The holy land of equality

The Gay Agenda: Life and times of a modern gay man.

J.R. Hensley

J.R. Hensley

J.R. Hensley, Photo Editor

I jokingly say that my husband and I made a pilgrimage to New York City to visit the holy-gay landmark of The Stonewall Inn, referring to the trip most devout Jews and Muslims make to Israel and Mecca respectively.

However, the trip was nothing of the sort. In fact, I shoehorned the small excursion in because I figured if we’re going to fly to the other end of the country we may as well be good gays and visit the site where the gay rights movement began.

Many don’t know that at one point in time it was illegal to be gay. The police could literally lock you up for just liking the same sex. And whenever the police felt like having some fun, they would raid gay bars or bath houses and just start arresting the people that were there.

In June 1969, the police decided to raid The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, but the men were having none of it and some blessed drag queen chucked a bottle at one of the officers. Thus began the Stonewall Riots. For three whole days, gay men and woman raised hell in New York City bringing attention to gay rights and starting a movement.

I thank those men and women that were there. I can’t even fathom where I would be if it hadn’t been for them saying “enough is enough.”

The Stonewall Inn is a bar. A tiny hole in the wall kind of place. It has bare wood floors and pressed tin ceilings and doesn’t look like anything extraordinary. It looks like any old pub, except for the rainbow series of lights on the front of the building and the rainbow flags hanging overhead.  The patrons were average, everyday people and my husband and I felt like we belonged, which does not necessarily happen often in the gay community.

At the entrance of the bar hangs a few trophies from their history. One was a former NYPD sign that reads “This is raided premises – Police Dep’t. City of New York – Howard R. Leary. Police Commissioner.” I feel bad for the police commissioner that will forever be connected to something so trivial but negative to an entire group of people. The other thing that I loved was a newspaper clipping documenting the riot. I won’t put the whole article here, but the headline is what kills me, “Homo nest raided, queen bees are stinging mad.” I don’t know if the person that penned that wonderful headline was one of our ilk or not, but the shade thrown is of epic proportions.

After a few drinks, we watched as Lady Gaga performed her halftime show to the hoots of delight from the other bar patrons, and then left taking a couple T-shirts and leaving only a tip. A generous one, of course.

The only thing that disappointed me was that somewhere in the past year I could have sworn that it was made a historic landmark. When I arrived on the scene I expected to see a plaque commemorating the event, but there was nothing but the crimson neon sign of the infamous name.

This coming June, when the pride events start, I will feel even more emboldened because I have touched the landmark stone of the event’s entire purpose – to celebrate a riot.