On This Gay Day: The 1969 Stonewall Riots started


The fight for queer liberation was propelled forward on this day in 1969 when riots broke out in New York following a police raid at the Stonewall Inn.

It is the tipping point where the queer community decided it had had enough of discrimination, intolerance and homophobia. Tired of the police raids and ill-treatment the patrons of the Stonewall Inn – a gay bar fought back.

When the police raided the bar they lost control of the situation and were forced to retreat, the local community in Greenwich Village organised a protest the next evening, and clashed police once again. Each night the protests grew bigger, and within weeks the area had been established as a place where marginalised people could be open about their sexuality.

Leaders in the fight were transgender women of colour including Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson. The riots became a inspiration for Pride marches around the world, and in many countries those marches have morphed into parades of celebration.

The riots were a catalyst that transformed New York City, within three months three separate newspapers for the gay, lesbian and transgender audience were launched.

The Stonewall Inn has become focal point for gay rights over the following five decades, with many LGBTIQ+ people making the pilgrimage to the site. In Christopher Park, opposite the venue, stand four statues, two same sex couples created by artist George Segal. In recent years more acknowledgement has been added to highlight the prominent role transgender people of colour played in the movement.

Today the entire month of June is declared Pride month, a celebration of LGBTIQ+ people, and a time to focus on the parts of the world where change is yet to come.

OIP Staff, this post was first published in 2020 and has been updated. 

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