Remember To Celebrate The Stonewall Rebellion, A Night That Changed Our World

Last weekend may have been gay pride for many of us, but today, June 28th, is the 43rd anniversary of the night that started it all: the Stonewall Rebellion.

To commemorate the event, HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse shares his own experience with pride's earlier days.

In June of 1969, I was an eight year-old boy growing up on Long Island, NY. Little did I know that only about 30 miles from my suburban home, a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were about to change the world for millions of Americans – including me.  These brave citizens had decided that it was time to stand up to harassment from police society in general.

Today, we now consider the "Stonewall Rebellion" or “Stonewall Riots" the beginning of the modern-day LGBT rights movement in America.  The first public "Gay Pride March" in New York took place one year later to commemorate "Stonewall."

As we commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion we must salute those who fought, suffered and died because of society's homophobia and transphobia, but we also must celebrate how far we have come as well.  And, for sure, we must continue to tell the story of Stonewall and continue to fight for full LGBT equality so that today's eight year-olds can grow up free and thrive and enjoy the wonders there are in this world.

Do any of you readers out there have memories either of the Stonewall Rebellion or your first gay pride? If so, please do tell in the comments.


  1. Maverick69 says

    I was 19 days old at the time and lived in the east village. Today I wear my rainbow colored bracelet will continue reading Victory – The Triumphant Gay Revolution by Linda Hirshman and then visit the Stonewall for a nice cold one after work. Happy Pride Everyone !

  2. Jack says

    In 1973, 21 and newly out, I marched in NYC’s 3rd annual Gay Pride Parade where an astonishing 50,000 people were reported to be either marching (hard to believe) or in attendance (more likely).

  3. says

    I was 22 at the time. Never went to Stonewall but knew many street people who did. Not there for the night, but was there for the week afterwards — we OWNED Sheridan Square. People talked to one another in ways they never had befoe. Out of this the new LGBT orgs were formed: The Gay Liberation Fron, the Gay Activists Alliance, and (my fave) STAR — Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.

    Linda Hirshman’s book should be bypassed in favor of REAL books about the movement and the times.

    “Gay New York” by George Chauncey
    “The Gay Metropolis” by Charlie Kaiser
    “The Trouble With Harry Hay” by Staurt Timmons
    “Straight News” by Edward Alwood
    “Rough News/ Daring Views” by Jim Kepner

    and above all

    “The Invention of Hetrosexuality” by Jonathan Ned Katz

  4. bostonbeat says

    MY first gay pride was in 1991. I volunteered for the AIDS Action Committee in Boston. It was a wonderful time, there was so much commitment to dealing with HIV and AIDS and the danceathons were just huge events. I was surprised at how many straight allies we had volunteering in those days and for the agency. I ended up working in HIV AIDS prevention for the next 15 years because of that volunteer position. I would never trade my experience for the world.


  5. SteveC says

    My 1st Pride was in Dublin, Ireland in 1996. I was 18. I was in the closet. I had intended to watch from the sideline as I was scared to take part. When the parade began I thought ‘Screw that. This looks like fun, I’m joining in.’ What an amazing day that was. I’ve been to many Prides since but that 1st Pride is still fresh in my mind. An absolutely magical day.

  6. says

    ?????? “June 28, 1969…..the night that STARTED IT ALL”??? What the hell is wrong with your understanding of our history, and respect for the many people who came before?

