Stonewall Riots Essay

1148 Words 5 Pages
What initially seemed to be a regular police raid on a random June night in 1969 turned into riots lasting several evenings, with an impact that would continue to this day. Often people divide the history of the United States’ gay rights movement into two epochs- “before Stonewall” and “after Stonewall”. Accordingly, this distinction illustrates the Stonewall Riots’ individual importance for gay rights even as it was not the first event to highlight the injustices of homophobia. Despite its relatively late appearance in the timeline of gay rights history, the riots were the first demonstration of homosexual activism to be celebrated on a large scale and remain in large part the most commemorated gay rights demonstration. Additionally, the riots …show more content…
Largely perpetuated by McCarthyism, homosexuals were targeted by police force and government agencies throughout the fifties and sixties as they were seen as a threat to national safety and American culture. Despite their persecution, in several large cities an active gay and lesbian social scene rose even as states outlawed the gathering of and sale of alcohol to homosexuals, forcing many gay bars and nightclubs to operate in secrecy. During these early years, the ‘homophile’ movement was used to describe the gay rights movement in order to focus on the emotional aspect of same-sex partnerships instead of the sexual aspect. In this manner, the movement hoped to blend in with society. The first homophile organization, The Mattachine Society, was founded in 1950 in Los Angeles by a small group of men including Harry Hay, considered to be the father of the modern gay rights movement. The society was created to defend the rights of homosexuals and to help create an alternative culture for gay people. Considered as a sister’ organization, the San Francisco-based Daughters of Bilitis was a homophile organization founded in 1955 exclusively for lesbians. It aimed to educate the larger culture about lesbianism and was a social club for lesbians. The members of these and other homophile organizations hoped to garner greater acceptance of homosexuals through civil demonstrations but also through general passivity. In this sense, the early gay rights movement was characterized by its passivity and its desire to blend in rather than politicize and fight for their rights. However, events occurring during this period had the importance to catalyze the modern gay rights movement, but ultimately failed in doing

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