It came as a great shock when it was discovered that Christopher Street West, which organizes the annual LA Pride event, was not honoring Stonewall 50 this weekend in West Hollywood in any manner, not even mentioning it.
Instead its keynotes are “…a free block party of entertainment, vendors, exhibitors, non-profit organizations, rides, attractions, beer gardens and more…,” completely turning its back on the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, the very reason for its existence.
CSW’s actions represent a betrayal of the gay liberation social and political revolution and a slap in the face to the L.A. gay community.
The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion (not a “riot” as the mainstream calls it) will be celebrated in New York City, the site of the uprising, and at events around the country, and, indeed, around the world on the weekend of June 28th.
For LGBTQ people Stonewall is our “Big Bang,” the most pivotal event in American gay history. Gay historiography is divided “Before Stonewall” and “After Stonewall.” Its ripples have had a worldwide impact.
In the decades after Stonewall, gay and lesbian people militantly, assertively and very successfully fought back for the first time against systemic and institutionalized Hetero Supremacy found at all levels of our government, in the teachings—often deadly—of all religions, and in the hugely destructive pathological diagnoses of the medical and mental health establishments.
After Stonewall, like a prairie fire rapidly moving across the nation and then the world, gay and lesbian people ceased begging for acceptance and instead embodied radical self-acceptance.
It made all the difference.
A queer social and political revolution commenced. People were liberated. Communities created. Institutions built. Relationships valued. Societal contributions validated.
On Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, it’s a time for LGBTQ people to righteously pat ourselves collectively on the back, shouting, “Job well-done!” Not pretend like it never happened as WeHo is doing.
Something analogous would be holding a Fourth of July celebration as the equivalent of a dance party without ever mentioning the Declaration of Independence and its consequential importance.
The irony in all of this is that beginning in June 1970, an annual celebration was called inti being in major American cities to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion that occurred the year before.
This is how Pride began. The grassroots organization that emerged to organize the event for decades in L.A. was called Christopher Street West, named after the street in Greenwich Village where the Stonewall bar was located. The whole foundational raison d’être of Pride has been based on remembering and honoring Stonewall and its substantial consequences. Stonewall = Pride.
It’s as if Tinkerbell flew over the West Hollywood bubble sprinkling fairy dust everywhere, proclaiming that gay and lesbian people shall have historical amnesia, speak only in the narcissistic present tense, and forget where they came from.
When I tactfully confronted L.A. Pride’s executive director about the erasing of Stonewall 50, she replied that there will be a “Stonewall Lounge” selling beer, and I can come sit in it if I wish. I actually liked her, however, she appeared seemingly clueless that she was being disrespectful and insulting to the two pioneering and generative generations that went before her own but also to the whole LGBTQ community that Pride purportedly represents.
Two pieces of ancestor wisdom reveal themselves. In the often-repeated words of George Santayana, the 20th century Spanish philosopher, a gay man: “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” And George Orwell, the author of “1984,” also reminds us, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
L.A. Pride, what happened? It’s really incomprehensible, unconscionable and not very intelligent. In the 50th year after Stonewall, LGBTQ people have created a history they can be proud of.