Steven W Thrasher writes: For generations, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have turned to night clubs and bars like Orlando’s Pulse – the scene today of the deadliest shooting in American history – as places of refuge. They have been our sanctuaries.
When our homes would kick us out for being queer, there was the bar. When we were at risk of getting beaten up, as men, for wearing drag on the street, there was the club. When our places of employment might fire us for being queer (as they legally still can in most states), there were leathers bars and glam dance clubs where we could shake our moneymakers.
Bars offered us the illusion of a freedom from terror as queer people, the illusion that there was a place where our sexual desires and our communal need to gather with fellow queers would not be under attack.
This illusion was a lie, of course. Bars were not, and never have been, safe places. This should especially obvious every June when we celebrate Pride month. It’s when we remember the Stonewall riots, when all kinds of queers from all kinds of backgrounds were attacked by police inside a New York City dive bar 47 years ago, in June of 1969.
The police were violent to the queer people there. They thought they could do anything they wanted to them, because they knew queer people lived in fear. The police didn’t see the Stonewall as a sanctuary, but as a disgusting cage. They thought the patrons were sick and would be too ashamed of who they were to make a fuss.
But the brave queers at the Stonewall fought back against that. In finding the best spirit of themselves, they started what would become a worldwide movement – a movement that would evolve to fight legal oppression, challenge homophobia, organize around the holocaust of HIV/Aids, and lead to marriage equality many decades later. [Continue reading…]