THE STONEWALL UPRISING
See glossary at the end of this post for definitions of bolded terms.
The Stonewall uprising took place in the year 1969, in New York City.
At that time in history, it was not safe to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. That means it was not safe for men to love other men, women to love other women, or for people to dress or act differently from the gender that they were thought to be when they were born. People in the LGBTQ+ community were often bullied or hurt by others.
Men were not allowed to dance with other men in public, and women were not allowed to dance with other women in public. If the police figured out that a man was wearing women’s clothes, or that a woman was wearing men’s clothes, they would sometimes hurt or arrest them. People who were gay, lesbian, or transgender were sometimes fired from their jobs, kicked out of school, or not welcome in their homes. They were not accepted in the communities where they lived, worked, and studied. They were not treated fairly or as equals.
It was not a safe or easy time to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in America.
Today, it is a safer time to be part of LGBTQ+ community. This is because many LGBTQ+ people had enough of being hurt and bullied for being their true selves. They fought (and continue to fight) for a safer world to live in, for themselves and for those who would be born after them. One of the most famous examples of this is the Stonewall uprising of 1969.
The Stonewall uprising is named after the Stonewall Inn in New York City, which was one of the few places that welcomed LGBTQ+ people in the 1960s. But because it was not a very safe time for LGBTQ+ people, the police often raided the Stonewall Inn, bullying and sometimes even arresting those who were there.
On the night of June 28, 1969, and for several nights to follow, the people at the Stonewall Inn fought back against the police who showed up to bully them. They stood up to the police, and even trapped some of the police inside the Stonewall Inn, to avoid being arrested. This became a turning point in history for the LGBTQ+ community. After the Stonewall uprising, LGBTQ+ people demanded more loudly and proudly than ever before to be treated with the respect and fairness that they deserved. And others began to listen to them, and became their allies. This eventually led to greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in America.
While we still have a ways to go before LGBTQ+ people can live freely and equally in America, the Stonewall uprising helped shape a better and safer world for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, the event was so important that President Barack Obama made the Stonewall Inn the first ever national monument to honor the LGBTQ+ community. Now every year in June, we celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and march for LGBTQ+ equality. And for the whole month of June, people all over the world proudly celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
HISTORICONS OF STONEWALL
Some of the LGBTQ+ people who fought (or are fighting for) a safer world for LGBTQ+ people are Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, the famous “Stonewall Lesbian” (who some believe was a woman named Stormé DeLarverie), and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. These are just a few of the many people involved in the Stonewall uprising. Many young people, and people of color, led the way for a brighter future for LGBTQ+ people.
MARSHA P. JOHNSON
Marsha P. Johnson was a transgender activist and drag queen who says she was celebrating her birthday at the Stonewall Inn on the first night of the Stonewall uprising. Marsha was born in 1945 as Malcolm Michaels Jr., and was bullied as a child for dressing like a girl. Marsha moved to New York City as a teenager, after she finished high school. In New York, she often did not have a home to live in or food to eat. It was not safe and easy for her to live on the streets of New York City. Because of the struggles she faced, Marsha cared greatly for other young LGBTQ+ people like her who did not have homes. So together with her friend Sylvia Rivera, she founded the STAR house, which provided food, shelter, and support for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
Like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera was also a transgender activist and drag queen, who says she was present at the Stonewall uprising. Sylvia was born in 1951 in New York City, and was raised by her grandmother, who did not approve of Sylvia wearing makeup. Because Sylvia’s grandmother did not accept her for who she was, she spent much of her youth living on the streets of New York City. Like her close friend, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia cared a lot about LGBTQ+ youth who did not have loving homes to go to. So she teamed up with Marsha to found the STAR house, providing a home and support to LGBTQ+ youth in New York.
Stormé DeLarverie was a lesbian who is thought by many to be the famous “Stonewall Lesbian” who started the Stonewall uprising. During the first night of the uprising at the Stonewall Inn, the police tried to arrest Stormé over and over, but she continued to escape from them. When a police officer was finally able to put her in his car to take her away, she yelled at the crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something!” causing them to all fight back against the police. Stormé was also a popular entertainer. She performed in the Ringling Brothers circus when she was a teenager, until she was injured while jumping horses. After that she joined a drag group called the Jewel Box Revue, that performed around the country, including at Radio City Music Hall.
MISS MAJOR GRIFFIN-GRACY
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a Black, transgender activist who helped lead the 1969 Stonewall uprising against the police. As a young adult, her transition from living as a man to living as a woman was tough. She was at constant risk of being bullied and hurt by others, and often did not have a home to live in. Miss Major was also kicked out of two schools after she transitioned to living as a woman. She found acceptance with the LGBTQ+ community at the Stonewall Inn, and was there with her girlfriend on the first night of the Stonewall uprising. Still alive today, Miss Major has spent over 50 years fighting for equality for transgender people, and especially women of color.
Uprising: An act of rising up or revolting against authority
LGBTQ+: An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning
Gender: A word commonly used to group people according to their identity, such as boy or girl. Many people think the only two genders are boy or girl, but this is not true. There are many ways to be a boy, a girl, both, or neither.
Gay: A person who loves and is attracted to a person of the same gender
Lesbian: A female who loves and is attracted to other women
Bisexual: A person who is attracted to both men and women
Transgender: A person who knows that they are different from the gender they were thought to be at birth
Queer: A word used to identify and celebrate people of all genders, and all the ways that people love each other
Questioning: The questioning and exploration of one’s gender or identity based on how they love each other
Raid: A sudden invasion by the police
Arrest: When the police take someone into custody
Drag: To dress up and/or present oneself differently from their gender, usually for public performances
Drag Queen: A man who dresses like a woman, often to perform or entertain
- What does LGBTQ+ stand for?
- Who do you (or we) know who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community?
- Have you ever noticed that anyone treats them differently?
- How do you think that the bullying of LGBTQ+ people affects them? How do you think it affects their family members and friends?
- What are ways that we as a family can support the LGBTQ+ community?