* Benjamin Franklin was the first U.S. military recruiter who enlisted a gay man into the Revolutionary Army.
* George Washington in all probability was the first American to offer domestic-partner rights. He gave housing to a known homosexual couple when housing was a premium at Valley Forge. And when faced with a homosexual scandal at Valley Forge, he took the least harmful course of action and embarrassed the officer accused of sodomy rather than giving him the death sentence as Thomas Jefferson demanded.
* An African-American gay man, George Middleton, lead a troop of black men in the Revolution.
* Several women dressed as men to enlist in the Revolutionary Army. After the war, when they could have taken off the drag, some chose to live out their lives as men.
* A lesbian, Katharine Lee Bates, wrote one of the country’s most patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful.”
* The director of Wheatland, the home and presidential library of President James Buchanan, admits for the first time that it can’t be refuted that Buchanan might have been gay. In an effort to allow historians the opportunity to fully research this, the library has taken down the portrait of Ann Coleman, the one woman Buchanan ever romanced.
* It might also surprise many Americans that the father of the United States military was a gay man: Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. He wrote the “Revolutionary War Drill Manual” and introduced drills, tactics and discipline to the rag-tag militia, which resulted in victory over the British.
So think about that today everybody when you are stuffing a footlong in your mouth.
On July 4th. 1965, gay rights activists gathered outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, carrying picket signs and demanding legislation that would codify the rights of homosexuals as a minority group. Referencing the Constitution’s inalienable right to the “Pursuit of Happiness” and its foundational belief that “all men are created equal,” the activists called for legislative changes that would improve the lives of American homosexuals. (Which at that time included the lesbian, trans and bi community. Compartmentalization and isolation was not part of the movement yet and all groups were together as one and fought as such)
The protest would be called “Reminder Day” and would continue for the next five years in a row
The name of the event was selected to remind the American people that a substantial number of American citizens were denied the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” enumerated in the United States Declaration of Independence.
Thirty-nine people attended the first picket, including veteran activists Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin. As with the Washington, D.C. picket Kameny insisted on a strict dress code for participants, including jackets and ties for the men and dresses for the women. Kameny’s goal was to represent homosexuals as “presentable and ’employable'”. Picketers carried signs with such slogans as “HOMOSEXUAL BILL OF RIGHTS” and “15 MILLION HOMOSEXUAL AMERICANS ASK FOR EQUALITY, OPPORTUNITY, DIGNITY”.
The picket ran from 3:30-5:00 PM. and press coverage was sparse, although Confidential magazine ran a large feature about the Reminder and other gay pickets in its October 1965 issue under the headline “Homos On The March”.
The annual Reminder continued through July 4, 1969. The final Annual Reminder took place less than a week after the June 28th. Stonewall riots,
At the last Annual Reminder Rodwell received several telephone calls threatening him and the other New York participant’s lives, but he was able to arrange for police protection for the chartered bus all the way to Philadelphia. About 45 people participated, including the deputy mayor of Philadelphia and his wife. The dress code and behavior code was still in effect at the Reminder, but two women from the New York contingent broke from the single-file picket line and held hands. When Frank Kameny tried to break them apart, Rodwell furiously denounced him to onlooking members of the press.
The annual Reminders were commemorated in 2005 by the placement of a Pennsylvania state historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at 6th and Chestnut Streets where it is viewed by thousands of visitors daily.
In 2015 the city of Philadelphia celebrated the 50th. Anniversary of the reminders. Unfortunately. the event did not draw the crowds it had hoped and the city itself tried to re-write LGBT history by wrongly claiming that it was the “birthplace of the LGBT rights movement.” The organizers dropped that false claim before the event after much pressure from this website and other LGBT historians.
Over 40 years ago today on July 3rd. 1981, The New York Times’s published it’s first article about AIDS headlined: “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.”(“Gay” had yet to be accepted by The Times’s style manual.) The cancer was Kaposi’s sarcoma, and until then it had seldom been seen in otherwise healthy young men.
The Times article written by LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D. is considered by most to have been the first mainstream journalistic mention of what later became to be known as AIDS and would later wipe out nearly an entire generation of gay men.
Living in New York City at the time I remember the day that this article was published. I was working at The Ninth Circle and was at the downstairs bar with Fred Tree the bartender and a friend named Neil Murphy. We were reading the article and I remember clear as day none of us were really worrying about it. Because after all you couldn’t catch cancer. Right?
Neil would become one of the many victims of the plague in the years that followed.
That was over 40 years ago now and over 90 percent of my friends from that time in my life are gone. But they are and never will be forgotten as they will always with me until the day we meet again.
Over 40+ million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
There is still no cure.
RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS
Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made.
The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.
