The Gay Rights Movement: The Stonewall Rebellion

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The Stonewall Rebellion serves as an iconic and salient symbol of the modern gay rights movement- recently President Obama affirmed its relevance and power through designating
Stonewall and the surrounding neighborhood as a National Historic Site. Through his monumentalizing of the Stonewall National Monument as part of America’s National Park
System Obama attests to the vitality of LGBTQ+ culture in America, saying, “I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely
American spirit.” Sadly, like many great cultures, the history of the gay rights movement has been erased and manipulated overtime. Before Stonewall promulgates the unique history of
America’s gay rights movement
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Due to the harsh degree of estrangement homosexuals faced from heteronormative society, gays often shared their spaces and comingled with people of color. Lesbian WOC singer Gladys Beslee embodies this intersectionality. These commingled demographics will become important in the 1960’s when gays will begin to openly campaign for their rights, modeling their efforts after black Americans civil rights movement, and at the night of Stonewall in 1969.
In the 1930’s World War II radically altered the world for homosexuals, who gained more power in terms of money and autonomy, and continued to grow flourishing communities with more freedoms in the heteronormative world so long as they were not open about their gayness in the heterosexual world. As men moved out of their homes and into the war, two discrete homosocial spaces emerged: one for the women who gained autonomy by working paid jobs out of the home to support the war effort, another for male soldiers fighting in the war. As men were away the promise of paid work allowed more lesbians to move to the city, and as their own income gave them more autonomy, lesbians began to a have a greater presence
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By the 1960’s the modern gay rights movement was gaining momentum and power, modeled of the African
American civil rights movement. Both gays and blacks became more militant in their approaches- one lionized gay militant organization born was Queer Nation. The LGBTQ+ community began shattering the silence around homosexuality through the media, and by fighting off the stigma of being mentally ill. The LGBTQ+ community coupled its sense of oppression with a new sense of power, underscoring their movement and creating momentum for action, and this action was channeled into the Stonewall Rebellion.
The Stonewall Riot was in no means the first or only way the modern gay rights movement fought for their rights and against heteronormativity. However, as Obama’s monumental mark on this historic sight exemplifies, Stonewall was a catalyst for change due to the history of homosexuality in the 1900’s and it’s ensuing social factors and pressures for gays combined with a sense of power and autonomy to make a lasting change. The Stonewall Riot is useful because it serves as a timestamp of a pivotal moment in gay history, where something ordinary –a routine police raid- became something extraordinary… a

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