Crowds took over New York City’s Fifth Avenue for a festive parade, also gathering outside of the city’s historic Stonewall Inn on Sunday to honor the 50th anniversary of a police-involved raid which resulted in scores of injured officers and patrons of the bar — and which marked a point of no return for gay and lesbian Americans, kicking off the modern-day LGBTQ movement.
And while the tenor remained upbeat with the rainbow colors of the Pride flag punctuating the scene, fear and apprehension continue to mount within the LGBTQ community as the Trump administration appears determined to undermine important, hard-fought advances. Examples to which many point as proof include: new restrictions on their presence and ability to serve in the military, proposed changes to recently secured health care protections under the law and the retreat from federal directives which under President Obama granted trans students the ability to use the bathroom of their choice.
Despite reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointing to an increase of more than 50 percent of crimes based on sexual orientation over the last two years here in the District, those who claim membership as LGBTQ Americans, as well as those who stand beside them, adamantly refuse to allow the clock to be reversed after decades of struggle for equal rights, justice and sorely-needed protection under the law.
Historians compare Stonewall and the acts of protest and defiance which followed to the Boston Tea Party — but more often they point to Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the rear of a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955 — the catalyst for the modern civil rights movement for Blacks — in their comparisons to equivalent moments in American history.
Consider that in 1969, before Stonewall, gays and lesbians could be fired from their jobs if “outed,” evicted from their homes or refused as tenants in any dwellings, listed by name and address in newspapers or magazines once cited or arrested for “lewd acts” and routinely subjected to violence, even death, at the hands of both law enforcement or the public at large. Thus, their survival rested on their ability to remain invisible, hidden while always fearful of being discovered. With this as her conclusion, noted historian Lillian Faderman describes the Stonewall riots as the “shot heard round the world” as it served as the clarion call for what has developed into today’s LGBTQ movement.
The recent New York City parade marked the conclusion of a monthlong series of Stonewall observances which included parties, rallies, films for viewing and reflection and a conference on human rights. It also coincided with the international LGBTQ event, World Pride, which began in Rome in 2000 before moving to New York during the past week.
As protesters marched throughout New York, they hoisted signs of liberation while shouting, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed into law on Sunday legislation barring people who attack or kill a gay individual in the state from using the argument that their act of violence was precipitated after experiencing panic about their victim’s sexuality.
Here in the greater Washington area, concern citizens have become outraged with transgender residents becoming among the region’s most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community after several have been murdered within the last few months.
Just weeks ago, three teens, all residents of Fort Washington, would be arrested as suspects in the robbery and assault on a gay couple out on the town and on their way to Nellie’s — a popular gay sports bar in Northwest. The couple reports initially being verbally ridiculed with anti-gay slurs before being beaten and stripped of their belongings.
Nationally, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes rose 3 percent in 2017 based on the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics report. In the District, nearly 50 percent of the city’s total hate crimes in 2018 involved individuals targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Council member Robert White, in a recent press release, said these and similar acts of violence can no longer be tolerated.
“No one should endure the terror of being targeted and attacked for being who they are,” he wrote. “Even at the LGBTQ community center Casa Ruby, where they should feel safest, transgender women were recently threatened by a man with a gun. So far this year, 10 transgender women have been violently killed in the U.S. — all were African American. We have not done enough to protect and support LGBTQ residents in the District. [We must] address [their] access to basic needs and services such as safe housing and mental health. We can do better to protect marginalized communities.”