The Stonewall Rebellion
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The Stonewall Rebellion

October 27, 2019

The struggle for LGBTQ rights is ongoing. Every month in June, cities around the world
throw giant pride parades, including the one here in Toronto. These parades began because of a massive riot
in New York in 1969. That’s the story of today, the uprising
which sparked the modern gay rights movement. Hi, I’m Tristan, and this is Step Back. Subscribe and hit the bell notification to
get history every week. Just a heads up, this is going to be a story
which contains violence directed at LGBTQ+ people. If that is not something you wanna watch,
I understand. History gets dark sometimes. Let’s begin the story of the Stonewall riots
with a bit of context. We need to understand just what life was like
to be an LGBTQ person in the mid-20th century. I think I mentioned in my last video on gay
life in the US, that there was a form of benign neglect towards gay communities which began
to collapse in the 1930s. Well, after the chaos and upheaval of the
Second World War, this got even worse. I think I already mentioned the Lavender Scare,
a subject I’m covering next month. This crackdown was part of a post-war panic
towards groups like homosexuals, communists, anarchists or really anyone too different
for Americans to be comfortable. During this period of anxiety, the US fired
thousands of soldiers and hundreds of more government employees for practising homosexuality. The FBI kept a list of “known homosexuals”
and often used it for blackmail purposes. They spent tons of manpower on hunting down
gay establishments, and crack down on any space LGBTQ people were welcomed. Crossdressing was outlawed, city governments
would perform sweeps of known gay hangouts to hunt for people, and several professors
were fired for being gay. This brutal attack on gay life in America
resulted in many LGBTQ people experiencing violence, anxiety, humiliation, loss of jobs,
and even prison time. This drove many LGBTQ people to enter the
closet and hide a considerable part of their lives from the world. The American Psychological Association declared
being gay was a mental disorder, based on really nothing. It wouldn’t be removed until the 1970s. Between this, supporting torture during the
war on terror, and having a hideous citation style puts the APA in my bad books. Seriously, Chicago or go home. This designation of homosexuality as a disorder
allowed for the medical profession to force some unfortunate LGBTQ people into forced
institutionalisation, which isn’t great even today, but this was back when they did
electroshock therapy on the regular. Yes I know they still do it today, but it’s
different and for different reasons. Though there was some pushback. With the help of some prominent Communists. Homosexual rights activist groups began to
pop up around the country, starting in LA and eventually making its way to the east
coast. The struggle was an uphill fight, the US postal
service refused to mail their magazines, and threats from the government were ubiquitous. These organisations acted as a way for LGBTQ
people to educate, organise, and debate how to fight for their civil rights. This was throughout the context of the 50s
and 60s with many other significant social justice projects such as the civil rights
and anti-war movements. A lot of these organisations, dubbed homophile
groups, tried to play a form of respectability politics. This is when a group works to show how they
can be just like the society oppressing them by showing off how ordinary they are. Usually, this comes in the form of policing
the behaviours of their own group. They wanted to ensure the cishet world they
were just average folks. This was an excellent idea and all, but in
practice, this threw many LGBTQ people under the bus, namely those who didn’t dress or
act like the gender norms of the time. So many trans men and women, transvestites,
and the more masculine women and effeminate men didn’t get much help. And now we need to go back to New York. I mentioned in my last video that gay communities
existed all over the megacity, but in the 50s and 60s, the gay community survived in
the neighbourhood of Greenwich Village. Beatniks like Ned Flanders’ parents moved
in and the place became a bohemian place of art, and criticism of traditional society. In the early 60s, the city of New York’s
mayor tried to crack down on the network of underground gay clubs and bars. Police openly broke entrapment laws, often
taking the flimsiest excuses to arrest anyone they could of secret homosexuality. What also threatened the community, was many
bars which LGBTQ people congregated in were losing their licenses. There really wasn’t a good legal way to fight
it, and these spaces were the only small pockets of safety, where these people could be themselves. They weren’t even nice bars, most of them
were owned by the mob who made more money extorting the wealthier customers than the
booze, but Stonewall and other similar gay bars were all they had. One of these places was the Stonewall Inn. Converted to a gay bar in 1966, Stonewall
functioned much like those gay clubs of the olden days. They paid off the police and operated without
any liquor licence to not tip anyone off. To stop undercover cops, you had to be a regular
to get in. They even had special lights they’d turn on
in case the fuzz was coming so everyone in there knew to act as heterosexual as possible
before the cops arrived. They kept their liquor supply hidden in the
walls. These were necessary precautions. The police raided on average about once a
month and would come in to arrest anyone not wearing their assigned at birth gender’s
clothing, or sometimes even just not wearing ENOUGH of the right dress. Leading up to the riots, however, these raids
were getting much more frequent. On June 28th, 1969, 8 police officers raided
the Stonewall Inn. The owners were not tipped off about the raid. This raid didn’t go like it usually did. The transvestites refused to go with the police
officers to the bathroom to verify their genitals, and the clients refused to give up their IDs. Male police officers groped the lesbian customers. The patrol wagons used to take the arrested