The sudden appearance of the cancer, called Kaposi’s Sarcoma, has prompted a medical investigation that experts say could have as much scientific as public health importance because of what it may teach about determining the causes of more common types of cancer. First Appears in Spots
Doctors have been taught in the past that the cancer usually appeared first in spots on the legs and that the disease took a slow course of up to 10 years. But these recent cases have shown that it appears in one or more violet-colored spots anywhere on the body. The spots generally do not itch or cause other symptoms, often can be mistaken for bruises, sometimes appear as lumps and can turn brown after a period of time. The cancer often causes swollen lymph glands, and then kills by spreading throughout the body.
Doctors investigating the outbreak believe that many cases have gone undetected because of the rarity of the condition and the difficulty even dermatologists may have in diagnosing it.
In a letter alerting other physicians to the problem, Dr. Alvin E. Friedman-Kien of New York University Medical Center, one of the investigators, described the appearance of the outbreak as ”rather devastating.”
Since the beginning of the epidemic, 79.3 million [55.9–110 million] people have been infected with the HIV virus and 36.3 million [27.2–47.8 million] people have died of HIV.
1939: Ludwig Alexander Hirtreiter, aka Rex Gildo, German singer of ‘schlagers’, born in Munich. Hirtreiter aka Gildo reached the height of his popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, selling over 25 million records and also starring in film and television roles.
Gildo died in 1999 aged 63, having spent three days in an artificially-induced coma after attempting suicide by jumping from the window of his apartment building. He was said to have been suffering “psychological problems”. After his death, it was reported that he had been gay and involved in a relationship with Dave Klingeberg, his secretary with whom he lived, for seven years.
1953: The Los Angeles Herald-Express reports that the state department in California had fired 531 sex perverts and other security risks. The number of homosexuals fired was 425. Note: during the McCarthyist period from 1947 to 1953 more people lost their jobs for being homosexual than for involvement with the Communist party in which McCarthy was aided by the ice cold sleaze queen and deeply closeted homosexual Roy Cohn.
1969: Responding to the fourth and final night of ongoing Stonewall riots on Christopher Street New York police arrived and beat the demonstrators with nightsticks, leaving many many victims bleeding but in the end more then double the amount of police were injured during the riots than LGBT activist.
1970: A group of American Lutheran leaders issues a statement calling for an end to sodomy laws and the passage of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
1974: In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Derksen Printers refuses to print Understanding Homosexuality, an educational publication by Gays for Equality. Group pickets printing plant.
1975: During a joint meeting of the National Organization of Women, the Austin Women’s Political Caucus and Women’s Equality Action League, the Austin Lesbian Organization is invited to give a presentation on lesbianism.
1986: By only a single vote New Zealand’s parliament allows final debate to begin on a proposed law to lower the age of consent for gay sex to 16 and legalize gay sex. The bill eventually passes.
1989: Employees of the US Internal Revenue Service who were members of the National Treasury Employees Union receive a new contract which included protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation. But to this day it does not appear in internal ethics material.
1994: Italy’s “First National Demonstration of Gay and Lesbian Pride” takes place in Rome.
1828 – The Buggery Act 1533, formally An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6), was an Act of the Parliament of England that was passed during the reign of Henry VIII. It was the country’s first civil sodomy laws.
The Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and Man. This was later defined by the courts to include only anal penetration and bestiality. The act remained in force until it was repealed and replaced by the Offences against the Person Act 1828, and buggery remained a capital offence until 1861, though the last executions were in 1835
The Act was repealed in 1553 on accession of the staunchly Catholic Queen Mary, who preferred such legal matters adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts. However, it was re-enacted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1563.
The United Kingdom Parliament repealed buggery laws for England and Wales in 1967 (in so far as they related to consensual homosexual acts in private).
1934 – Hollywood makes makes Hays Code permanent– after Will H. Hays, who was the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) from 1922 to 1945 – makes it mandatory. Among its provisions: “Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationships are the accepted or common thing,” and “Sex perversion (GAY) or any inference to it is forbidden on the screen.” The Motion Picture Production Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968.
