Stonewall Inn, West Village. Photo: InSapphoWeTrust

By Ella Marnin age 10 

The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising was on June 28. The uprising started when police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, New York.

Back then, bartenders used to refuse to serve gay people. Some places were so explicit that they had signs in their window: “If you are gay, please stay away.” 

In the 1960s, it was illegal to be gay in New York, so the police went to shut down the Stonewall Inn. A group of people started to throw various objects at the police officers after they demanded to see people’s ID if they were dressed in a way that didn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth on their IDs. This was particulary dangerous for people who were transgender or gender nonconforming. The riot culminated in several people in the bar fighting back against the police.

Before the Stonewall riots, life wasn’t easy for the LGBTQIA+ community. Being gay wasn’t just illegal in New York, but all states except for Illinois. As one of the patrons of the bar, Martin Boyce, said, “[T]he Stonewall was like the watering hole on the savanna. It’s just, everyone was there.”

The uprising sparked the gay liberation movement and the long struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights. It wasn’t until 2003 that the U.S. Supreme Court declared laws prohibiting homosexual activity unconstitutional, and same-sex or gay marriage was only legalized across the country by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Glossary – 

Transgender: People whose gender differs from the gender/sex they were assumed to be at birth.

Gender nonconforming: Describes behaviors and ways of being that are different from those usually associated with a person’s gender. For example, a boy who likes to wear dresses.

LGBTQIA+: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and more.

Sexual orientation: Sexual identity based on who a person is attracted to. Example: homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual.

Unconstitutional:  Something that is against the U.S. Constitution, a document that embodies the fundamental laws and principles by which the United States is governed.

This part of our coverage: THE REVOLUTIONARY LIBERATION STRUGGLES OF 1969. Read other stories from this series.