“There were no openly gay policemen, public school teachers, doctors, or lawyers.”
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, violent protests and street demonstrations took over the streets of New York after a police raid of Stonewall Inn, the now-legendary Greenwich Village gay bar. Known as the Stonewall Riots, these protests are commonly considered the tipping point at which the LGBT community coalesced into political cohesion and the birth of the modern gay rights movement. On that June morning, equality for all seemed a distant but necessary dream — a dream that has finally become reality a day shy of 44 years later.
In Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (public library), David Carter contextualizes the remarkable delta of progress that the Stonewall Riots precipitated:
It was only a few decades ago — a very short time in historical terms — that the situation of gay men and lesbians was radically different from what it is today. At the end of the 1960s, homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. Not one law — federal, state, or local — protected gay men or women from being fired or denied housing. There were no openly gay politicians. No television show had any identifiably gay characters. When Hollywood made a film with a major homosexual character, the character was either killed or killed himself. There were no openly gay policemen, public school teachers, doctors, or lawyers. And no political party had a gay caucus.
In 1970, to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings, the very first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Digging through the New York Public Library archives, I unearthed some goosebump-inducing photos of the first-ever Pride parades around the world:
For the complete cultural context on this tidal change, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution is indispensable in its entirety.