Stonewall at 50

September 1, 2019

From the September-October 2019 issue of News & Letters

Fifty years after the Stonewall Uprising—regarded as a catalyst for the modern Queer Rights movements worldwide—LGBTQ people have made strides in human rights but face lingering or even sharper oppression.

After repeated police harassment and arrests, patrons of the New York City Stonewall Inn—a popular bar for LGBTQ people—were fed up. On June 28, 1969, police once again began to arrest patrons, who fought back and started the three-day riot. Transgender women of color were key participants, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, for whom a memorial will be built.

For years, the contributions of Transgender people were ignored in the name of “respectability” by many early Queer rights groups in the U.S.

On this anniversary, let’s look at recent events that exemplify the state of human rights for Queer people worldwide.

►  In most U.S. and Canadian cities, Pride parade marchers have no reason to fear harm. However, Washington D.C. marchers and onlookers scattered after a gunman began firing.

►  Participants and supporters in the Detroit Pride parade were alarmed by armed neo-Nazis, protected by police, holding a protest march within Detroit’s parade.

►  Internationally, Mayor Trustkolask of Bialystok, Poland, gave the go-ahead for the city’s first Pride march. Marchers were outnumbered four to one by counter-protesters who verbally and physically assaulted them.

►  This year’s exceptionally festive Pride Parade in Sao Paolo swelled with marchers who saw it as vital, feeling that Queer rights in Brazil are under threat from anti-Queer President Jair Bolsonaro. He was appalled at a Brazil Supreme Court ruling that homophobia, like racism, should be treated as a crime.

►  India’s Supreme Court dismissed a case that was seeking same-sex marriage, adoption and surrogacy and the right of LGBTQ people to serve openly in the military. The court argued that LGBTQ rights are not human rights and, therefore, the rights they were seeking are not an extension of a Sept. 6, 2018, ruling that decriminalized consensual homosexual sex.

►  Botswana joined African nations Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, and Angola in decriminalizing same-sex relationships. While Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi Masisi is supportive of LGBTQ rights, Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe plans to appeal the high court’s ruling.

►  Bhutan’s parliament voted to repeal its colonial-era anti-sodomy laws. The National Council needs to pass the bill, which will then head for royal assent. Meanwhile, 70 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships.

►  The European Parliament passed a resolution affirming Intersex people’s rights to bodily autonomy. It strongly encouraged governments to ban non-consensual so-called normalizing surgeries that make bodies appear either female or male, performed on children before they reach the age of consent.

►  In the U.S., North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order that bans state funding for so-called gay reparative therapy, which is so often forced on LGBTQ youth.

This mixed bag of gains and oppression after 50 years of LGBTQ demands for liberation make it clear that this world must undergo a total transformation so that all people become truly free.



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