This forced a change to the ending of The Bad Seed. In the novel and stage play, Christine gives an overdose of sleeping pills to her dangerous sociopathic daughter Rhoda, and Christine shoots herself, but Rhoda survives, with the implication she will kill again (especially now that her mother, the only person aware of her true nature, is gone). The film version has Christine survive her suicide attempt, whereas Rhoda dies in a contrived and implausible Karmic Death (she goes to the lake to find the penmanship medal for which she killed a boy, and a tree is struck by lightning and falls on her)
Topics considered “perverse” could not be discussed or depicted in any way. Such topics included—but were not limited to— homosexuality, miscegenation (interracial relationships), bestiality, and venereal diseases. Studios used the explicitly racist ban on depicting miscegenation to justify the exclusion of non-white actors from employment: they reasoned that the Code would be breached if either actor or character was of a differing race. Anna May Wong, the leading Chinese-American actress of the time, was rejected as the female lead in The Good Earth because the male lead was white actor Paul Muni. In fact, Anna May Wong only made one film in which she got to kiss her white co-star (Java Head, which was made in the UK). Ironically, this was done despite the fact that the Code actually advocated for the “inherent dignity of foreign peoples” and insisted that their cultures not be undeservedly slurred – of course, this didn’t really help American non-whites (especially not the Japanese during World War II). *The bestiality ban was part of the reason for changes to Red Hot Riding Hood‘s original ending, which showed the Wolf forced into marriage by the Grandma, then years later taking his half-human, half-lupine children to the nightclub to see Red perform. (The original ending, much like the “erection takes”, existed on a Director’s Cut that was sent to overseas soldiers.) *The decision to kill off half-Native American Pearl in Duel in the Sun was based on this rule. In the book, Pearl lives and marries the good brother, Jesse. *Imitation of Life (1934) struggled to get approved because it featured a biracial character who tried to pass for white, and was played by an actual mixed-race actress. It was ultimately approved after two weeks of shooting – although a scene in which a black man nearly gets lynched for flirting with a white woman was ordered cut from the script. *From Here to Eternity cut all references to homosexuality (the soldiers fraternize with male prostitutes in the book) and Karen’s infertility from gonorrhea (which is now caused by a bad miscarriage). Hilariously the brothel is turned into a gentleman’s club with the whores being called “hostesses” – but the characters still act like they are. Tea and Sympathy deals with a character being Mistaken for Gay, but the film eliminates a gay teacher who is fired for being seen sunbathing with Tom on the beach (which starts the whole thing off). Tom instead just gets mocked for being found sewing.
The Supreme Court itself began to undercut the purpose of the Code (to prevent federal government censorship of the film industry) starting in 1952.
In 1966, MGM released the film Blowup—which failed to gain Hays approval due to its relatively explicit erotic content—in direct defiance of the Code. The MPAA and the Code could do nothing to stop MGM from distributing the critically-hailed film, which became a smash hit.
1972, UK – The United Kingdom’s first Gay Pride March draws about 2,000 gay men and lesbians to the center of London.
1972– Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern would endorse gay rights, the first US presidential candidate in history to do so; party stalwarts would denounce him.
McGovern issued a multi-point plank in support of gay rights in early 1972. However, the plank was dropped from the official Democratic Party platform.
1975 – Blueboy, a magazinefor gay men debuts.
Blueboy was one of the early gay men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazines available in the U.S. It was published monthly from 1974 to 2007.
The founding publisher was Donald N. Embinder, a former advertising representative for After Dark, an (straight?) arts magazine with a substantial gay readership. Embinder first used the nom de plume Don Westbrook, but soon assumed his real name on the masthead.
TRIVIA: Singer Cyndi Lauper mentions the publication in the first lines of her song “She Bop”: “Well, I see him every night in tight blue jeans. In the pages of a Blueboy magazine.”
1924:Jacob Israel de Haan, Dutch writer and journalist, is assassinated at age 42 for his contacts with Arab leaders. His killer claims never to have known about Haan’s homosexuality, and said further, “I neither heard nor knew about this,” adding “why is it someone’s business what he does at his home?” According to Gert Hekma, Zionists spread a rumor he had been killed by Arabs because of his sexual relations with Arab boys
1973: The first lesbian conference in Canada is held at Toronto’s YWCA.
1974: 43,000 attended the 5th Annual Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, more than double the number from the previous year. The years parade included floats and themes for the first time./
1975: Canada’s National Gay Rights Conference sees formation of National Gay Rights Coalition which is renamed the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition / Coalition Canadienne pour les droits des lesbiennes et des gais (CLGRC / CCDLG) in 1978. It folds two years later.
1979: In London, England, 8,000 join the Gay Pride march from the Embankment to Hyde Park to hear Tom Robinson sing.
1979: A group of 40 people in Cincinnati Ohio who had reserved a city park pool in the division of Clifton for a Gay Pride party are attacked by local residents who throw rocks and bottles at them. Police arrived, watched for a while and then drove away doing nothing. One man had to be rescued by a television news crew. Police refused to return, even after several calls reporting a riot.
1981: Moncton, New Brunswick, city council passes a last-minute law to prevent a gay picnic from taking place in Centennial Park to celebrate Canada Day. Groups of gay people hold picnic anyway.
1981: Governor Bob Graham of Florida signed the Trask Amendment into law which denied state funding to any university or college which allowed gay/lesbian/bisexual student organizations. It would later be struck down by the Florida Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
1984: The Unitarian Church in the U.S. voted to approve ceremonies uniting same-sex couples.