away took too long to arrive. Those sent out on the street refused to leave. They crowded around the bar and watched this
authoritarian power trip. Soon, more than a hundred people had gathered
outside of the Stonewall. Some customers performed for the police egged
on by the crowd. The first wagon arrived, but the second was
delayed because of a radio problem. The number of bystanders now outnumbered those
arrested and way outnumbered the police. As the police took away the employees, someone
in the crowd screamed “gay power”, and “we shall overcome”, slogans from the
civil rights movement. The hostility against the fist of the state
was getting hot. A police officer shoved a transvestite who
then hit the officer back with her purse. People began to throw bottles at the wagon. Police responded by attacking the crowd, who
weren’t going to take this attack on their community any longer. They tried to flip over the wagon. They began to throw coins at the cops, mocking
their taking of bribes. They found cinder blocks, and the police were
overwhelmed. They barricaded themselves inside the Stonewall,
pulling guns on the crowd before backup arrived. Later reports say this was not organised. This was a community which had had enough
of the violence, repression, and hatred. I mean, what is a riot but the last desperate
cry of the voiceless? The police were humiliated. This was the one oppressed group they felt
they could attack with impunity. Racial minority groups and protestors were
already fighting back, and this was the time the LGBT communities did as well. The police arrested anyone they could get
their hands on. They tried to form a phalanx to disperse the
crowd now openly mocking them. The chaos in the streets sometimes is referred
to as almost cartoonish. They’d taunt the police, get out of sight,
and appear again behind them like something out of Bugs Bunny. They clashed with the police until almost
four in the morning. All the most prominent newspapers in New York
had been called in to cover the riot, and news of the siege covered the city. Rumours and anxiety flooded Greenwich village. Visitors to Stonewall wrote graffiti calling
for gay rights. The next night, a second riot broke out. The same people were joined by new allies,
tourists, and more than a few police provocateurs who are police who join riots to provoke them
into more violence and justify more draconian countermeasures. Thousands gathered around the Stonewall, which
oddly enough reopened that night. The police came again, and another street
battle continued well into the night. Everyone was on edge over the next few days. Violence broke out again, there was looting,
respectability politics people popped the monocles. It was a whole thing. Oh hey real quick before we continue, there’s
a link in the description for the Step Back Slack community if you wanna join in. Stonewall is famous because of what came out
of it. At a big gathering in Philadelphia, gay couples
were spotted holding hands, and their by the books demonstration got more press coverage
than ever before. Playing by the cishet world’s rules wasn’t
going to cut it anymore. The respectability politics was now too little
too slow for gay liberation. Those who fought the police at Stonewall,
or were inspired by their act of defiance against repression were now committed. In their own words, you bet your sweet ass
they’re revolting. The local paper, the village voice in New
York refused to print the word Gay in their text, so New York activists started their
own newspaper simply called Gay. They began to borrow tactics from other major
new left movements of the time. They soon organised under the banner of the
Gay Liberation Front, the first group to use Gay in the name. Many disaffected, more pragmatic members splintered
off into the Gay Activists Alliance, because if you’ve ever hung out with activists…
this is kinda inevitable. These groups would corner politicians and
pressured the Democrats to stop the raids on gay nightclubs after one raid left a young
man impaled on a fence. Things got significant on the first anniversary
of the riots. LGBTQ activist groups in major cities around
the world participated in the first Gay Pride Parades. This was no longer ashamed homophiles trying
to fit in, but people proud to be different. Many newspapers reported it as a significant
milestone after so much chaos one year ago. Gay activism was surging. What was once only a few groups were now many
popping up all over the place. The march for gay liberation was on. And this was not just in America. Gay rights groups began to pop up all over
the western world. The movement had to contend with many different
interests and their identity with other groups. Intersectionality was still a few decades
off, so this quickly got heated. Second Wave Lesbian feminists began to have
issues working with gay men citing the same chauvinism as straight men, and these massive
movements started to distance themselves from trans matters claiming they were too hard
to attain. However, there were successes. These groups successfully lobbied the American
Psychiatric Association to delist homosexuality as a mental disorder. To this day, Stonewall stands as a turning
point in the path of LGBTQ people in the west. It sparked a move towards major political
victories, such as the spread of gay marriage around the west, and the slow work to make
their humanity known and accepted. I mean, hell now even the corporate banks
make themselves all rainbowed up for pride. Stonewall was significant enough that Former
President Barack Obama named the Stonewall Inn as a protected national monument, and
you can go visit it to this day. I can’t help but think of it in the context
of the current Me Too movement happening right now. There’s just a breaking point that once
passed, people begin to fight back in this fast turnaround. It’s one of those dramatic moments in history
where enough pressure and time breaks a dam. Of course, that’s just me. If you have a different thought about the
importance of lynchpin moments like these please leave a comment explaining your thoughts. Thank you to 12 Tone for the theme and the
patronage of don and Kerry Johnson, Kolbeinn Mani, Scott Smith, and new 20 dollar patron
Martin King! Thanks, Martin! Come back next week for more Step Back.

