Pride and Pain: 11 Quotes For Stonewall Season

Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera (right) at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay Pride Parade, New York City, June 24, 1973. Photo credit: Leonard Fink, via LGBT Community Center National History Archive.

Editor's Note:

Who doesn’t love a good quote? For more like this, check out our quotations archive.

The 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising was not the first moment of American LGBTQ resistance, but what made Stonewall different was the size, duration, and public visibility of the rebellion. On the anniversary of the event the following year, the tradition of the Pride celebration was born, with parades and demonstrations occurring in cities around the world.

Decades after the uprising, Pride events draw corporate sponsorships and become huge moneymakers due to the “pinkwashing” of everyday goods from apparel to fast food, dampening the rebellious spirit of these occasions and raising questions within the LGBTQ world about who controls the quest for liberation, and whose interests are more likely to be represented in that quest (poverty is still a tremendous issue faced by those in the community, as discrimination based on gender, race, and other factors keeps many from thriving).

Due to threats posed to civil rights by the Trump administration – which, for the second year in a row, did not acknowledge June as Pride month, going out of its way to mark “Great Outdoors Month” and other observances instead – this year’s gatherings are more necessary than ever. So is that spirit of resistance against the crude weapons wielded against those who came into the world with slightly different needs: violence, oppression, and widespread indifference in the face of our cries for help.

May the following quotes, gathered from before, during, and after the Stonewall uprising, remind everyone of our urgent need for that help – and also of our power to help ourselves when no assistance appears to be forthcoming.

Ann Bausum, Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights, 2015
“A dance floor dominated the room, driven by a jukebox stocked with pop tunes. Ten cents bought one song; a quarter paid for three. Dancers weaved in and out of spotlight beams, performing for the crowd. Men danced with men, often for the first time in their lives.”

Donn Teal, The Gay Militants, 1971
“The call of a liberation movement appealed, in summer 1969 as it still does, to a variety of young or young-minded American homosexuals whose sole common denominator was impatience. They had shed, or were shedding, all vestiges of homosexual shame, wanted to live in the light. They were ready for a confrontation with anybody who might challenge or even delay their right to do so.”

Edmund White, as quoted in Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, 2004
“Everyone’s restless, angry, and high-spirited. No one has a slogan, no one even has an attitude, but something’s brewing.”

Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle, 1973
“Well, we’re just All-American queers.”

David France, How to Survive A Plague, 2016
“Before the Stonewall Riots, homosexuals were an ‘unacknowledged minority…without a spokesman, without a leader, without a publication, without a philosophy of life, without a justification for its own existence,’ as a 1951 bestseller put it.”

Frank Kameny, as quoted in Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, 2004
“By the time of Stonewall we had fifty to sixty gay groups in the country. A year later there was at least 1,500. By two years later, to the extent that a count could be made, it was 2,500.”

Ann Bannon, Beebo Brinker, 1962
“It’s not wrong, pal,” he said to her back. “You’ve been brought up to think so. Most of us have. But who are they hurting? Nobody. They’re just making each other happy. And you want their heads to roll because it makes you feel funny.”

Andrew Holleran, Dancer from the Dance, 1978
“Now of all the bonds between homosexual friends, none was greater than that between friends who danced together. The friend you danced with, when you had no lover, was the most important person in your life; and for people who went without lovers for years, that was all they had.”

Martin Duberman, Stonewall, 1993
“Before the police finally succeeded in clearing the streets—for that evening only, it would turn out—a considerable amount of blood had been shed. Among the undetermined number of people injured was Sylvia’s friend Ivan Valentin; hit in the knee by a policeman’s billy club, he had ten stitches taken at St. Vincent’s Hospital. A teenager named Lenny had his hand slammed in a car door and lost two fingers. Four big cops beat up a young queen so badly—there is evidence that the cops singled out ‘feminine boys’ – that she bled simultaneously from her mouth, nose, and ears.”

Ann Bausum, Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights, 2015
“The spirit that emerged outside a Mafia-run bar in 1969 became the pulse of the gay community and inspired not just an annual parade but ways to express gay pride in individual lives. Stonewall happens every day.”

Barack Obama, inaugural address, 2013
“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”