1986: The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Georgia sodomy law.
Michael Hardwick was 29 and tending bar at a gay pub in Atlanta, Georgia, he threw a beer bottle into an outdoor trash can and got cited by the police for public drinking. The cop wrote down the wrong day on his summons. When Hardwick didn’t show up in court as a result, an arrest warrant was issued. An officer later showed up at his apartment to serve the warrant, and a guest who’d been sleeping on the living room couch said he wasn’t sure if Hardwick was home. The cop decided to take a look and found Hardwick in his bedroom, having oral sex with a man and they were both arrested for sodomy.
Hardwick’s case was dismissed without a trial by the district court, and then he actually won on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where a panel of judges found that his fundamental right to privacy had been violated. . But when Hardwick’s case came to the Supreme Court, Justice Byron White didn’t frame it in terms of privacy or any other civil right. “The issue presented,” he wrote, “is whether the Federal Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy.” The answer was no. White got there by saying that proscriptions against homosexual conduct had “ancient roots,” stressing that at the time 24 states and the District of Columbia continued to outlaw sodomy
White famously got the fifth vote that made his opinion speak for the majority from Justice Lewis Powell, a moderate, who said at the time that he didn’t know any gay people. (He meant openly gay people, since it turned out he had a gay clerk.). Four years later, Powell famously told a group of law students that he regretted his decision. “I think I probably made a mistake in that one,” he said.
1986: Dr. William Haseltine responds to a U.S. justice department memo which claimed that he said that HIV could be casually transmitted. He said his statements had been distorted and that casual contact posed no significant threat. Assistant Attorney General Charles Cooper later apologized to him.
1987: After spending three years in jail for treason, South African AIDS activist Simon Nkoli was released on bail.
1989: Activists protest outside the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC because of the cancellation of an exhibit of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.
1990: Gays in London, England, lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in memory of gays killed in Germany during the Holocaust.
1995: British publication Capital Gay puts out its last issue.
1998: Lawmakers in Catalonia Spain passed a bill which gives same sex couples the same inheritance and alimony rights as married couples, but stopped short of allowing the adoption of children. Catholic groups condemned the bill, saying it institutionalized immoral behavior.
2000: David Copeland, 24, is convicted murder for planting a bomb in a London gay bar a year earlier. Copeland a Neo-Nazi militant became known as the “London Nail Bomber” after a 13-day bombing campaign in April 1999 aimed at London’s black, Bangladeshi and gay communities.
2001: Dozens are injured in Belgrade as roving bands of young thugs attack participants the first gay-rights march in Yugoslavia’s capital.
2005: Spain becomes the fourth country in the world (after Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada) to legalize gay marriage as the Spanish parliament gives final approval to a bill authorizing same-sex weddings. To no one’s surprise the Catholic Church howled in protest, but the law passed anyway.
2009: After a strenuous court battle, the Minnesota Supreme Court race was finally decided by a state Supreme Court ruling in favor of Al Franken. Franken is considered a great ally to have in the Senate, as he has spoken numerous times on his intent to vote in favor of expanding rights for gays, and because his vote makes a “filibuster proof” majority.
On June 4, 1971 less than two years after the Stonewall uprising, a group of men and women from the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) walked into the New York City Marriage License Bureau carrying coffee urns and boxes of cake to hold an engagement party for two male couples and to protest the “slander” of City Clerk Herman Katz, who had threatened legal action against same-sex “holy unions” being performed — yes, already then, in 1971 — by the Church of the Beloved Disciple, which had a largely gay congregation.
The GAA was the the second major gay-rights group to form after Stonewall, the more organized cousin of the Gay Liberation Front, which fought valiantly in the early 1970’s with goal, as one member later recalled, of “writing the revolution into law.”
Not known to many there is actual video footage of the planning for the Marriage Bureau takeover and protest or “ZAP” as they were called, and of the action itself, on YouTube.
There are three videos, each about 10 minutes in length. The first opens with an interview Wicker conducted with the church’s pastor about the controversy over whether or not the church was performing illegal marriages — as opposed to protected religious ceremonies — and thus violating the law. The rest of it consists mainly of a Gay Activists Alliance planning meeting for the action, with a lengthy speech by Mark Rubin, who lays out the protest’s agenda and describes himself as anxious to do what he’s about to do.
The second video shows the GAA members invade the Marriage Bureau office, set up their coffee urns, and offer the staff cake.
“We’re having a wedding reception for gay people in room 265 …. You’re all invited to come,” activist Arthur Evans, who is the main speaker in the video, says to people down the hall.
“Our rights as gay people have been slandered by a public official,” Evans says to those who tell him he has no right to be there.
Eventually the group enters Katz’s office and shouts, “Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!”