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  1. Have you considered doing a video about the Sexual norms in Roman times? I think there's a lot of people who aren't aware homophobia hasn't always been a component of toxic masculinity

  2. The past is rife with stories of those who loved or identified as what we would call part of the LGBTQ+ umbrella. This series covers these stories:

  3. Would you do a vid on the lives of Russian woman and minorities that have been attacked throughout the years of Soviet Union and modern russia

  4. happy pride month! it funny that my 2 major European ancestry( Swedish and polish) have 2 very different view of lgbt. Sweden fully accepts lgbt people, while in poland is second to russia and other slavic country for being the most homophobic area in Europe and only now there a push for gay rights. Also i'm someone who live in basically the lgbt capital in the northwestern usa.

    Really hope that eventually lgbt+ would be accepted in all of the world.

  5. Ey, you really did move it up this time! Sad I missed the countdown livestream, I saw it and everything I was just busy. Great content as per usual!

  6. "The US Postal Service refused to mail [homosexual rights groups'] magazines…"
    Contrast this with Sidney Weltmer, who was a quack whose institute "cured" illnesses through hypnosis (sometimes with untrained hypnotists, which makes his effectiveness even on hypnosis-treatable ailments questionable). The Postmaster General called him a miserable charlatan* (which he was), tried to refuse to deliver his mail, and was forced to continue delivery.
    To summarize: The USPS can't refuse to deliver mail for people who are just swindling sick people out of their money and discouraging them from going to actual doctors, but violating social norms?

    *A judgement which was upheld after Weltmer filed a libel case. So it wasn't that the courts thought Weltmerism worked.

