The Queer* Liberation March and Rally is being held on June 30th, 2019 on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, at the same time as “World Pride” in New York City. We are organizing this march to honor the legacy of Queer Liberation struggles—past and present, to demand liberation by resisting continued forms of oppression, and to celebrate the hard-fought gains won through Queer resistance.
On June 28th, 1969, patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against state violence by refusing to continue to be the targets of police brutality. Gender non-conforming women of color, queer youth, drag queens, sex workers, lesbians, gay men and radical allies rebelled for several days in front of the Stonewall Inn and began building what would become some of the most important organizations in the modern ‘Gay Liberation Movement.’
The Stonewall rebellion must be understood in a wider history of Queer rebellion against state violence and institutional discrimination overtaking the U.S. during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. These early rebellions emerged in the context of counter-cultural movements, during which many organizations were formed in coalition and solidarity with other people’s struggles across the country and around the globe such as Black liberation movements and the movement against the war in Vietnam. Their mission statements were inherently intersectional.
The Compton Cafeteria Uprising of 1966 in California , one of the first queer uprisings, consisted of gender non-conforming queers, drag queens, street youth and sex workers fighting back against harassment and police brutality. The organization Vanguard, formed in 1965, was active in the Compton Cafeteria protests and largely consisted of transient, homeless, and working class queer youth.
In 1970 Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, gender non-conforming Latina and Black activists at the forefront of the Stonewall Rebellion and early gay liberation activism, created STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a radical street activist organization that provided housing and support to sex workers and homeless queer youth.
In 1970, Black Lesbians in Boston formed the Combahee River Collective, dedicated to “actively struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression,” noting that “the major systems of oppression are interlocking.”
The Gay Liberation Front emerged after the Stonewall rebellion and organized the first anniversary march, which would later become NYC’s - annual Gay Pride March.
Connecting queer liberation to all struggles for liberation, the GLF believed that “Our fight against homosexual oppression is one with the revolutionary struggle of all oppressed peoples…”. That first march’s route in 1970 went past the Women’s House of Detention, where Joan Bird and Afeni Shakur, members of the “Black Panther 21”, were housed. In an act of solidarity, members of that first Gay Liberation march shouted, “Free our sisters, Free ourselves” as they marched by.
It is in this spirit of solidarity and coalition that we remember Stonewall and commemorate the ongoing struggles and rebellion of queer people across the world. We continue to work toward our full liberation and an end to the persecution of sexual and gender minorities. While we have highlighted only a small slice of Queer rebellion specific to the U.S., these moments occurred in a longer history of rebellion, including the homophile movement, Aids activism, and movements for transgender rights. The Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society, Act-Up, and STAR being some of the many organizations fundamental to the gains won by Queer people across the world.
We see our own struggles tied to the liberation of other oppressed peoples across the world. While New York is celebrating “World Pride”, we must acknowledge the oppression faced by Queer people across the world, as well as our own imperial policies of state-sanctioned xenophobia (like the travel ban) and constant wars that are detrimental to the lives of all people across the globe. People’s rights and liberties are being stripped at this very moment in the U.S. and abroad, and we must continue to fight back.
We come together in this spirit, remembering to fight for liberation, dignity, self, and communal determination.
We remember and we resist!
*We have chosen to use the phrase Queer as an umbrella category to represent the wide span of sexual and gender minorities and outlaws who have historically and currently been oppressed. “Queer” signals for us a political stance of rebellion and a demand for liberation more-so than simply an identity category. We are trans, bisexual, lesbian, gay, queer, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals and communities.