The third video shows the party part of the engagement party, as activist Peter Fisher sings songs with lyrics modified to make them gay-rights protest songs. “We waited too damn long for our rights,” he sings to the tune of the gospel song “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
So watch the video below and take a step back in time to when activism was real and experience our gay and lesbian forefathers fighting for the rights that we have today. But may not have for very much longer unless we start fighting again.
Richard Nixon was President and the Vietnam war was in full swing and its bloody images were televised into peoples living rooms each night. Over 45,000 American soldiers were dead. The counterculture of hippies, yippies, and anti-war protestors mostly young people flocked to major cities like San Francisco and New York City to escape the draft, their parents, and moral constructs.
New York City itself was a melting pot of millions of different kinds of people. But none were looked down upon as much and had to hide than gay men, lesbians, and other so-called “sexual deviants” of that era.
Greenwich Village at that time was a haven for outcasts in 1969 and was home to thousands of artists, actors, bohemians, beatniks, runaways, and mostly blue collar workers.
The original Stonewall Inn was located at 51 and 53 Christopher Street. (Only 53 Christopher Street is used today and the other side of the original bar sits vacant.) And what many people do not know is that it was owned by the infamous Genovese mafia crime family.
In 1966, three members of the Genovese family invested $3,500 to turn the Stonewall Inn into a gay bar after it had been a restaurant and a nightclub for heterosexuals. Once a week a NYPD police officer from the 6th Precincts would collect envelopes of cash as a payoff for “protection” to keep the The Stonewall open. The bar had no liquor license and no running water behind the bar—used glasses were run through tubs of water and immediately reused.There were no fire exits, and the bathrooms were filthy and toilets overran consistently. It was the only bar for gay men and lesbians in New York City where dancing was allowed and that was its main draw since at that time same-sex dancing was illegal and those who were caught doing it were subject to arrest.
in 1969 visitors to the Stonewall Inn were greeted by a bouncer who inspected them through a peephole in the door. The legal drinking age at that time in New York was 18 years old. To avoid unwittingly letting in undercover police who were called “Lily Law”, “Alice Blue Gown”, or “Betty Badge” at the time, visitors would have to be known by the doorman, or be friends with someone who did. The entrance fee on weekends was $3, for which the customer received two tickets. Patrons were required to sign their names in a book to prove that the bar was a private “bottle club”. Needless to say customers rarely signed their real names.
There were two dance floors in the Stonewall Inn and the interior was painted black including the windows making it very dark inside. The only real electrical lights that were on during business hours was a dim light behind the bar and the rest were pulsing gel and black lights. If police were spotted, the bar’s regular white lights were turned on signaling that everyone should stop dancing or touching and that same sex couple should break-up and pair up as male-female couples to avoid arrest. In the rear of the bar was a smaller room frequented by the few “queens” that were allowed inside; it was one of two bars where effeminate men who wore makeup and teased their hair (though dressed in men’s clothing) could go. Very few transvestites or drag queens were allowed in in by the bouncers. The average age of the bar’s clientele ranged between 18 years old and many closeted gay men in their forties and fifties.
Police raids on gay bars in the late 1960’s were frequent, but bar management usually knew about the raids in advance due to bribes made to certain police officers. The raids usually occurred early enough in the evening that business could commence after the police had finished. During a typical raid, the lights were turned on, and customers were lined up and their identification cards checked. Those without identification or dressed in full drag were arrested and others were allowed to leave. Lesbian patrons were required to wear three pieces of feminine clothing, and would be arrested if found not wearing them all
At 1:20 AM on the night of Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform along with Detective Charles Smythe and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine arrived at the Stonewall Inn’s double doors and announced “Police! We’re taking the place!” Stonewall employees do not recall being tipped off that a raid was to occur that night, as was the usual custom.
Some have said that one of the reasons that the bar was raided unannounced was that the Mafia owners of the Stonewall and the manager were blackmailing some of their wealthier customers, particularly those who worked in the Financial District and that they were making more money from extortion than they were from liquor sales in the bar. With the police were unable to receive kickbacks from blackmail and the theft of negotiable bonds (facilitated by pressuring gay Wall Street customers), so the NYPD decided to close the Stonewall Inn permanently. But again this is conjecture and not a proven theory as our history has not been very well documented.
Once inside, the NYPD called for backup from the Sixth Precinct using the bar’s pay phone. The music was turned off and the main lights were turned on. Approximately 205 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused. A few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms, but police barred the doors.
Michael Fader who was at the Stonewall that night: “Things happened so fast you kind of got caught not knowing. All of a sudden there were police there and we were told to all get in lines and to have our identification ready to be led out of the bar.”
Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take any customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested.
But things that night did not go exactly as the NYPD had planned.
