We are the Stonewall Girls
We wear our hair in curls
We wear no underwear
We show our pubic hair!
We wear our dungarees
Above our nelly knees!
As revolutionary anthems go, Gentle Reader, it’s not exactly La Marseillaise, but it’s genuine. It arose spontaneously one fateful night, during a routine police raid of the Stonewall Inn. And that’s the night that the Gay Rights Movement really took off. That’s why Pride’s in June – that’s what it’s about. A bunch of screaming queens were fed up with the daily police brutality, and started throwing high heels and cocktails*. They fought back.
There had been other riots before, like the one at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Fran, led by the trans* community back in ’66. Why didn’t they set off the movement? There isn’t a lot of information or evidence left, but personally? I think that the Mattachine Society† probably suppressed it. I also think that a lot of smaller uprisings had to occur before there was enough momentum for the crisis to come to a head, and burst out right into the public eye.
June 28th, 1969, the time was finally right. Silvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and others who would go on to found S.T.A.R. (the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries‡) – K. Stormé DeLarverie, a lesbian and drag king – so many veterans, so many revolutionaries, so many activists. It wasn’t the respectable assimilationists, in their ties and skirts, who caused change. It was the freaks, the rebels, those who didn’t fit in the box or who flat-out refused.
The rebellion continued for four days. There were fires in the streets, substantial police brutality, and bold warriors resisting. The bar was torched. Police were injured. Prisoners escaped the paddy-wagon. All was in chaos, and the newspapers were enthralled.
Within months, the Gay Liberation Front had chapters in cities across America, and the fight for our QUILTBAG civil rights had begun.
One year later, the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade was held. It was the first Gay Pride parade in the country.
And that’s why Pride’s in June, children. We’re remembering our history, celebrating our on-going fight for equality, and ensuring that we’re seen and heard. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away. We’re nothing like you – we’re freaks and deviants and above all, Other. We’re exactly like you – we’re loving and kind and above all, Human.
We are your worst nightmare, and we are your best fantasy, and we commemorate that fact each June.
*Molotov cocktails. Lord, I’m droll.
†The Mattachine (Matt-uh-sheen) Society will get its own post this month. Despite being one of the earliest pro-gay (or, in the parlance of the time, “Homophile”) organizations in the States, they abandoned their original radical roots for a more assimilationist thrust. They did some good work, but, well –
‡S.T.A.R. was exactly what it said on the tin. The Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries provided housing and help to a number of street kids, hustlers, and homeless queer youth. They also continually fought for queer rights. More on them will be in a forthcoming post!