Opinion: LA Pride Betrays Stonewall and LGBTQ History

The Stonewall Rebellion in New York City

It came as a great shock when it was discovered that Christopher Street West, which organizes the annual LA Pride event, was not honoring Stonewall 50 this weekend in West Hollywood in any manner, not even mentioning it.

Instead its keynotes are “…a free block party of entertainment, vendors, exhibitors, non-profit organizations, rides, attractions, beer gardens and more…,” completely turning its back on the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, the very reason for its

existence.

CSW’s actions represent a betrayal of the gay liberation social and political revolution and a slap in the face to the L.A. gay community.

The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion (not a “riot” as the mainstream calls it) will be celebrated in New York City, the site of the uprising, and at events around the country, and, indeed, around the world on the weekend of June 28th.

For LGBTQ people Stonewall is our “Big Bang,” the most pivotal event in American gay history. Gay historiography is divided “Before Stonewall” and “After Stonewall.” Its ripples have had a worldwide impact.

In the decades after Stonewall, gay and lesbian people militantly, assertively and very successfully fought back for the first time against systemic and institutionalized Hetero Supremacy found at all levels of our government, in the teachings—often deadly—of all religions, and in the hugely destructive pathological diagnoses of the medical and mental health establishments.

Stonewall demonstrators

After Stonewall, like a prairie fire rapidly moving across the nation and then the world, gay and lesbian people ceased begging for acceptance and instead embodied radical self-acceptance.

It made all the difference.

A queer social and political revolution commenced. People were liberated. Communities created. Institutions built. Relationships valued. Societal contributions validated.

On Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, it’s a time for LGBTQ people to righteously pat ourselves collectively on the back, shouting, “Job well-done!” Not pretend like it never happened as WeHo is doing.

Something analogous would be holding a Fourth of July celebration as the equivalent of a dance party without ever mentioning the Declaration of Independence and its consequential importance.

The irony in all of this is that beginning in June 1970, an annual celebration was called inti being in major American cities to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion that occurred the year before.

This is how Pride began. The grassroots organization that emerged to organize the event for decades in L.A. was called Christopher Street West, named after the street in Greenwich Village where the Stonewall bar was located. The whole foundational raison d’être of Pride has been based on remembering and honoring Stonewall and its substantial consequences. Stonewall = Pride.

It’s as if Tinkerbell flew over the West Hollywood bubble sprinkling fairy dust everywhere, proclaiming that gay and lesbian people shall have historical amnesia, speak only in the narcissistic present tense, and forget where they came from.

When I tactfully confronted L.A. Pride’s executive director about the erasing of Stonewall 50, she replied that there will be a “Stonewall Lounge” selling beer, and I can come sit in it if I wish. I actually liked her, however, she appeared seemingly clueless that she was being disrespectful and insulting to the two pioneering and generative generations that went before her own but also to the whole LGBTQ community that Pride purportedly represents.

Two pieces of ancestor wisdom reveal themselves. In the often-repeated words of George Santayana, the 20th century Spanish philosopher, a gay man: “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” And George Orwell, the author of “1984,” also reminds us, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

L.A. Pride, what happened? It’s really incomprehensible, unconscionable and not very intelligent. In the 50th year after Stonewall, LGBTQ people have created a history they can be proud of.


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Jonathan Simmons
Guest
Jonathan Simmons

All things &, Traditions change over time. The less than elegant Stonewall Bar in NYC was all the groups that dared to go out and have fun (it was illegal and people got arrested all the time for being gay – my own uncle in L. A (weho hills) had money & security and got arrested a bunch of times. Since our Icon, Beloved RuPaul would probably not consider the old Stonewall her regular watering hole, and we all have countless options today that the people of Stonewall didn’t, moving forward into a more broad mixed and accepted choice for… Read more »

Hernan
Guest
Hernan

You missed the point. This is not about traditions and things changing over time, which they clearly do. This was about honoring those who, before us, took a stand and spoke up. CSW/LA Pride’s theme could have alluded to that past and invite all of us to reflect on the fights we have won and those we still have to fight. And we could’ve done that along all the great things that happened this weekend, which was a lot of fun. I would not call CSW’s omission a betrayal, but certainly, it missed the point. NYC’s pride is certainly acknowledging… Read more »

Michael G.
Guest
Michael G.

