LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

History Race Policy Inequality

History books will never be able to tell what it’s really like to be a child of the Vietnam war

Ever since I can remember, I have known about the war.

50 years ago, war broke out in Vietnam between the South and North Vietnamese. My family on both my father and mother’s sides were refugees from the war that migrated stateside. I grew up hearing the stories of Vietnam before the war, during the war, and then life as refugees in America. The Vietnam War irrevocably changed my family’s life. But learning about the Vietnam War in schools and again in the media, just makes me feel confused.

In my U.S. history course, we covered the Vietnam War briefly.

I was taught a single fluid narrative of the Vietnam War: hawks and doves in Washington arguing for different policy and the young people who didn’t want to go to war. I remember my freshman year of high school, I read Tim O’Brien’s story, On The Rainy River, that recounted his urge to evade the draft. What a privilege, I thought, to even consider not going to war. For my family, we didn’t have a choice–the war came to us whether we liked it or not. And the war indiscriminately hurt Vietnamese people regardless of their political convictions and changed our lives forever. In college, I learned about the My Lai massacre and felt more confused. How could the Americans have just slaughtered innocent Vietnamese people? Weren’t the Americans on our side?

In my family’s nearly five decades of American life, we have clung to memories of a Vietnam that no longer exist. On my father’s side, it was the second escape from communism. They had fled China amidst Mao Ze Dong’s communist rule in the 1940s and then again in the 1970s during the Vietnam War. On my mother’s side, her father fought in the war for the South Vietnamese army and after the war, the U.S. helped them migrate stateside.

In my family, there is only life before the war in Vietnam and life after the war in the U.S. For me, the Vietnam War marks the end of an era in my family that I only know through pictures and stories.

Growing up, I heard countless stories about the war, life before it and the grueling experience of coming to America. I heard stories about fear and bravery, familial duty, and new beginnings. I could almost feel the hardship of starting life afresh in a foreign country.

But to me, the U.S. doesn’t feel foreign at all.

The only language I am fluent in is English. I had to learn Mandarin in school and I am still not even close to fluent. The only political system I really understand is the American one and I hold the American values of freedom, life, and liberty close to my heart. I am just as much of an American as anyone else. Except I’m not. My family is not. And my history isn’t the one that’s taught in history classes.

My bicultural identity as both an American and a child of Vietnam War refugees has shaped my view of the Vietnam War. But I am not the only one. The Vietnam War created a diaspora of Vietnamese people around the world, many of whom ended up in the U.S. And our stories are rarely told. After reading a series of pieces that remember the Vietnam War in The New York Times, I felt as if my life and experience were not told– the stories of refugees, the stories of a diaspora community connected to a place that no longer exists, and the confusion that surrounds patriotism to the U.S. I don’t know how I am supposed to feel when learning about the May Lai massacre.

Am I supposed to still love my country? Am I supposed to still feel like a proud American? It could have been my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins killed in that massacre. What am I supposed to think when I hear the stories of draft evaders– the stories of people who had the privilege to not be affected by this war?

I don’t have any answers to these enormous questions. But I think it’s okay to feel confused. Gaining the American perspective and politics helps me better understand what happened in the war. Hearing the stories of my family’s journey to America, helps me know my own history. I will forever be caught between two worlds: my Asian identity and my American one. I have come to accept that my bicultural identity affects all parts of my life from customs and traditions to remembering the past.

And the history you’re taught won’t necessarily tell your story, so sometimes you have to tell it yourself.