The story goes that those dressed with pieces of female attire that night refused to go with the female officer and that men in line-up began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station. After separating those in drag in a room in the back of the bar. Maria Ritter, who was known as Steve to her family, recalled, “My biggest fear was that I would get arrested. My second biggest fear was that my picture would be in a newspaper or on a television report in my mother’s dress! Both patrons and police recalled that a sense of discomfort spread very quickly, spurred by police who began to assault some of the lesbians by “feeling some of them up inappropriately” while frisking them.
The police were to confiscate and transport the bar’s alcohol in patrol wagons. Twenty-eight cases of beer and nineteen bottles of liquor were seized but the patrol wagons had not yet arrived, so patrons were required to wait in line for about 15 minutes.Those who were not arrested were released and let out the front door, but they did not leave the area quickly as usual. Instead, they stopped outside and a crowd began to grow and watch. Within minutes, between 100 and 150 people had congregated outside. Some after they were released from inside the Stonewall, and some after noticing the police cars and the crowd. Although the police forcefully pushed or kicked some patrons out of the bar, some customers released by the police performed for the crowd by posing and saluting the police in an exaggerated campy fashion. The crowd’s applause encouraged them further: “Wrists were limp, hair was primped, and reactions to the applause were classic.”
When the first patrol wagon arrived the crowd had grown to at least ten times the number of people who were arrested, and they all became very quiet. Confusion over radio communication delayed the arrival of a second wagon. As the police began escorting those from within the bar outside a bystander shouted, “Gay power!”, someone began singing “We Shall Overcome”. It was then said some pennies, and beer bottles, were thrown at the wagon as a rumor spread through the crowd that patrons still inside the bar were being beaten.
It’s been reported that while the NYPD began “escorting” those arrested out of the bar a scuffle broke out when a lesbian in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon. She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. She had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for, as one witness claimed for complaining that her handcuffs were too tight. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains unknown sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” When an officer picked her up and heaved her into the back of the paddy wagon the crowd went “berserk”:
It was at that moment that the scene became explosive and the fight for our right and freedom
The crowd outside the Stonewall Inn started to push back at the police who tried to restrain them, the police fought back and knocked a few people down. It’s rumored thatStorme DeLaverie, a lesbian crossdresser was observed throwing the first punch after being pushed around by a policeman which incited bystanders even more. Some of those handcuffed in the wagon escaped when police left them unattended As the crowd tried to overturn the police wagon, two police cars and the wagon left immediately, with Inspector Pine urging them to return as soon as possible. The commotion attracted more people who learned what was happening. Someone in the crowd declared that the bar had been raided because “they didn’t pay off the cops”, to which someone else yelled “Let’s pay them off!” Beer cans were thrown and the police lashed out, dispersing some of the crowd, who found a construction site nearby with stacks of bricks. The few police at that point were surrounded by between 500 and 600 people, and grabbed grabbed several people, in the crowd including folk singer Dave Van Ronk —who had been attracted to the commotion from a bar two doors away from the Stonewall. Though Van Ronk was not gay, he had experienced police violence when he participated in antiwar demonstrations: “As far as I was concerned, anybody who’d stand against the cops was all right with me” .”Ten police officers—including two policewomen—barricaded themselves, Van Ronk, Howard Smith (a writer for The Village Voice), and several handcuffed detainees inside the Stonewall Inn “for their own safety”.
There are multiple accounts of the riots that night but the one thing that everyone agrees on is what happened from this point was raw, powerful and spontaneous.
Michael Fader: “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration…. Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.”
Bob Kohler: “And nobody knows who started it and nobody can [know] because you don’t know a riot is going to start, so therefore you’re not looking to see anybody start anything. You hear something. Maybe it’s a bottle break. Maybe it’s a fire in the trashcan and then it’s a riot. So all these bullshit people who are ‘I saw this. I saw that.’ You didn’t see nothing. Well, one thing you didn’t see was drag queens in high heels. I can tell you that. They weren’t there. It was the kids who started it and then the whole street erupted. But it was just – the kids had the best time of their lives. That was fun. And that broke up the week and they were glad when it happened on Wednesday night. And glad when it happened again. And by Saturday night, they still, none of those kids knew because they didn’t have that kind of a mind”.
Garbage cans, garbage, bottles, rocks, and bricks were hurled at the building, breaking the windows. A parking meter was wretched free from the ground and used as a battering ram on the doors of the Stonewall Inn. The mob lit garbage on fire and stuffed it through the broken windows as the police grabbed a fire hose. Because it had no water pressure, the hose was ineffective in dispersing the crowd, and seemed only to encourage them. When demonstrators broke through the windows—which had been covered by plywood—the police inside un-holstered their pistols. The doors flew open and officers pointed their weapons at the angry crowd, threatening to shoot. The Village Voice writer Howard Smith, in the bar with the police, took a wrench from the bar and stuffed it in his pants, unsure if he might have to use it against the mob or the police. He watched someone squirt lighter fluid into the bar; as it was lit and the police took aim, sirens were heard and the Tactical Police Force (TPF) of the NYPD and firetrucks arrived to free the police trapped inside the Stonewall Inn.
