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.