As I look back on my childhood, I’m grateful to have grown up in an open minded and loving household. My Mom was a concert pianist and an artist, my Dad, who despised guns, was an advocate for the rights of the Native Americans in Wyoming and president of the local Symphony. Both parents spent a lot of their free time volunteering for the causes that they believed in, the rights of those less fortunate. My parents were equal partners in life, my Mom invested in the stock market and managed the finances. My Dad was an avid cook, he’d come home from his office, loosen his necktie, don an apron, and whip up a delicious dinner. I watched my parents always treat everyone with respect and kindness. My Mom said, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” My Dad said, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”
As a family, we watched the Vietnam War on tv and my Dad, having fought in WWII was very concerned about my eldest cousin who had been drafted. Most of the news on television when I was a child was a huge bummer but we were glued to the Evening News with Walter Cronkite most nights. My parents thought that knowledge of current events was important. We watched the Hippies take over Haight Ashbury and the accomplishments of the Women’s Movement. After each of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy, my parents had the burden of explaining these tragedies to four young children. Our nightly dinner table discussions were full of questions as to why these horrific things happened to good people. My takeaway years later is that people do and say horrendous things because they fear change.
During the 1960’s, people had become more aware of the culture of discrimination and intolerance that surrounded gays. Civil resistance exhibited by the African-American civil rights movement and the ongoing protests of the war in Vietnam encouraged many to become more outspoken.
In 1969, homosexuality was illegal and bar raids were commonplace. On June 28, 1969 at approximately 2:00 AM, the police arrived to clear out a Greenwich Village bar called the Stonewall Inn. At first the patrons cooperated by leaving the bar as directed. Within minutes, police began asking for identification. Female officers escorted cross-dressing individuals to the restrooms to verify their sex, which led to several arrests. The crowd outside the bar became agitated as they watched several gay men and women being arrested. The chant, “Gay Power” and “We Shall Overcome” became louder and louder as more and more patrol cars arrived on the scene. People started throwing pennies and empty beer bottles at police vehicles. Inside the bar, some people were being beaten by the police. As one woman under arrest was being beaten by a billy club, she pleaded with the crowd to “do something!” Within minutes the raid of the Stonewall Inn became a full blown riot.
The Stonewall Inn bar’s patrons resisted arrest and rioted for the next few nights.
These demonstrations brought global attention to the plight of the Gay community. Within weeks of the riots, Greenwich Village residents organized into activist groups demanding the right to live openly regarding their sexual orientation, and without fear of being arrested. The Stonewall event marked the beginning of the Gay Pride movement.
A year after the Stonewall uprising, to mark the anniversary on June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world.
The Stonewall National Monument was erected in 2016. An estimated 5 million participants commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. In 2019 the New York City police commissioner rendered a formal apology for the actions of the police on June 28, 1969.
Pride didn’t become an annual event just because queer people needed a party. It’s tied to a long history of struggle that shouldn’t be ignored. Pride is celebrated to commemorate the Stonewall Riots and to protest the struggles still experienced in a homophobic society. While Pride is meant to be a time of joy, it is impossible to ignore that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face danger and discrimination, with hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed in the U.S. in 2023. I’m grateful that I’m a resident of Maryland, one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly states in the country. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin released a hopeful and reassuring statement regarding Pride: “I will never stop fighting for your place in policies and visibility in society. You have allies in Congress, and the spirit of Stonewall inside of you.”
Storm and Daughters is definitely celebrating Pride this month, the gorgeous cult figure “Divine” takes center stage in the front window display. “Divine” is a brilliant Maggie Sarfaty design. Pink flamingos, a strong statement of pride and defiance in the face of oppression share the window. Flamingo’s vibrant color and unapologetic nature make them a powerful symbol of LGBTQ+ visibility and hope.
Let’s celebrate Pride by shining a light on hope and joy, with the intention of like spreading like.
“See the good in people and help them” – Mahatma Gandhi
Kate Emery General is a retired chef/restaurant owner that was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Kate loves her grandchildren, knitting and watercolor painting. Kate and her husband , Matt are longtime residents of Cambridge’s West End where they enjoy swimming and bicycling.