One officer’s eye was cut, and a few others were bruised from being struck by flying debris. Bob Kohler, who was walking his dog by the Stonewall that night, saw the TPF arrive: “I had been in enough riots to know the fun was over…. The cops were totally humiliated. This never, ever happened. They were angrier than I guess they had ever been, because everybody else had rioted … but the fairies were not supposed to riot … no group had ever forced cops to retreat before, so the anger was just enormous. I mean, they wanted to kill.”
When extra NTPD officers arrived the TPF formed a phalanx and attempted to clear the streets by marching slowly and pushing the crowd back. The mob openly mocked the police. The crowd cheered, gay men and drag queens started impromptu kick lines, and sang to the tune of The Howdy Doody Show theme song: “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We don’t wear underwear/ We show our pubic hairs”. Just as the line got into a full kick routine, the TPF advanced again and cleared the crowd and sent them screaming down Christopher to Seventh Avenue.
One participant who had been in the Stonewall during the raid recalled, “The police rushed us, and that’s when I realized this is not a good thing to do, because they got me in the back with a night stick”. Another account stated, “I just can’t ever get that one sight out of my mind. The cops with the [nightsticks] and the kick line on the other side. It was the most amazing thing…. And all the sudden that kick line, which I guess was a spoof on the machismo … I think that’s when I felt rage. Because people were getting smashed with bats. And for what? A kick line?”
Craig Rodwell, the once owner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, reported watching police chase the crowds through the crooked streets, only to see them appear around the next corner behind the police. Members of the mob stopped cars, overturning one of them to block Christopher Street. Jack Nichols and Lige Clarke, in their column printed in Screw, declared that “massive crowds of angry protesters chased for blocks screaming, ‘Catch them!’
By 4:00 in the morning the streets had nearly been cleared. Many people sat on stoops or gathered nearby in Christopher Park throughout the morning, dazed in disbelief at what had transpired. Many witnesses remembered the surreal and eerie quiet that descended upon Christopher Street, though there continued to be “electricity in the air”. One commented: “There was a certain beauty in the aftermath of the riot…. It was obvious, at least to me, that a lot of people really were gay and, you know, this was our street.” Thirteen people had been arrested. Some in the crowd were hospitalized, and four police officers were injured. Everything in the Stonewall Inn was broken. Pay phones, toilets, mirrors, jukeboxes, and cigarette machines were all smashed, possibly in the riot and possibly by the police. But despite everything, the Stonewall Inn would open for business again the very next night.
All three New York City newspapers covered the riots; The New York Daily News placed coverage on the front page. News of the riot spread quickly throughout Greenwich Village, All day Saturday, June 28, people came to stare at the burned and blackened Stonewall Inn. Graffiti appeared on appeared on the walls of the bar “They invaded our rights”, “Support gay power”, and “Legalize gay bars”
The next night, rioting again surrounded Christopher Street; participants remember differently which night was more frantic or violent. Many of the same people returned from the previous evening. but they were joined by “police provocateurs”, curious bystanders, and even tourists. Remarkable to many was the sudden exhibition of homosexual affection in public, as described by one witness: “From going to places where you had to knock on a door and speak to someone through a peephole in order to get in. We were just out. We were in the streets.
Thousands of people had gathered in front of the Stonewall, which had opened again, choking Christopher Street until the crowd spilled into adjoining blocks. The crowd surrounded buses and cars, harassing the occupants unless they either admitted they were gay or indicated their support for the demonstrators. As on the previous evening, fires were started in garbage cans throughout the neighborhood. More than a hundred police were present from the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Precincts, but after 2:00 a.m. the TPF arrived again. Kick lines and police chases waxed and waned; when police captured demonstrators, whom the dallies described as “sissies” or “swishes”, the crowd surged to recapture them.Street battling ensued again until 4:00 am.
Allen Ginsberg who lived on Christopher Street, but missed the first night of the riot stated, “Gay power! Isn’t that great!… It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves”, and that night visited the re-opened but in shambles Stonewall Inn for the first time. “You know, the guys there were so beautiful” said Ginsberg —”they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago”.
