Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Good Time To Remember The Roots Of The Gay Rights Movement

Today's Enquirer carried an excellent article by Lauren Bishop on the decision to move Cincinnati's annual Gay Pride festival from Northside to Downtown this year. The article mentions in passing the Stonewall riots. It made me realize that while I've always been supportive of--and at times, an active advocate of--GLBT equality, I know very little about the history of the movement. In fact, until yesterday, I didn't even know why some gay rights groups organized under the name "Stonewall."

A brief summary, for those of you who don't know. (And a link to more information, for those who are interested.) In 1969, New York police raided a a gay bar. The reason for the raid? Well, it was a gay bar. That night, the bar's patrons, tired of being hassled by the police, responded with violent protest. The name of the bar: the Stonewall Inn. The event is largely credited as being the birth of the modern gay rights movement.

It can be easy to forget that not so long ago, police could harass with impunity an establishment simply because it catered to the GLBT community. I was born in 1974, and even in my lifetime, gay rights have come a long ways. Think about the stereotypical portrayal of a gay bar in Police Academy, made in 1984. I don't think a mainstream movie would get away with such a scene today. In fact, fast forward about twelve years to The Birdcage (a movie with some pretty bad ethnic stereotyping), where gay culture is presented as normal and Gene Hackman plays a Republican who is presented as out-of-touch because he is disapproving of his son-in-law-to-be's gay fathers. And this year, there are gay pride banners hanging from lamp posts on Fifth Street.

A schedule of events for this year's gay pride events--called the Equinox Festival--is available here.

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