We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby: 1969 Article Shows What Gay Life Was Once Like

These days, if someone writes an offensive article full of stereotypes, misgendering of transgender people, or, even worse, if the piece is just downright hateful of the LGBTQ+ community at large, they get ripped a new one. Their businesses and publications are boycotted. They are harassed, attacked, and shamed all over social media. Everyone makes sure they know that what they had to say was bigoted, and thus unacceptable in modern civil society. That is how it should be. After all- the same thing happens with material that is blatantly racist, sexist, anti-semitic, or otherwise discriminatory. If we want to live in a civil society where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, this stuff has to be called out.

However, those of us in the LGBT community sometimes forget just how far we’ve come. Here lately, our rights have advanced at lightening speed. Marriage equality is now legal is now legal across the land, per the Supreme Court. People are out of the closet everywhere- at home, at work, and, let’s not forget the summers, where Pride parades reign supreme as the social events of the season.

Well, it wasn’t always like that. Thanks to PBS, we now have great reminder of what media coverage of LGBT people was like in 1969, around the time of the Stonewall Riots that originated at the New York City bar of the same name, an event largely credited with launching the modern gay rights movement as we know it.

In an article from July 6, 1969, printed in the New York Daily News and entitled Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad, author Jerry Lisker reminds us just how much we have to be thankful for. This article was addressing the police raids that regularly happened in gay bars and in neighborhoods largely populated by LGBT people. This time, though, as the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street was raided once more, the patrons of the now-historic gay establishment had finally had enough. They broke out in riots, and launched the beginnings of the gay rights movement as we know it today.

However, this article is not written in the way such an article would be written today. The headline alone should tell you that. Instead of the respect an article speaking about the bravery of the fight for equal rights should be treated with, Jerry Lisker had this to say about the patrons of Stonewall Inn:

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

This passage is just one example of the mockery, derision, and condescension with which journalists spoke of gay people during that era. An article like that would not be printed anywhere in any respectable publication that wishes to stay in business today, or written by any journalist who wishes to keep his or her job, or ever write again, for that matter (unless you count World Net Daily as a respectable publication, that is).

The point of this, my rainbow friends, is the fact that a lot has happened for us recently. We should never stop fighting. Ever. But, we should also never forget where we came from. We have more recognition and rights than those brave souls in the summer of 1969 would have ever dreamed of. They started it. We’ll finish it. We really have come a long way, baby. The finish line in this very long race is finally in sight.

Featured image via Flickr