Nothing much happened the next two days, Monday and Tuesday, partly due to rain. Police and Village residents had a few altercations, as both groups antagonized each other. Craig Rodwell and his partner Fred Sargeant took the opportunity the morning after the first riot to print and distribute 5,000 leaflets, one of them reading: “Get the Mafia and the Cops out of Gay Bars”. The leaflets called for gays to own their own establishments, for a boycott of the Stonewall and other Mafia-owned bars, and for public pressure on the mayor’s office to investigate the “intolerable situation”.
On Wednesday, however, The Village Voice ran reports of the riots, written by Howard Smith and Lucian Truscott that included unflattering descriptions of the events and its participants: “forces of faggotry,” “limp wrists” and “Sunday fag follies” just to name a few which rekindled the anger all over again. A mob descended upon Christopher Street once again and threatened to burn down the offices of The Village Voice. Also in the mob of between 500 and 1,000 were other groups that have had unsuccessful confrontations with the police in the past and were curious how they were defeated in this situation. Another explosive street battle took place, with injuries to demonstrators and police alike, with looting in local shops, and arrests of five people.The incidents on Wednesday night lasted about an hour, and were summarized by one witness: “
The word is out. “Christopher Street shall be liberated. The fags have had it with oppression.”
In 1979, Diana Ross commissioned Chic founders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to create material for a new album after taking her daughters to see the band in concert. Rodgers got the idea for “I’m Coming Out” after noticing three different drag queens dressed as Diana Ross at a Gay/Drag/Trans New York club called the GG Barnum Room that had a trapeze with flyers soaring over the dance floor.
Thus, ever since the song has bee interpreted as a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, identity and the encouragement of self-disclosure.
Perry Watkins was an African-American gay man, and one of the first service members to challenge the ban against homosexuals in the United States military. Watkins was also the only person ordered reinstated to active military duty by a court after being dismissed for gay.
The United States Army drafted Perry Watkins in 1968. Watkins, an openly gay African American male, was proud to serve and stated honestly that he was homosexual when military officials asked him and admitted him at a time when it was forbidden for openly gay men to serve. But the Army needed men to fight at a time when American citizens were becoming wary of the war machine.
During Watkins’ initial three-year tour of military duty, he served in the United States and Korea as a chaplain’s assistant, personnel specialist, and company clerk.
A year after his induction, in 1968, Watkins signed an affidavit stating that he had been a homosexual from the age of 13 and that, since his enlistment, he had engaged in sodomy with two other servicemen, a crime under military law.
When his first enlistment period expired in 1970, Watkins received an honorable discharge, but his reenlistment eligibility code was listed as “unknown.” In 1971, Watkins requested correction of the reenlistment designation and the Army corrected the code to category 1, “eligible for reentry on active duty.” Shortly thereafter, he reenlisted for a second three-year term. In 1972, Watkins was denied a security clearance because of his homosexuality, and the Army again investigated him for allegedly committing sodomy and again terminated the investigation for insufficient evidence. Following another honorable discharge in 1974, the Army accepted Watkins’ application for a six-year reenlistment. In October 1979, the Army yet again accepted Watkins’ application for another three-year reenlistment.
But in 1981 the Army promulgated a regulation that mandated the discharge of all homosexuals regardless of merit and after 14 year of military service Major General Elton recommended that Watkins be discharged.
Watkins fought the discharge and on October 5, 1982, the district court enjoined the Army from refusing to reenlist Watkins because of his admitted homosexuality, holding that the Army was equitably stopped from relying on the nonwaivable disqualification provisions of its new regulation. The Army re-enlisted Watkins for a six-year term on November 1, 1982, with the proviso that the reenlistment would be voided if the district court’s injunction were not upheld on appeal.
In 1989, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, voting 7 to 4, upheld the injuction and ordered the Army to allow Mr. Watkins re-enlist. It was the first time a U.S. appellate court ruled against the U.S. military’s ban on service by gays and lesbians. The Bush administration sought Supreme Court review of that decision without success. Watkins initially planned to reenlist, but settled instead for a retroactive promotion to sergeant first class, $135,000 in retroactive pay, full retirement benefits, and an honorable discharge.
But Watkins’ story took a sad turn in the early 1990s, when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was enacted during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Watkins rushed to help the gay community but was ignored. The individuals chosen to play such a role where white veterans like Keith Meinhold and Joseph Steffan. Watkins’ experience as a drag artist and frank admissions of sexual encounters with other male servicemembers created a “public relations problem”. In the words of Tom Stoddard, head of Lambda Legal, referring to Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was embraced by movement leaders, Watkins wrote: “We’ll go with a [white] woman who led a lie for fifty-sex years before we go with a black man who had to live the struggle nearly every day of his life.”
Sadly Perry Watkins did not live to see the repeal of DADT.
Perry Watkins passed away on March 17, 1996 at his home in Tacoma, Washington of complications related to AIDS .
Perry Watkins is a forgotten gay hero that needs to be, and should be remembered.