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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stonewall, 47 Years Later

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which have long been considered the beginning of the modern LGBT movement. In fact, the U.S. celebrates Pride Month in June to pay tribute to this historic event.

In the 1960s, the political climate and restrictive laws prevented LGBT people from living authentically. Then as well as now, bars were a place where LGBT people sought solace, and the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village was no exception. During this time, the police would frequently storm gay bars, forcing all patrons to show ID, and harassing or even arresting people who were simply trying to express themselves freely. Police would check whether or not men were wearing “men’s” clothing and women were wearing “women’s” clothing. The Stonewall Inn was no exception.

However, when the police raided the bar on this day in 1969, the people at the Stonewall Inn fought back. A riot broke out.  Transgender and gender non-conforming people led the charge against the police. Although the exact identity of the person who started the riots is lost to history, we know that trans women, especially trans women of color, played a central role in the resistance. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are two of the best-known activists who fought in the Stonewall riots. Together they founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and opened a home for homeless transgender youth. They paved the way for future advocates.

Though this was not the first time the LGBT community rioted against the police, the press in New York City and across the country covered the struggle that night, launching LGBT issues into the national dialogue.

Today, NCTE remembers and celebrates the trans leaders at Stonewall who helped to launch the LGBT movement, paving the way for organizations like NCTE and many others to advocate for a better future for transgender people.

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