Amazingly bigoted 1969 NY Daily News story on the gay Stonewall Riots

I didn’t believe this was real.  Until I google around and found that PBS had also reprinted the article.  It’s a July 6, 1969 article about the famous Stonewall Riots in New York City that heralded the modern gay rights movement.  And the article is one of the most homophobic things I’ve ever read in my life.  Then again, it was 1969.  But still.

Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad
The New York Daily News, July 6, 1969
By JERRY LISKER

Stonewall is in the news this week after President Obama mentioned it in his inaugural address, alongside Selma (African-American civil rights) and Seneca Falls (women’s rights).  Wikipedia has a great write up on what the Stonewall riots were, and why they mattered:

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. The Stonewall Inn, at the time, was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians. Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.

I’ve noticed the story changing every once in a while as to who exactly started the riot – was it drag queens or an angry lesbian? (if you look through PBS’ photo gallery, it’s clearly not just marginalized gays in those photos, despite what Wikipedia says) – but what everyone agrees on is that the riots launched the modern gay rights movement.  More from the NY Daily News at the time:

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens….

According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

I have to say, the nasty little story was well-written – it was funny as hell, actually, if you could put aside the fact that they were laughing at us, not with us:

The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.

Keep in mind that the world was famously bigoted in 1969.  It was only two years previous that the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Loving v. Virginia, striking down state bans on inter-racial marriage .  1967 was the same year that CBS’ Mike Wallace did a hideous documentary about gay people, that now lives in infamy.  Here’s a quote from Mike Wallace in the piece:

“The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested in, nor capable of, a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life consists of a series of chance encounters in clubs and bars he inhabits.”

You can watch the entire 43 minute documentary here.  Below is a snippet:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-b19wXL0Jk]

So while it’s not surprising that the NY Daily News in 1969 wrote a hideously anti-gay article about the riots, it’s still fascinating to see the level of hatred gay people faced.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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