What’s important is how hard we had to fight to get where we are now. There was fighting on Christopher Street very early—from one A.M. to about four A.M.—on Saturday morning, June 28, 1969. And then again that night, and then light skirmishes Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. On Wednesday night the Village Voice published a couple of homophobic articles about the first night’s riotings. Gay men and women were out on the street, fighting the cops again.
Up to the moment of the riots on Christopher Street, what seemed to have defined gay men and women was that terrible things were said about us and we never fought back. We never answered the terrible things that were being said about us. We allowed a whole range of psychiatric treatments on ourselves, and that included torture, and we almost never said, “Stop.”There were individual voices. Walt Whitman was one, and Gore Vidal was one, and Allen Ginsberg, particularly in Howl, was one. There were a few small organizations, such as the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society. But what is clear now, looking back, is that there was nobody speaking for our community.
And then, starting with Stonewall, we fought back. We got into the street, we jumped on the backs of cops, we threw bricks and paving stones. The men and women on the street seem to have all worked together, even without a leader. Within a month, the Gay Liberation Front was formed, which was big enough and strong enough, and it attracted enough participants to be able to speak for gay New York. Six months later, the Gay Activist Alliance was formed which began solidifying the power of the gay community. Within a year, both the Village Voice and the New York Times came around to treating the gay movement seriously and respectfully. Later, the GLF and the GAA led the drive to force the American Psychology Association and the American Psychiatric Association to change their diagnostic manuals by removing the definition of homosexuality as a mental disorder.These changes were not the result of gentle persuasion. They were the result of the gay community having made of itself a power to be reckoned with. On Sunday, Allen Ginsberg went into the wrecked Stonewall Inn. He was quoted in the Village Voice in the article by Lucian Truscott IV saying, “The guys there were so beautiful—they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had ten years ago.” What had happened? How had they lost the “wounded look” they had ten years ago? They fought back.