NYC memories and reflection of queer resistance

June 28, 2020

Mildred German

Unceded Territories – Today marks World Pride Day, a day to celebrate and commemorate the ongoing queer resistance and the struggle for LGBTQ rights and liberation.

In 2019, the largest International Pride celebration in history was celebrated in New York City.  With over 150,000 marchers and five million spectators in attendance in Manhattan alone, Stonewall 50 – World Pride NYC 2019 was fabulous and phenomenal. It too commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising of June 28, 1969.

The 1969 Stonewall Uprising (aka Stonewall Riot, aka Stonewall Rebellion) were a series of demonstrations by the members of the LGBTQ community in response to the violent police raids at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, NYC, USA. At the time, discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community was very rampant and police were not there to protect. The Stonewall Uprising also brought the issues of police brutality and repression of the state against the LGBTQ community and the lack of rights for the LGBTQ people.

I had the opportunity to travel and visit NYC in the Summer of 2019. It was a very colourful and inspiring summer indeed. I visited the Stonewall Inn for obvious reasons.

With that experience, I want to thank and acknowledge African-American gay liberation activist, Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992) for making the Stonewall Inn more accessible to trans, Black, people of colour, queer, and lesbians. A self-proclaimed drag queen, Johnson was one of the first trans and drag queens to go to the Stonewall Inn after it was previously limited as a bar for gay men.

As I came inside the bar, I noticed the sign on the wall by the door ‘Police Raided Premises’.  It was a very striking sign that portrayed the ongoing realities of the LGBTQ community. As I ordered a pint of beer, I was able to sit inside and observe the vicinity.

In addition to the rainbow flags and decorations for the 50th Anniversary celebration, photographs and memorabilia from the 1969 Stonewall Riots fill the walls of the bar.

Pictures of the individuals who were the vanguards who pushed back against the police during the early morning raids at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 were on the wall, including Johnson’s photos. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and co-founder of the radical activist group, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), Johnson was also was an artist, performer, and a model who worked for Andy Warhol. Johnson has been recognized as one of the three individuals who sparked the Stonewall Uprising.

Across the Stonewall Inn is a Heritage Park dedicated to the Stonewall Uprising 50th Anniversary. There were a lot of people in NYC in the Summer of 2019 although the Pride Weekend march was over. The Pride celebrations lasted for many weeks, and NYC establishments, transit rides, hotels, and public spaces filled with rainbows, tourists, and patrons.

Now in 2020, many Pride Day and Month celebrations are cancelled. Many resorted to new platforms such as online and live streams. Major international Pride events such as Vancouver Pride Parade and Toronto Pride Parade have been cancelled. Other cities are following the same suit due to COVID-19.

2020 not only brought the ravaging wildfires in many parts of the world, the coronavirus, and the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the increasing racism and police brutality. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color peoples (BIPOC) have faced threats, violations of rights, and state-sponsored extrajudicial killings.

There are also growing reports of violations against and  killings of many LGBTQ2SIA+ here in Turtle Island and around the globe. The numbers are appalling- violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming community increased in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns as reported by the Human Rights Campaign organization.

As I reflect on these events, I begin to think and question what is truly the essence of the 2019 50th Pride Anniversary celebrations that the world had just celebrated?

Why did  police brutality, racial discrimination and violence against LGBTQ2SIA+ communities in Turtle Island and around the world increased?

Pride parties are fun undoubtedly. And there are endless capitalist venturism and businesses to make and flourish during Pride events. Everyone is invited, as numerous ads also paint cities bright and colourful.

However, for me, as a queer Filipina in Turtle Island and the diaspora, the struggle against racial, class, gender-inequality, patriarchy, white supremacy, and all forms of oppression are what the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising was all about. 

1969 then as now, make it gayer! Stonewall Is Still A Riot! Happy Pride!