Saturday, June 27, 2009

Stonewall Riots 40th Anniversary: A Look Back at the
Uprising that Launched the Modern Gay Rights Movement

From Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: And how did attitudes change afterwards towards the gay community?

DAVID CARTER: Well, I think, you know, there was a lot of immediate admiration on the part of straight people watching it. They thought, “Wow, you know, we thought you guys would never fight back. Good for you.” Of course, many straight people mocked it. They thought, you know—there was one person said, “Oh, my god, now the fairies are revolting!” It’s like, you know, “Oh, my god, first, you know, black people were acting up, and women are acting up. My god, now even homosexuals are acting up!” So, you know, there were many disparate reactions, both immediately and in the longer run.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re now making a film about this. And how does Stonewall forty years ago relate to what we’re talking about today? I mean, in our next segment we’ll be speaking with a writer about how, at this point, it’s marriage and the military that are the flashpoint issues for the gay community.

DAVID CARTER: You know, what frustrates me—look, I’m all for those issues being addressed, believe me, but what frustrates me is I feel that so often people forget we have the same civil rights protections on a federal level as we had at the time of Stonewall: zero. Congress has not passed one law that gives us any federal protection. In 2005, four years ago, 90 percent of the American public, according to the Gallup poll, said that the—you know, it should not be possible to fire a person because they’re gay. We’re not at this point asking Congress or the Obama administration to lead; we’re asking them to follow at this point. We’re asking them to follow. Can’t they even do that?

Click here to watch, read, or listen to the rest.

As I've probably mentioned here before, Stonewall is my favorite people's uprising. I mean, never mind the entertainment value from dozens of drag queens kicking the shit out of asshole NYPD officers with their high heels: even though I'm not gay, the movement started back in 1969 is almost as meaningful to me as it is to the Queer community. And most likely to you too.

While the gay rights movement has done an extraordinarily good job of emulating the various civil rights movements preceding it, likening the plight of homosexuals to similar struggles for women's and African-Americans' rights, the reality is that gays and straights are so similar, literally living together within the same socioeconomic groups, that, in the end, there is no real difference between gay rights and straight rights. That is, the gay rights movement is ultimately a human rights movement.

Seriously. This is about the freedom to love whoever you want to love. This is about control over one's own body, about physical and biological autonomy. This is about access to health care. This is about the freedom to not conform; this is about being the person you want to be.

And the gay rights movement isn't simply about identity and gay sex. It's also about sex defined more generally. The movement was way out in front on the concept of safe sex and STD awareness, even while public schools were being pushed into dangerous and absurd "abstinence based" sex ed programs. While the overall sexual revolution collapsed into the meaningless bipolarity of Christian anti-sex Puritanism versus capitalist exploitation back in the 80s, the Queer community continued to celebrate human sexuality as a wonderful aspect of ourselves, while mixing in messages of sexual health and pragmatism. That is, the only intelligent voice out there on sexuality for the last twenty years has been the gay rights movement.

So that's why I always like to celebrate a bit for Pride weekend. Not only do I stand in solidarity with my Queer brothers and sisters, but I also understand that my own personal fate, and yours, is permanently intertwined with the fates of gays and lesbians. In many ways, it's our fight.