    How about Henry Gerber, et al., when they started the Society for Human Rights in Chicago in 1924? How about the gay veterans who started the Veterans Benevolent Association in 1945, whose social events over the next nine years were hugely popular? How about Harry Hay, et al., who started Mattachine in 1950, and the several other groups, both affiliated and independent, that followed? How about Dale Jennings challenging his police entrapment arrest in court in LA in 1952 and winning? How about the creation of “ONE” magazine in 1953, and its First Amendment Supreme Court victory in 1957? How about Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who started the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955? How about Jose Sarria running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as an out gay man in 1961, and Frank Kameny’s appeal of his government firing to the Supreme Court? How about Mattachine DC’s fight to overturn the city’s sodomy laws, and those who created ECHO, East Coast Homophile Organizations in 1963? How about Randy Wicker, et al., at the first organized gay protest in the US at NYC’s Whitehall Induction Center in 1964? How about the Society for Individual Rights political candidates forums in San Francisco the same year? How about Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Jack Nichols, et al., and their protests at the White House, State Department, Pentagon, in 1965, and at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall 1965-69? How about the sit-in by some 150 people the same year at Dewey’s restaurant in Philadelphia after denial of service to gays and the founding of the first university gay student group at Columbia? How about the protests against the military ban that happened on the same day in 1966 in New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles? How about those involved, the same year, in the creation of the country’s first gay community center in San Francisco, the protests of New York’s ban on serving gays alcohol, of newspapers in Chicago, the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations, and the picket, then riot, at Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco? How about the opening of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, the nation’s first gay bookstore, by Craig Rodwell in 1967, and his founding of the Homophile Youth Group? How about the 1968 picketing at Columbia University and the founding of the Metropolitan Community Church by Troy Perry? How about the picketing of businesses in San Francisco for firing gays in the months before Stonewall?

    This timeline does not include all of the groups and actions that prove that neither pride nor the fight for gay rights started at Stonewall. Stonewall was the result not the beginning. Thank you.

  7. Tyler says

    All of those things are, of course, important parts of our collective history. and yet none of them ended up setting off ongoing driving movement that the riots at the Stonewall Inn did.

    This is not to say that they don’t count, arent’ as important, or should not have their stories told and re-told and remembered. It’s just the reality that those three nights at the Stonewall Inn were the drops in the bucket that led to the overflow, that led to the movement and the marches and the liberation that we’re continuing with today.

    So, take a little chill pill, good Sir. Thank you for sharing those other events, and I encourage those who were not yet aware of them to read up on them. But your tone is miserable and not needed today, the 43rd Anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

    Thank You.

  8. says

    I didn’t learn about Stonewall until nearly ten years after it happened. That rebellion does not resonate in communities of color. Black, Latino, Asian and Native-Americans (not to mention their brothers and sisters in the developing world) are still waiting for their Stonewall. For many of us, it’s like we’re still living back in the closeted and fearful 1950s.

  9. says

    @ Tyler: rephrasing Mr. Belonsky’s ahistorical nonsense that no gays had pride in their lives or that their was no fight for gay rights before Stonewall, however sincerely or insincerely wrapped in “thanks for sharing,” doesn’t make it any more true. You may define an attempt to reclaim respect for all of those without whom those who NEWLY became involved after Stonewall would have had no concept of a MOVEMENT as “miserable tone,” but that only reflects your own immaturity, as well as your failure to understand that most of those who persisted in the post-Stonewall movement were those pre-Stonewall leaders like Hay, Rodwell, Gittings, Nichols, Kameny, Perry, Martin, and Lyon, while most of those, again, newbies fairly quickly dropped out.

  10. Derrick from Philly says

    I think that the Stonewall riots had a very dramatic for Gay people in other ways than knowing about the actual invent. About one year after Stonewall “Life Magazine” did an article on the Gay Liberation Movement. That article affected many Gay people–young and old. In fact, it was the first time I’d heard/read the term “Gay”.

    For many of us June of 1969 was confirmation that there was nothing wrong in being Gay.

  11. Tyler says

    Thank you, Derrick. Exactly.

    There are the many incidents that propelled us, and Stonewall happened to be the final straw for many, hence its anniversary being marked with the liberation march.

  12. says

    “It’s time things were changed. It’s time to stop running. Hold your heads up high. Be proud of your individuality. Spend your energy fighting for equality. As children, we were told that the policeman was there to protect and help us. To the homosexual citizen such thoughts are pure nonsense. ‘Lawless police’ is a phrase which still aptly describes Chicago’s cops … the entrapments, shakedowns, brutality, and corruption continue … no one is immune. Quit buying the right-wing line about crime in the streets and wake up to YOUR rights. Crime is as much rampant inside the police department as elsewhere. Maybe we need to form a ‘Gay Power’ bloc!” – Mattachine Midwest newsletter editions, 1966.

  13. endo says

    Haha, I knew Bedwell would pick a fight with people on this post. They don’t call him a tireless curmudgeon for nothing!

