I’m not missing a minute of this, it’s the revolution. That’s what Sylvia Rivera said of the Stonewall Riots. And she was right. Not just about the beginning of the revolution but about a lot of things.
We commonly credit the Stonewall Riots with being the tipping point for the modern gay rights and Pride movements. And it was. But what we don’t commonly acknowledge is that the demography of the rioters is not the demography of the contemporary leadership of the movement.
Sylvia started life as Ray, a Hispanic boy who was abandoned by her father, orphaned when her mother committed suicide when she was 3 years old, and maligned by her grandmother for being an effeminate boy and wearing makeup to school in the 4th grade. Living on the street from the age of 11 as a gender non-conforming Latina in early 1960s New York, she lived life as one of the most marginalized segments of society. So you can imagine that she did not have an easy life.
Sylvia Rivera Stonewall Community Brunch June 26, 11:45 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. Central Presbyterian Church 201 Washington St. SW, Atlanta, GA 30303 www.atlantapride.org
Nor did the drag queens and transgender people who raised her and helped to keep her safe. But these are the people to whom we owe our movement. These are the people who said “Enough!” one night in June of 1969. And for the past 40 years, Pride events across the globe have commemorated the riots at Stonewall.
Since the riots, Pride has been the most visible aspect of the modern gay rights movement, a movement that has bettered the lives of gay people around the world. But unfortunately, it is also a movement that has left the marginalized in a similar place from which they started the movement —marginalized. Trans people still find themselves fighting for acceptance, much less for equality.
So this year, on our 40th anniversary, Atlanta Pride is going back to our roots. With Juxtaposed Center for Transformation and Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT), Atlanta Pride is co-sponsoring the Sylvia Rivera Stonewall Community Brunch. The event will focus attention on the issues still faced by the most marginalized segments of our community in hopes of moving us all forward toward full equality and acceptance.
Pride will still be the open, honest, and vibrant celebration of the gains our diverse community has made over the last 40 years or so. But it will be in October, adjacent to National Coming Out Day. After all, the world doesn’t change if we don’t make ourselves known and what better way to do that than with a Pride celebration.
The world has evolved since Sylvia and her sisters took the first step on the long road to equality. We’ve not reached the goal yet and hopefully more change is to come. And for our part, Atlanta Pride is changing our approach this year.
By cosponsoring the Sylvia Rivera Stonewall Community Brunch on the last weekend in June and moving Pride to coincide with National Coming Out Day, we feel we are honoring our history as a movement and remembering how far we have yet to go, while simultaneously casting a hopeful eye to the future and the better times ahead.
I hope you will join us for both.
Cain Williamson is chair of Atlanta Pride’s board of directors. He can be reached via this publication.