Greenwich Village. June 27, 1969. The world changed.
Stonewall, the Greenwich Village watering hole, lacked a proper operating permit because the New York State Liquor Authority didn’t issue licenses to bars suspected of “homosexual clientele.”
It was to be a standard police raid, like many in the past: in–roust–out. Make a few token arrests and close the joint down for a while.
Anything But Routine
On this occasion, all hell broke loose. There was spirited resistance by patrons. A full scale riot ensued, resulting in police charges, arrests, flying bottles, trash can fires, paddy wagon liberations, and injuries on both sides.
From the first baton strike, word spread like wildfire. Hundreds converged from other parts of the city, further igniting the melee. The neighborhood continued to simmer and explode for almost a week. Six-inch headlines matched the six-inch heels of the well-publicized Music Hall Rocket Queens dancing protests.
Life in the Closet
The closet had been slowly creaking open. The Stonewall Incident blew off the hinges. The radical Gay Liberation Front was established a few weeks later. Gay Power! joined Black Power! Gay Pride parades were organized in major cities. “Coming-Out” parties became the rage. Stonewall turned into a yearly commemorative event.
The two most damaging epithets in the English language at the time were “Communist” and “homosexual,” both of which carried social and economic ostracism. It was a double life. You put up a good front. Rock Hudson paraded with women on his arms and went home to a secret boyfriend. Tab Hunter played a teen girl heart throb, but his heart wasn’t in it. He carried on with Anthony Perkins.
The “gay Playboy” was disguised as Adonis magazine–featuring fleshy muscular specimens–one bought sheepishly as a “bodybuilding” publication. A handful of discrete urban bars operated under the radar. There were parks where it was rumored guys congregated and cruised. “They only come out at night,” it was whispered.
Just as the culture was opening up, it was hit by AIDs—a pink version of the medieval Black Plague. After a generation, the disease is controlled if not cured. Much of the gay social and political agenda has been achieved. Compared to the grim old days, there is reason for gays to be gay in the old fashioned sense of the word.
Baby Boomer Trivia Questions
~ All these manly actors but one has portrayed a transvestite:
~ What was the first gay kiss on network television?
Answers at end of post
~ Steve McQueen never appeared in drag.
~ The first same sex kiss on national TV was between Amanda Donohoe and Michelle Green in a 1991 episode of LA Law. It was quickly followed by Roseanne Barr smooching with Mariel Hemingway on Roseanne.