    But honestly, what’s the point of being knowledgeable about gay history if you’re just going to alienate anyone who could benefit from hearing about it? It’s like going to a 5-star restaurant and the chef just berates you for not knowing what ingredients he used.

    I feel most sorry for Leonard Matlovich, whose name is now associated most with Bedwell’s wretched personality than any of his own accomplishments.

    To those who actually want happiness, happy Pride, ya’ll!

  14. says

    Ah, ENDO aka “24PLAY” aka “Band”—I’ve missed your too-gutless-to-sign-your-real-name Jackass the Ripper ad hominems that, again, have to resort to grave robbing in their pathological effort to discredit ANYthing I say. Walgreen’s called again, and they REALLY wish you’d pick up your haloperidol prescription.

    @ Bill: except for defending myself immediately above, please note I’m not attacking people but ignorance and disrespect of OTHER people—the fathers and mothers of Stonewall. Thank you.

  15. says

    Ah, ENDO aka “24PLAY” aka “Band”—I’ve missed your too-gutless-to-sign-your-real-name Jackass the Ripper ad hominems that, again, have to resort to grave robbing in their pathological effort to discredit ANYthing I say. Walgreen’s called again, and they REALLY wish you’d pick up your haloperidol prescription.

    @ Bill: except for defending myself immediately above, please note I’m not attacking people but ignorance and disrespect of OTHER people—the fathers and mothers of Stonewall. Thank you.

  16. endo says

    Nope, not 24Play or Band… although I remember when 24Play used to post here. That was back when you posted with your fake name, no?

    Believe it or not, MOST people feel this way about you. Sorry, it’s true.

  17. endo says

    Wait, I remember now… LELAND FRANCES!

    How is ol’ Leland? You guys still talk? Ask him why for years he was too gutless to sign his real name.

  18. Derrick from Philly says

    Oh, Lord.

    This discussion is starting to remind me of Olivia de havilland and Joan Fontaine. Both of ’em approching 100 years old and they still hate each other.

    Actually, I kinda’ hold grudges too…so, nevermind.

  19. says

    Jona and Olivia are gunning for immortality as neither wants to give the other the satisfaction of having “the last word.”

    The many events that happened before Stonewall were of considerable importance and demand continued inteest. But nothing quite had the impact that Stonewall did. The Stonewall moment didn’t “invent” the gay rights movement, but it kick-started it into a new era. Now all these years later so much time has amassed and so many people have passed that it’s hard for today’s DAMEND KIDS(!!) to realize what was going on back then and how high the stakes were. Unless you were very well connected and had a lot of money public knowledge of the fact that you were gay could ruine you utterly. Merely congregating in public places was agains the law.

    Now that’s (happily) over.

  20. GB says

    To be noted, Stonewall was about “Gay Liberation” and had no connection to gay marriage. Liberation was the acknowledgement
    of gays in a society where they had been largely invisible. This made for a very rich, varied and unique gay community. Don’t believe the “hiding” stories. That’s bull. Once we came out we didn’t go back in. But, we were not about marriage — that was for our parents- we wanted our own free gay lives.

  21. Jamess says

    “CHANGED THE WORLD”?!!! The arrogance, self-focus, and delusion of Americans in a phrase. What a slap in the face of all those in our countries who were fighting and winning for modern homosexual liberation long before Stonewall.

  22. CHEVYTEXAS says

    Yikes, the angst in these posts! I am a faithful reader but rare poster. I can tell that some here are looking down a shorter hallway than Mr. Bedwell, who I don’t know.
    What I do know as a historian is that events like Stonewall become iconic representations of larger movements, and often eclipse or abbreviate the key accomplishments.
    At 61, always out, I recall the police challenges, assaults and tiny bloodlettings that kept up way past Stonewall. But, if you have been fighting all your life, sometimes younger celebrants can seem ungrateful.

  23. CHEVYTEXAS says

    Part two: Elders are long-winded.

    Stonewall brought a popular-cultural viewpoint to the gay liberation movement (yes… That’s what we called it…) by eliciting coverage by papers, tv, Life and Look magazines – engines that reached into every American household. That was Stonewall’s contribution, amplified before and after by many courageous men and women.
    So stow the rhetoric, honor your veterans. Hell, take some old fart to lunch. We love to tellya How It Was.
    Love from the Sixties,

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