40 years ago almost to the day, New York City police officers and the Public Morals Squad raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. 40 years ago, raids of gay bars were common and patrons, especially if they were male and wearing dresses, were arrested.
40 years ago, laws were still on the books that criminalized consensual sex between two people of the same-sex in their private homes.
40 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association considered homosexuality to be a mental disorder.
40 years ago, being gay was something to be kept secret and to be ashamed of.
The LGBT rights movement did not begin at Stonewall, but we celebrate LGBT pride every June because Stonewall symbolizes a visible act of resistance to government-sanctioned oppression.
2009 began as a year of hope and change for all Americans. And, after a particularly alienating previous 8 years, LGBT Americans especially took this message to heart. This Pride weekend, let us celebrate how far we've come but let us not forget that, although the rhetoric is more appealing, our own government continues to weight us down. The Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell exist to remind Americans that being gay is less-than being heterosexual. These two federal laws tell us that being gay is so very different than being heterosexual that those who are gay can't possibly be the same types of spouses to each other, or the same types of soldiers for our nation, that people who are heterosexual can be.
Today, we know that being gay is not something to be kept secret or to be ashamed of. Yes, organizations, individuals, and some politicians who fancy themselves our modern-day public morals squad devote their lives to telling us otherwise. And likewise, those who claim to be our friends and then take no action to repeal unjust laws also tell us otherwise.
I am reminded this Pride that true change comes from within communities, through grassroots organizing, and through the simple work of everyday people and rarely from politicians who make big promises in hopes of gaining power from us.