  7. I'm genuinely curious as to how we define mental illness. Both in modernity and historically.

    Things like drapetomania and homosexuality violated cultural norms of the time.

    And the "sufferer" has these feelings involuntarily (preferred partner, desire for freedom).

    I'm sure, at the time and within the cultural context, these feelings caused the "sufferers" a great deal of distress. I can understand how contemporary medicine might've seen them as illnesses.

    Something akin to Iran "curing" homosexuality via sex reassignment.

  8. I love your channel and your videos, but single frame image flashes fill me with rage. If youre going to show something show it. If youre worried about demonetization then put the images on imgur or something and link it in the description. But I want to see the image. Please fucking stop with single frames, please.

  9. Hey,

    I really like your videos. But I'm vehemently opposed to "gay" marriage.

    Equal marriage.

    There isn't gay work, it's not gay raising kids, or gay taxes.

    Same gender partnerships are equal to mixed gender partnerships.

  10. Great video!!! Unimportant point to follow: The APA (American psychiatric association), the creators of the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual), is different from than the APA (American Psychological Association) , creators of the APA style guide. As a member of the style guide group, I have no problem with poking at our many faults… but don’t lump us in with the quacks! (J/k)

  11. Doug Ford is a trump wannabe. He just gave his victory speech and HE ALREADY IS TURNING ORANGE!!! SAD!

  12. Also, I appreciate the captions. I really like the fact that they're actually grammatically and mechanically correct, instead of having to use Youtube's automatically generated captions. Reading what you're saying helps me keep track of what's being said.

  13. stonewall just denied service to a blind person w a service dog. cute how the lgbt community is still ablist as fuck

  14. 0:07
    Why are there pro Palistine banners at a pride parade? That's like having a climate change banner at a labor union strike.

  15. I don't think this is TOO MUCH of a problem, but the logo you used for the American Psychological Association is actually the logo of the Austrian Press Agency ^^

  16. Wasn't J. Edgar Hoover a closeted homosexual? I mean, I've heard something about that
    and I'm pretty confused for WHY the FBI, under J. Hoover, would target them if that's true.

  17. Thank you for sharing our history. I am really glad that younger people might understand what we were fighting for. You are doing a wonderful job communicating this.

  18. Either you've been listening to the Blind boy podcast or he's been watching you. Cause if not we are probably living in the matrix

  19. It may seem trivial, but that was the wee hours after Judy Garland had died. "Over The Rainbow" was (and still is to some extent) an anthem, played in moments when hope seemed lost, and now Ms. Garland was dead. Was it the reason for the insurrection? No. But these events come out of a mix of disparate causes, so it's worth noting
    that this was in the mix.

    ALSO worth noting: In that first parade, cross gender and gender expression was supposed to be banned. Respectability politics had already taken hold one year in, and the very people who started and led the insurrection were not welcome. (They came anyway.)

  20. >implies that communists are just “those who are different” and not a murderous affront to everything decent and moral who have murdered almost 100 million people throughout the 20th century

  21. Thanks ever so much Tristan! Lovely to see a str8 appreciating our history! ❤️🏳️‍🌈
    I was in Montreal’s mini-Stonewall in 1990, when the pigs raided a rave provocatively (but ironically) named “Sex Garage.”
    We had LGBTQ+-het/poz-neg/Franco-Anglo solidarity. That became the nucleus for Montreal’s Pride marches.
    Why then? As at Stonewall: when the pigs do something stupid, bashing gays is a good way of getting back popularity. 1990 was the Oka crisis. Ok not the same police force but… Our new generation gelled and came together. We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!
    ⭐️Look up Harry Hay: gay pioneer and commie!

  22. It would interesting if possible,to speak with some of the cops who took part in the raid. surely some of them must be alive…..retired likely,but still alive.

  23. Amazing information! Thank you for sharing this important historical perspective. We all need to learn more about LGBTQ history and the brave pioneers and activists who began this critical human rights movement.

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