Students recognize progress in LGBT rights

Dee Fontanilla, Staff Writer

On June 28, 2015, the right to marry became undeniable, specifically to same sex couples. To many people outside of the LGBT community, this was the end of the short struggle for lesbians and gay men who wanted to marry their significant others. However, there are many untold tales that are often left out of the narrative. Many people are unaware that October is national LGBT history month, a tradition started in 1994 by a high school history teacher, Rodney Wilson. This is the perfect opportunity to expand one’s knowledge of LGBT history.

One of its most iconic events occurred nearly half a century ago, on June 27, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn. The New York City establishment was a bar that served as a safe haven for many lesbians, gay men, transgender people, transvestites and homeless children. The bar was not on the map and functioned to give these minorities a place to sleep and hide from the oppressive society around them. Police often raided bars like this to clean up the LGBT community. They were easy targets as the few LGBT welcoming establishments were often associated with organized crime. Police charged and arrested patrons for reasons such as being in full drag, not having IDs bearing their names and, under the Three-Piece Rule, being a woman wearing less than three feminine pieces of clothing. The patrons fought police for their right to stay, which finally shed some light on the treatment of the LGBT community. Many students appreciate the men and women who were involved with this event.

[One important woman in the event was] Sylvia Rivera,” junior Jasper Berris said. “She was a Latina transgender woman who, along with Marsha P. Johnson, was at the head of the Stonewall riots. They say that Sylvia Rivera was the one who cast the first stone.”

Reportedly, Rivera famously shouted, “I’m not missing a minute of this; it’s the revolution!” She went on to become an important activist of the gay liberation movement. Rivera also started the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), one of the first groups to provide transitional resources to transgender people.

“A big chunk of the LGBT community came together,” senior Stephen Wehlburg said. “It demonstrated how much people have had to fight for the rights that I really just take advantage of every day.”

The Stonewall riots opened the door for the world to see the LGBT community that had previously been ignored. Because of this, Stonewall is often viewed as the place where LGBT pride began.

Another misconception about the history of LGBT people is concerning the reality behind the right to be lawfully married in a same-sex relationship. A common mistake is to forget the many state court cases that took place long before the Supreme Court decision. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriages in 2003, more than a decade before the Supreme Court case.

The year 2003 is also regarded as important to the LGBT community because the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional. These laws made homosexuality, as well as other sexual acts not resulting in procreation, crimes punishable by arrest. Sodomy convictions went on records and made it nearly impossible for LGBT people to get jobs or live normal lives.

Though the movement made many great strides for equality in the past, LGBT people still face much discrimination. Many instances of physical and social attacks still shake the community to this day. This past June, for example, a man opened fire in a gay club in Orlando, killing 50 patrons in a fit of hatred.

“It could have happened anywhere,” senior Zora Patton said. “It could have happened here; it could have happened in California.”

The hardships of LGBT people go beyond the violent acts of individual hate crimes. Infamously, North Carolina passed the HB2, which required people to use the restroom aligned with their birth certificate. This law was supported by some other states but has not been passed in any besides North Carolina. This ruling creates many uncomfortable situations for transgender people, specifically trans women, who are most likely to be victims of assault.

Through time spent working out differences and moving toward equality under the law, the LGBT community might one day not have to fight anymore.

“[LGBT history is about] how far we have come in society,” Patton said. “I think it is important to know everyone’s stories and fears; it allows less ignorance in the world.”