Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gay Pride Week 2011: Flashback to 1989 - What a Riot!

This is a flyer from back in 1989, issued by the Radical Faeries in New York City on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall Riots — some call it the Stonewall Rebellion — was the mythic beginning of the modern gay liberation movement when New York City police on a routine bar raid were met with resistance. You can click on the picture to see this flyer in its glory, but here's the first paragraph:

"Twenty years ago, on the night of Judy Garland's funeral, New York City cops went about their usual routine of harassing gay-bar patrons. But on that extraordinary night, an unorganized rabble of fed-up drag queens, dykes, radical street queers, and their friends at the Stonewall Inn Bar in Greenwich Village began to harass the cops back. They went on a rampaging riot giving birth to a new spirit and consciousness."

The Radical Faeries are free-spirited gay hippies who exist in a sort of parallel universe to mainstream gay society. They play with gender, politics and spirituality (and frankly, hygiene) in very creative ways: they're sort of modern day holy people, even twenty years after this flyer. This celebration planned a dramatic reenactment of the riot itself, which my memory fails to clearly remind me if I attended. I'm pretty sure in 1989 the Stonewall Inn, while today again a gay bar, was a take-out bagel restaurant.

I think it's important, even as the gay community changes and its priorities morph, to remember that back in 1969 it was not the accommodationists and assimiliationists of the gay world who took us on a journey to our civil rights, but the gay salt of the earth. If history books are full of famous people and "great men" leading the world to new places, reality reminds us it's the common people who really get it done.


  1. Oh, I just went to a pride festival last weekend. It was nice and I saw a friend and made a new friend who was an employee at the Milwaukee LGBT bookstor Also, I'm going to be New York City from the 25th through th2 26th before heading for our annual Hiltonhead vacation. Any particular reccomendations? We got three days and I want to go to the Guggenheim, Moma, and Central Park, but I am open to any little places you might know of.

  2. Amen brother, and much as I can sympathize with the calls to save the middle class I can't help but wonder if that particular explosion isn't going to come from beleaguered middle class workers but from workers at the absolute bottom. The idea that the best off members, the ones closest to the oppressors, will lead us all out of oppression hasn't worked out that well. God bless the folks with nothing to lose. They have everything to gain. You have been very much on my mind lately. I want to ask you questions about Yemaya sometime.
    PS, I loved your last post. What a fine man you've grown up to be. XO

  3. "...reality reminds us it's the common people who really get it done. "

    True in many things don't you think, ish?

    I support many gay causes but always feel reluctant to lead, simply because I have never 'walked in gay shoes' I am always fearful of getting something very wrong and end up being a negative force instead of a positive one.

  4. @JM oh don't let me fool you. I am sadly uncultured here in NYC; utterly spoiled by the profusion of things to go to and yet dissolutely I rarely make the effort. I haven't been to a museum in probably three years. Have you been here before?

    @Jon thanks. And I'd happily answer any of your Yemaya questions. xox back atcha.

    @Annie it's true in many many things. And you seem like an unbelievably positive force, I wouldn't worry.