We still struggle for gender non-conforming people to have the dignity inherent in their bodies protected. We still struggle to not be murdered for our very existence.
If you can, please donate https://www.gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund. Over fifty families will need help with their grief at this tragedy.