Another Brick in the Wall
My step counter app crashed. The distance I walked in New York City on Sunday, June 30, exceeded the steps I had taken over the last month. (Note to self—go to NYC more often, so you know when to turn left and when to turn right at intersections.)
After getting up at 5 a.m. that morning to be ready for the bus taking a full load of us to the Pride Parade, I was on my way to the Stonewall 50 version. In this intimate gathering of five million people, a few friends and I stood in the sun waiting—and waiting—for the parade to begin. My supply of water disappeared much quicker than my thirst.
However, it was all worthwhile to watch the parade of humanity pass along the street. Chicks on bikes, drag queens strutting along, balloons tied together in the shape of the numbers 5 and 0, persons representing every L and G and B and T and Q walking proudly down the street.
Ninety minutes later, I was ready to sit down and give my trusty feet a break. Having consumed a delicious meal at Foragers Restaurant, I was ready to reboot the step app and make my way to the Stonewall Inn and its corresponding monument, where it all began 50 years ago.
The friends who accompanied me along this trek were as eager as I was to pay homage to the home of gay rights. We had to stay in touch by phone several times to find each other. Though we attempted to stay together, it was all too easy to stop and people watch or chat with some friendly Prider, and suddenly we were separated once again.
We were finally within striking distance of the Stonewall Inn. But what was that line of people wrapped around the block? Oh—it was the line to get inside! Well, okay, we could forsake sitting at the bar for sitting at the Stonewall monument. We went through the gauntlet of a crush of people coming opposite our destination in order to get closer to the monument. “Officer, what do you mean, we cannot go down this street to get to the monument? We have to get there! It is our civic duty to have our picture taken at the monument. Our Facebook posts will not be complete without this picture!”
Reality finally set in and we begrudgingly accepted the fact that neither the Stonewall Inn nor monument were ours for this particular day. Now, we have HOW many blocks to walk back to meet our bus? One foot in front of the other, one foot in front….
As our fellow passengers gathered on the street waiting for our bus to arrive, we compared notes on what we saw, who we saw, where we stood for the parade, and what our favorite encounters were. I was satisfied that my friends and I had gotten our money’s worth on this trip from Rehoboth. This was Stonewall, 2019.
Then there was Stonewall, 1969. It was quite a different era for the gay world. Because it would cost them their careers, their (hetero) marriages, and sometimes their very lives, many gay people found support, camaraderie, and solace at gay bars. Larger cities like New York provided better cover than the dives in rural and small towns across this country. The police felt it was their duty to raid gay bars and arrest a dozen or so attendees, then lay low for another week or two before the next raid. The police took too much pleasure in clubbing their queer subjects. At this time, queer was a much more pejorative term than today.
But suddenly things changed. Enough was enough. It was time to do something about the constant harassment and quite unnecessary raids. The LGBTQ community was not the sick, mentally disturbed people the straight world claimed they were. They were not criminals. They fought back. The “fairies” had never before given resistance to police action, but this time they did.
Back to 2019. This straight writer is adamant about not only being an ally for the LGBTQ spectrum, but being an advocate. For those who have read previous “Straight Talk” columns, take note that I usually write in third person, avoiding direct personal commentary. This time it is different.
My support for and advocacy of LGBTQ rights IS very personal. My best friends are LGBTQ. My heart is with them in any hurdles they may encounter as they attempt to live their lives.
Stonewall Inn is the symbol of gay rights and gay acceptance and participation in the normal life of any person in this country. I am adding another brick in the wall of StoneWALL Inn. I am usually not one for walls, but Stonewall, here I am! And I hope to actually see it next time! ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter.