Remembering Stonewall: 43 Years Later
June 28, 2012 by Marty Rouse, National Field Director
In June of 1969, I was an eight year-old boy growing up on Long Island, NY. Little did I know that only about 30 miles from my suburban home, a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were about to change the world for millions of Americans - including me. These brave citizens had decided that it was time to stand up to harassment from police society in general. Today, we now consider the "Stonewall Rebellion" or “Stonewall Riots" the beginning of the modern-day LGBT rights movement in America. The first public "Gay Pride March" in New York took place one year later to commemorate "Stonewall."
Years after I came out of the closet and was living in NYC I was your typical gay activist. I participated in the 25 Anniversary of Stonewall and remember joining hundreds of others in sitting down and stopping traffic on Seventh Avenue and Christopher Streets. I remember feeling connected to the spirit of Stonewall as we sat within eyesight of the Stonewall Inn.
Last summer, I returned to NYC to be on-hand to witness the first day of marriage equality in the Empire State. I went to the LGBT Community Center, only a few blocks away from Stonewall. At the Center, several hundred jubilant New Yorkers of all stripes cheered as about 80 newlyweds danced their first dance as legally married lesbian and gay couples. After the dance I walked with one couple to have a celebration drink at the Stonewall Inn. Along the way passer-byers, gay and straight, broke out in applause and cheers of "Congratulations" as the newlyweds walked down Seventh Avenue in their suits adorned with corsages and a "Just Married" sash.
Upon entering the Stonewall Inn the crowd erupted in cheers and tears as the newlywed couple entered. At that moment, and all day long frankly, I felt a connection with the entire LGBT community, and frankly, all New Yorkers.
As we commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion we must salute those who fought, suffered and died because of society's homophobia and transphobia, but we also must celebrate how far we have come as well. And, for sure, we must continue to tell the story of Stonewall and continue to fight for full LGBT equality so that today's eight year-olds can grow up free and thrive and enjoy the wonders there are in this world.
Pictured: Marty Rouse and Dean Rouse, Spring 1968
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