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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June 28, 1969

It's the final edition of the Tuesday Timeline for the month of June, and I think that I have picked out a topic that seems to coincide with what the month of June means to a lot of people in this world.

I know.  It's not much of a clue.  I'm not that clever when I first wake up in the morning.

Here's some other events that took place on June 28 over the course of history.

1461 - Edward IV is crowned King of England

1776 - Thomas Hickey is hanged for mutiny and sedition

1838 - The coronation of Queen Victoria takes place

1846 - The saxophone is patented by Adolphe Sax

1855 - The Sigma Chi fraternity is founded in North America

1894 - Labor Day is declared a national holiday in the United States

1896 - Fifty-eight miners are killed in a massive cave-in following an explosion in the Twin Shaft Mine located in Pennsylvania

1914 - Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated - this event would be the catalyst that triggered World War I

1919 - The Treaty of Versailles is signed

1926 - Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz merge their two companies together to create the new auto manufacturer Mercedes-Benz

1932 - Actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (d. 2005) is born in Isleton, California

1946 - Actress/comedienne Gilda Radner (d. 1989) is born in Detroit, Michigan

1950 - Seoul is captured by North Korean troops during the Korean War

1962 - Baseball player Cy Young passes away at the age of 83

1964 - Malcolm X forms the Organization of Afro-American Unity

1975 - "The Twilight Zone" narrator Rod Serling passes away at the age of 50

1981 - "Marathon of Hope" runner Terry Fox loses his battle with cancer at the age of 22

1994 - Seven people die and over six hundred more are injured following a deadly gas attack in Matsumoto, Japan

1997 - Mike Tyson bites off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match and is subsequently disqualified

2014 - Actor Meshach Taylor dies at the age of 67

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following famous faces turning one year older; Mel Brooks, Bette Greene, John Byner, Al Downing, Bruce Davison, Kathy Bates, Alice Krige, Mike Skinner, Charlie Clouser, Mark Grace, Jessica Hecht, John Cusack, Mary Stuart Masterson, Gil Bellows, Tichina Arnold, Steve Burton, Ray Slijngaard, Mark Stoermer, and Lucy Rose.

All now I need to find the date that I want to talk about.  Ah, this looks like a good one.  June 28, 1969.

Now, you might be wondering why I decided to go with the rainbow coloured theme for this week.  Well, it's because the rainbow flag is a symbol of LGBTQ pride.  In fact, the whole month of June has more or less become a month long celebration for people who identify as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or people who have questioned their true sexuality. 

In 2016, I think that the world has definitely come a long way in being more accepting of the LGBTQ population, and we certainly see with the gay pride parades that take place in almost every major city these days that people are no longer afraid to be who they are. 

Of course, sadly, this wasn't always the case.  In fact, with the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando still fresh on our minds two weeks after the fact, it's just a grim reminder just how hard it was for people of the LGBTQ community to find compassion and understanding.

It was 47 years ago today that an event took place in New York City that sort of defined the movement for gay rights.  And while the incident did bring out a series of riots over the course of several days, it certainly made the world take notice.

It was the day of the "Stonewall Riots".

So, a little bit of history before we proceed.  After World War II, many nations in the world had been subject to social upheaval - which made sense, given how destructive and costly the war was.  The United States was one of those nations.  At that time, many people had the desire to restore the world back to the way it was, and were reluctant to see any more changes.  In a way, it did seem understandable.  After all, when war ends, it's only natural for people to want to try and go back to the way their old lives were.

Unfortunately, this lead to several black marks in the historical records of American history, as the United States government believed that anyone who didn't fit the mold of what they considered to be "American" would be subject to great indignities.  It was essentially a time in which the government almost seemed to promote bullying and segregation - which is why we saw the Civil Rights Movement take place in the 1950s, as well as the Women's Rights Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Certainly the struggle was evident for people of the LGBTQ community.  The Senate actually linked homosexuality to being a security risk, and many people in the community were unfairly labeled as being mentally disturbed or ill because of it.  It got so bad for them that the United States post office actually kept track of household that received mail that was deemed "homosexual propaganda".  Thousands of gay and lesbian workers were fired from their jobs just for being who they were.  Many more were actually institutionalized in mental hospitals and subjected to dangerous tests in an effort to "remove the gayness out of them".  Is it any wonder that people ended up living double lives during the 1950s and early 1960s?  It was extremely sad.  It wasn't until the early 1990s that some nations removed homosexuality from their lists of mental disorders!  That is absolutely mind-boggling to me - especially since there has been more than enough research to prove that homosexuality is not's how you're born.

New York City's Greenwich Village was a neighbourhood in which many of the city's LGBTQ population lived and socialized.  And the area known as Christopher Street was a street in which many LGBTQ businesses operated.  One such business was the Stonewall Inn - which at the time was owned and operated by members of the New York City mafia (which was commonplace back in the late 1960s).  Although the conditions inside of the bar were not great, it was the only gay bar in the area that allowed dancing - so naturally, it became one of the busiest places for people of the LGBTQ community to socialize.

At least, it was until the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

At that time, many police officers had been tipped off to places in which LGBTQ people socialized, and they were instructed to shut the places down.  And at 1:20 am, several New York City officers barged into the place with the intent of closing it up for good.  Unlike most cases, where the owners of the establishments were informed that police raids were coming, this one came as a surprise. 

Also unlike other police raids that had taken place, the customers inside of the Stonewall Inn at the time were not as willing to go quietly as they had done in the past.  And it took an incident where a woman (widely believed to be Storme DeLarverie) was handcuffed and shouted to the growing crowd to do something about it that the Stonewall Riots officially kicked off.

The scene at the Stonewall Inn was one of total chaos, as protesters fought against the police with objects being hurled, punches being thrown, and fires were lit inside the Stonewall Inn, putting the lives of several policemen and patrons still inside the bar at risk.  Incredibly, no lives were lost in the melee. 

One could say that the Stonewall incident breathed new life into the LGBTQ community because all attention was now on them, and they were using the incident to show the world that they were tired of being persecuted against for being who they were, and that it was their time to stand up to those who bullied and humiliated them.  It inspired the LGBTQ community to stand up for themselves and realize that they were just as important as anybody else, and they actively encouraged each other to start their own businesses without the influence of the Mafia or the police.  And when one New York City based publication known as "The Village Voice" printed a recap of the riots which slandered the LGBTQ community, a mob of people descended upon Christopher Street and stood up for themselves once more against the newspaper.

Of course, not everybody saw the Stonewall Riots as a positive thing.  Many criticized the excessive use of violence in getting the point across - and hey, I completely understand that as I am a firm believer in peaceful protesting.  But keep in mind that this had been building up for several years.  When something is allowed to build up tension for that long, you shouldn't expect anything less than an explosive reaction when prodded.

Besides, the Stonewall Riots set out to do what they were intended.  They were a true social commentary for the people of the LGBTQ community by the people of the LGBTQ community.  It was the first step in what would be a long road towards being out and proud and not caring about the opinions of other people.

Exactly one year after the Stonewall Riots took place, on June 28, 1970, the first ever gay pride parade was held on Christopher Street - the place where it all began.  Simultaneous events were held in Chicago and Los Angeles on that day, and over the course of the next four and a half decades, several other cities would follow suit.  My hometown even has pride events for the LGBTQ community, and it's considered a small town in comparison to New York City.

It took one event at an illegal and unlicensed gay bar to spark a revolution.  But given how far we've come as a society, I think it was a necessary one.

Happy Pride Month to everybody in the LGBTQ community.  And remember, every single one of you is worth something.  Don't let anyone else tell you differently.

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