As we mourn the Orlando tragedy, the shooting brought to light just how much the LGBTQ community has fought to equal rights. For some, this may have been easy to forget, as people mention the “triumph” of the community in terms of Caitlyn Jenner and gay couples shown on commercials. But for members of the LGBTQ community, the fight for equality does not end with gay marriage or with a white transgender celebrity.
The fight against discrimination and bias in people’s hearts and minds is a difficult one. But on this day, during pride month, let us remember how far the LGBTQ movement has come. Let there be pride, and let us come together in support and in solidarity for the healing of a community and a nation.
This week, our president validated the struggle of the LGBTQ community as he established the first national monument dedicated to it. The Stonewall Inn is now the country’s newest addition to its national parks—a historic moment, but no less historic than the inn itself. The monument includes the gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, along with Christopher Park, and the surrounding area.
The bar, located in New York City’s West Village, has been a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ community for over half a century. In 1969, patrons fought against the constant, city-sanctioned police harassment. This moment in time, which marks the first time that people of the LGBTQ community fought back against the constant discrimination and harassment because of their gender or sexual orientation, became known as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.
The six long nights of the 1969 Stonewall uprising brought national attention to the discrimination and lack of acceptance of LGBTQ people in American society. For weeks, people protested outside of the bar for days, eventually leading to the first LGBTQ march for equality and civil rights in the summer of ’69.
In the video announcing the national park, Obama described the crucial role of Stonewall in this civil rights movement: “The riots became protests, the riots became a movement, the movement ultimately became an integral part of America.” Before Stonewall, any member of the LGBTQ community was virtually illegal.
There is no better time for this than now, during pride month in the aftermath of an attack against Latino/a and Latinx LGBTQ lives. This announcement also came just two days before the city’s pride march.
But for 50 years before this moment, Stonewall Inn was already a national landmark. It has long been a congregation site for LGBTQ people to come together in times of celebration or sadness. After the Supreme Court ruling of marriage equality, many found themselves at Stonewall, cheering in relief and happiness. After Orlando, thousands gathered for a vigil at Stonewall to remember and commemorate the lives of those that were lost so unfairly.
When I hear the words “first national park dedicated to the LGBTQ community,” I almost don’t believe it. Not because it shouldn’t exist, but because I thought it already would have. But that statement right there is the misconception of civil rights. Many see marriage equality, gay rights, as a fight that has been fought for the LGBTQ community. And it’s true, this movement has been fought for over 50 years, but that does not mean that it is over—in any sense.
This national park only proves the neglect that so many communities experience on the national level. In regards to Stonewall’s inauguration into the National Parks Association, I’ve heard may say, “Does this really matter? Why don’t we talk about the important things?” This is an important thing.
Just because there is marginal acceptance of members of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. since Stonewall, does not mean that there is acceptance. It is not a fight for marriage, a fight for TV commercials, or a fight for repealing don’t ask don’t tell. It is a fight for equality. True and unhindered equality.