The Rise Of Stonewall 2.0
It is hard to be the one who is purposefully left out, to be excluded, to feel “less than” others, and relegated to some second tier of human citizenship. Americans get righteously – and rightly – upset about such things and lesbian and gay Americans – and our many and diverse friends – are very pissed off. We are getting angrier and rising up against seemingly endless waves of anti-gay marriage rights and anti-gay parent adoption laws in California, Florida, Arizona, and elsewhere in our fair country. Gay people have had it with such legalized and accepted bigotry.
Simply because a majority is attempting to lessen the rights, power, or status of a minority does not make it legal, constitutional, democratic, fair, or just. The American founders well knew that the majority could and often would reduce the status of some identified outsider group to maintain power unless there were systems and processes in place to protect the rights of all citizens. Otherwise, there would be tyranny or a cruel and oppressive rule, naturally at odds with the idea of universal, participatory democracy.
American and Western gays were oppressed for generations in a system resembling legally sanctioned and socially tolerated apartheid, historically sustained through the social devices of shame, silence, fear, and ostracism of gay people. Oscar Wilde’s infamous arrest and trial for “moral indecency” is a prime example of this institutionalized homophobia and how it wrecked the life of a unique literary and intellectual genius. Millions of Western and American gays and lesbians lost their jobs, spouses, livelihoods, families, dignity, and all too frequently their lives under such global sexual repression. The brutal murder and crucifixion of young gay Matthew Shepherd in October 1998 is an example of the physical violence experienced by lesbians and gay men, in appalling acts of barbarism and inhumanity.
On a hot summer New York night in Greenwich Village in 1969, the Stonewall Riots came about because of recurring bar raids by the New York Police Department on a bar called the Stonewall Inn. That night, an ethnically diverse crowd of gay men, dykes, drag queens, and trannies had had enough and fought back so strongly that the men of the NYPD were forced to take shelter inside the very bar that they had repeatedly raided for years, arresting many people and ruining countless lives. This riot is generally recognized as the galvanizing event for the contemporary gay liberation movement and became known as the Stonewall Riots. It was followed by several days of rowdy, angry protests and frequently large street demonstrations and actions, growing rapidly and broadly in power and visibility, boldly tearing down the closet of shame and oppression. People came out of the closet, into the streets, into society, and began the movement toward equality and inclusion into larger American society.
The Stonewall Movement presaged a wave of gay civil rights activism across the country for forty years, with many advances at every level of government. This progress and visibility was eventually exploited and used by extremists to demonize, villify, and otherwise minimize gays as less than human to advance American rightist political power across the three branches of American government in a reactionary attempt to move the country away from a constitutional democracy. Such irrational and inhumane behavior toward others has betrayed a selfishness, a closed mind, a worldview that is lacking in humanity, an act of tyrannical moral violence toward our evolving idea and understanding of human identity.
The Stonewall Riots passionately focused American and Western gay and lesbian communities toward the democratic ideal of equal rights. The Second Stonewall Movement – Stonewall 2.0 – is furthering that demand by calling on all civil and democratic nations to fully recognize lesbian and gay equality and, by doing so, to further universal equality.
There is no rational scientific, psychological, religious, moral, or ideological context from which anyone can truly justify structured, popular attempts by a majority to diminish the American creed of universal equality and civil rights for all people: it is clearly indefensible. Furthermore, the USA is an original signatory to one of the founding documents of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which Article 1 boldly declares, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” I see no exclusion for lesbians and gays in this declaration: it means everyone.
Equality is a founding principle of the French Revolution, of the United Nations, of the European Union, and of the American Republic’s Jeffersonian democracy. We demand to stand shoulder to shoulder in respect, dignity, and status as free members. To proceed without fully including gay people would be to admit that the great and grand democratic experiment called America has failed and has stopped evolving into “a more perfect Union”. This cannot be and it is this that we must challenge, as it is an unjust and inharmonious position for a nation that is a member of global civil society.
If you believe in equality for all, then the GLBT struggle for full human rights is also your struggle. After all, the gay agenda is equality: nothing more and nothing less.