The history of the Stonewall Uprising is not merely "gay history," it is a key moment in American history. And, further, its reach has touched communities far beyond our borders.
June 2019 marks 50 years since the NYC Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal moment that sparked a global movement for civil rights for LGBTQ people.
Violent beatings and murders of "the queers" were commonplace. Homosexuality was illegal, and this perfectly natural variance in human nature that has existed as long as we have walked the earth was criminalized and demonized (and tragically, in some countries, still is).
After decades of police raids at gay establishments that destroyed people's lives and reputations, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, patrons at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village -- many of whom were transgender, non-binary/gender non-conforming, and drag queens and kings -- fought back.
There was much violence and bloodshed. The riots lasted for six days. But, it is widely recognized as one of the first, big seismic shifts in the LGBTQ movement in this country, and since then has been commemorated annually around the world.
Why Individuals and the Church Commemorate Stonewall
One of the ways that we commemorate the Stonewall Uprising across the globe is with annual marches and parades that cause us to reflect and remember how it all started.
I went to my first LGBTQ Pride march in NYC (Manhattan) at the age of 19, in 1980, and I attended almost every year after that.
The Pride march has evolved over the years and was very different then than it is today. For the first 15-20 years of my participation and witness, the march was hardest when we passed St. Patrick's Cathedral. There, scores of people behind the barricades held up hateful signs, spit on us, threw objects, called us sick, and said we were damned to hell: all with the tacit approval of the Church, and the allegiance and protection of the police.
Every year I looked into their eyes and was bewildered and saddened by the hate and violence directed at us.
For lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people -- and their allies, families and friends who supported us -- the Church was not a sanctuary. From where we stood, it was a place that sought to hurt and destroy us.
Of course, over these years, the climate here in New York City has shifted considerably: the counter-demonstrators have dwindled, organizations of gay police officers and firefighters march along side us, and many more faith-based organizations participate (including the Episcopal Dioceses of Long Island and New York).
But hundreds of LGBTQ people from all corners of our City and our diocese continue to feel unsafe, and the memory of those early days for some of us is still a present reality for many in our communities, especially among our young people.
A brighter future revealed itself early on for me. On that day in 1980, when I was still a teenager, I saw "Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays" (PFLAG) carrying signs like "I love my gay son," and "My lesbian daughter is a precious child of God," and I wept.
The other groups that filled me with hopeful tears were the religious organizations marching proudly with their gay and straight parishioners and clergy, proclaiming that God's love excludes NO ONE.
We need to be a Church that celebrates and conveys our commitment to inclusivity as much today as when I was 19.
Jesus-Followers Must Bear Witness
As people who vow in our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity and humanity of every person, we have an obligation to bear witness to human rights and inclusiveness of our LGBTQ friends, family members, fellow parishioners and our neighbors. It is our Gospel mandate, and part of our mission to bring Christ's love into a broken world.
On this website, you will find lots of information about Pride parades and other commemorations across the diocese.
Year after year, I witness hundreds of teens and young adults from all over the city and the diocese lining the parade routes. Sadly, I know that for survival reasons, many of them feel they must conceal their authentic selves from their parents and their church families. Not only do their parents not know where they are, more importantly, they may not know who they are.
But they should know who we are. Clergy and lay members of our parishes proudly and joyfully marching tells them that God loves them, the Church loves them, and that we love them. And that, in the fullness of time, it gets better.
Yours in pride, love, and peace,
Mother Tatro with Bishop Provenzano
Marie+ The Rev. Marie A. Tatro, Vicar Community Justice Ministry