June is gay pride month and we’re celebrating with a look back to what it used to be like to be gay in New York City in the 1960s. And you’re in for a shock. At least I was. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, near NYC. I had no idea. None. You need to see every minute of this series.
Last week we brought you parts 5 and 6 of “Stonewall Uprising,” PBS’s acclaimed American Experience series that explores the gay and lesbian history of New York City’s 1960s. In honor of gay pride month, every weekend day in June we’ll bring you the next chapter of the series. Of course, you can see the entire film at the PBS American Experience site, too.
Today we bring you part 7. Tomorrow we’ll bring you part 8.
The 1969 Stonewall riots: a time in New York City history when no gay man, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person was safe. This show offers fascinating interviews with the men and women who lived through the oppression of the 1960s, including New York City Councilman Ed Koch, police detectives from New York City’s morals division, newsman Mike Wallace, Dr. Charles Socarides, Village Voice reporter Howard Smith, the Mattachine Society, and many others.
Listen to the threats from police and others made to children. Watch as police arrest “queers,” faggots,” and “homosexuals,” and sexual “deviats.”
“When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that lasted for the next six days,” the American Experience site says. “The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.”
“Two out of three Americans look at homosexuals with disgust, discomfort, or fear,” says Mike Wallace a half-century ago, who adds that Americans wanted gays locked up.
This is not easy viewing all the time, but it is fascinating. Every LGBTQI person owes it to themselves to watch every minute of every episode. There’s so much that’s been done to our community, it’s time we remember that those who oppose us today are basing their views on attitudes of this time period.
Celebrate gay pride by learning what it took to get here. We’ve come a long way, we’ve got a long way yet to go.
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