The gay pride parade is done in West Hollywood as it’s done in every Main Street in America. Basically, it’s a very important platform for political hacks and their backers. Besides the forever grandstanding West Hollywood City “Student” Council we will see congressmen, state officials, et. The mayor of Los Angeles might even show up. Representing what the University of Illinois called the most second most corrupt city in America. Plus-plus all the bigwigs of the various political party clubs, even developers disguised as do-gooders. They will be in cars, thinking they’re celebrities, with everybody waving at them. But many… Read more »

carleton cronin
Guest

Read The Village Voice’s insensitive reports of the Stonewall Uprising to really see the depth of ignorance which propelled the cops, and the degree of indignation and righteousness which caused the New York gay community to rise up. I was an unfortunate witness to the second day of rioting when I went to my “local” om 4th street, a couple of strides away from Christopher Street. I have never been comfortable with any authority and the actions of the cops and some “citizens” convinced me that humans have a long journey to understanding each other. Today, on Pride Saturday, I… Read more »

50th in 2020
Guest
50th in 2020

Funds raised will also help CSW prepare for its 50th anniversary in 2020.

50 this month
Guest
50 this month

So if Stonewall isn’t turning 50 in LA and I was born here in 69, does that mean i’m not turning 50 either?

Ham
Guest
Ham

most West Hollywood home owners and residents are not gay. But we see the pride parade every year….and live with the trash, noise and generally childish behavior. the future is shaped by your actions today…….and we are watching. I leave the city for the weekend these days…

I hope things will change…..but you are you’re own worst enemy.

weho adjacent
Guest
weho adjacent

lol how are you watching if you “leave the city for the weekend”???

And btw 37% of West Hollywood is made up of gay men. That is a considerable amount. MUCH higher than the average city.

Bill Gordon
Guest
Bill Gordon

Unbelievable. It reminds me of the sci-fi book “Canticle for Liebowitz” in which people live completely devoid of their history and thus lose their cultural relevance. There is more to life than today. It isn’t just a question of remembering history, but of honoring the courage and potential sacrifices people made so that we can enjoy the fruits of their labors with the rights and inclusion we enjoy today. History is not a commemoration of dust. It is the living embodiment of the progression of the human spirit. It is a shame when that progression is forgotten, but it is… Read more »

Human Spirit
Guest
Human Spirit

Brilliant!
I just read up on “Canticle for Liebowitz”
Your second paragraph is particularly eloquent.
Thank you.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

LA Police Department officially apologized for Stonewall yesterday. Even they know it was wrong. LA Pride should have a booth with educational material for the younger gay people who never heard of Stonewall

AJay in LA
Guest
AJay in LA

IMHO – LA Pride in West Hollywood of the past few years at least – has never really been about the struggle of our community through the years and the celebration of the members of that community. It’s all about the MONEY …. nothing more, nothing less. That’s why they ignore history and skirt around it by offering a beer at the Stonewall Lounge. It’s why they fail to plan and execute a Pride plan that anticipates the crowds and makes accommodation for everyone, including those of limited income who cannot pay full price to enter. One only has to… Read more »

John Ryan
Guest
John Ryan

Join the discussion…totally agree with you. The corporate sponsors and outrageous prices have ruined WeHo Pride. Shameful.

weho adjacent
Guest
weho adjacent

Not surprised that Don didn’t even think to mention the Cooper’s Donuts riot that happened 10 YEARS before the Stonewall ~rebellion~.

Why don’t we celebrate the FIRST uprising against police among gay people and the fact that hit happened in Los Angeles?

https://www.out.com/today-gay-history/2015/5/31/today-gay-history-10-years-stonewall-there-was-coopers-donuts-riot

jjabely
Guest
jjabely

Thank you for this link. Very informative!

50th in 2020
Guest
50th in 2020

Because Judy Garland died in 1969, not 1959.

Alison Laurie
Guest
Alison Laurie

Who mentions the Constitution on the 4th of July? Bad analogy.

Wesley McDowell
Guest
Wesley McDowell

Uh.. he said Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Why mention that on July 4? Well maybe because it’s the reason we celebrate July 4th as Independence Day.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Plus ça change…