Fifty years ago today, the modern LGBTIQ rights movement began after LGBTIQ rioters fought back against a police raid on an illegal Mafia bar called the Stonewall Inn. Out of that grew the gay liberation movement which gave birth to our modern LGBTIQ communities. On the Stonewall Riots 50th Anniversary, we look back on how we came to where we are, and what now for LGBTIQ rights.
In that bar, the various peoples who made up our out communities of the day gathered.
Drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, homeless youth and the like gathered in bars like the Stonewall world-wide.
I remember similar places from my youth in Queensland, before the decriminalisation of homosexuality and subsequent legal reforms.
In those days, the LGBTIQ communities out and visible presence comprised usually the underprivileged and marginalised.
More privileged members of our communities led easier lives protected by wealth, rank and other advantage.
Nothing has changed.
We see the same today in countries where LGBTIQ people risk discrimination, persecution, violence, imprisonment and even judicial murder, while the more privileged escape any sanction.
In Brunei, which recently introduced death by stoning for gay sex, the reputed favourite son of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, continues to lead an all but out life.
His position as a member of the royal family protects him.
The all powerful Sultan of Oman continues to criminalise homosexuality in his country, despite decades of rumours pointing to his own preference for male company.
Admittedly, Oman remains somewhat more tolerant of homosexuality than other gulf states, regarded as something of a haven regionally.
In the Stonewall era, members of the LGBTIQ communities faced persecution from society in general, and even from their own more privileged kith.
All available evidence pointed to the homosexuality of the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover.
Yet, Hoover presided over an institution that played an active role in the persecution of LGBTIQ Americans and other minorities.
Roy Cohn, later Donald Trump’s lawyer and mentor, worked with the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy to contrive the ‘Lavender scare’, which saw the US government deny employment to homosexuals. The consequent witch hunt ruined lives and resulted in suicides.
A quote from indicted Trump ally and Cohn friend Roger Stone illuminates the double standard.
Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men.
“Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around.
“It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.
We saw similar in Australia.
William McMahon, our 20th Prime Minister, a man whose homosexuality contemporaries openly alluded to, presided over a country where male homosexual acts attracted penalties of 14 years jail with hard labour.
After losing power, McMahon scampered out of federal parliament rather than take part in a vote to decriminalise homosexuality.
Fortunately, the votes of men like Labour P.M. Gough Whitlam and former Liberal P.M., John Gorton, saw decriminalisation succeed.
Ironically, Gorton, the P.M. McMahon previously ousted, enjoyed notoriety as a man who enjoyed heterosexual pursuits enormously.
Australia joined the long march towards homosexual law reform and LGBTIQ rights.
Resistance to Law Reform
Every step on the path towards allowing LGBTIQ people to participate as equal citizens in their communities, met resistance from reactionary forces.
Often, indeed, almost always, that resistance came in the name of religion.
However, we must always remember, much of our greatest support also came from people of faith.
Despite the good will of many religious people, others fought to stop the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Also, they opposed steps to end discrimination.
Later, they opposed the rights of LGBTIQ people to parent.
They erected barriers to every step on the path towards equal rights for LGBTIQ citizens.
Ultimately, the haters drew their line in the sand at the idea of same-sex marriage.
The sky would fall in.
It was the end of the world as we knew it.
They circled their wagons against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Surely, this was end times.
However, in country after country, they lost the fight,
Indeed, in countries like Ireland and Australia, they lost that fight through a popular vote.
But these people never give up.
The gay agenda
In the 90s as gay law reform took hold, the haters invented ‘the gay agenda’.
They claimed allowing homosexuality would lead to compulsory homosexuality.
Despite a millennia of compulsory heterosexuality failing to work, these people believed homosexuality so appealing that if you let one person do it, soon everyone would want to.
Before you know it, there’d be no one left to make babies.
Now of course, they promote the same hysteria over transgender issues.
Additionally, in an effort to stop equal rights for LGBTIQ people, haters claim persecution.
These spiritual descendants of the people who once burnt us at the stake now wail persecution is paying someone to bake a cake.
They claim equal rights for other people diminish their own rights but the only right diminished is their divine right.
That is – their centuries-long perquisite to dictate.
They resist relinquishing power they regard as God-given.
They cherry-pick their holy book and from it create a god in their own image.
A god who, in a stroke of good fortune, thinks exactly as they do.
Also, he demands everyone live exactly as they do or face terrible punishment, in the here and now when possible, but otherwise, in the hereafter.
This is why the Stonewall Riots 50th Anniversary matters still today.
LGBTIQ people enjoyed rights at other times in history.
But we lost those rights and ended up persecuted for centuries.
We must not allow it to happen again.
The Stonewall Riots 50th Anniversary matters to people who value freedom and equal rights everywhere.
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