A Movement Takes Shape
“...there was no out, there was just in.”
Through the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) person was a violation of law, rule, or policy. New York City’s prohibitions against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. People were arrested for wearing fewer than three articles of clothing that matched their sex. Serving alcoholic beverages to homosexuals was prohibited. For married men and women who lived homosexual lives in secret, blackmail was a constant threat. Discrimination and fear were tools to isolate people when homosexuality was hidden. After Stonewall, being “out and proud” in numbers was a key strategy that strengthened the movement.
Stonewall was a milestone for LGBTQ civil rights that provided momentum for a movement. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn provoked a spontaneous act of resistance that earned a place alongside landmarks in American self-determination such as Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights (1848) and the Selma to Montgomery March for African American voting rights (1965). Demonstrations continued over the next several nights at Christopher Park across from the Stonewall Inn and in the surrounding neighborhood. When asked to describe the difference that Stonewall had made, journalist Eric Marcus observed that before Stonewall, “For most people, there was no out, there was just in.”
Liberate Christopher Street!
The agitated crowd took to the streets chanting “Gay Power!” and “Liberate Christopher Street!” LGBTQ youth who gathered at Christopher Park—some of them homeless and with little social capital—challenged police, linked arms, and formed a blockade. Police charged the crowd, but rather than disperse, the mob retreated to the neighborhood they knew well with its network of narrow, winding
“And that was the impact of Stonewall.”