Today marks 50 years since the Stonewall riots, a moment that is often regarded as synonymous with the birth of the modern LGBT+ rights movement. Looking back on the past half-century of struggle and progress worldwide, it’s important to remember the significance of Stonewall and the role it still plays in our community.
Incredible progress has been won and many milestones achieved, but when we compare the simmering political and social tensions that sparked the uprising at the now-legendary New York bar with the struggles of our community today, striking similarities can be still be found. Stonewall was one of the defining moments in the gay liberation movement, but 50 years later, there’s still room for revolution.
In the wake of six days of rioting that came in response to long-standing police brutality, the LGBT+ community of New York, and later the world, were galvanised by the solidarity they had shown one another during the chaos of the week’s events.
Often people ask why Stonewall itself seemed to be the foundation of the modern LGBT+ rights movement when gay liberation groups had been documented in America since 1924 and major protests like that at Compton’s Cafeteria in August 1966 were setting the scene for larger-scale activism. The answer seems to be a heady mixture of timing, opportunity and for some conspiracy theorists, the death of Judy Garland.
Stonewall was vital for the LGBT+ community in the mid-20th century as efforts for liberation had been flagging since the fear of the Lavender Scare of the 1950’s and early ’60s, and this event, which united gay people young and old, conveyed the powerful message that there was undeniable strength in solidarity, and in numbers.
This is the lesson that we, the LGBT+ people of today, should keep in mind as we continue to face challenges posed by the growth of extremism, particularly in Europe and America.
As we take to the streets and celebrate the many victories fought for and earned by LGBT+ people since at Stonewall, it’s important to continue that fight for those living in the 72 countries which outlaw same-sex relationships and the 10 in which homosexuality is still punishable by death.
In Ireland itself, a country where 62% of people voted in favour of same-sex marriage, 90% of transphobic hate crimes went unreported in 2018. Just as Stonewall wasn’t the beginning of the LGBT+ rights movement, same-sex marriage isn’t the end and there are still freedoms left to win.
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