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My Journey to Stonewall

By Lawrence Pfeil Jr.

As we celebrate Stonewall Day, the President of the United States, Joseph Biden will be visiting the Stonewall National Monument, birthplace of the LGBTQ Community and the largest global civil right movement in history.

Fifty-five years ago, no one could have ever imagined that the place where pride began when they stood up and said, “enough!” would have a visitor’s center opening to tell their story.

 

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As we celebrate Pride this weekend and the story of our Community, I thought I would share again my personal experience and journey to Stonewall.  The following is part of a “double post” from Stonewall 50 in 2019.

“Stonewall Remembered: Fifty Years, Two Witnesses” 

 

The hours spent walking the streets around Stonewall the night of June 27th and early morning hours of the 28th 2019 were emotional, insightful, and overwhelming.  I hope my story connects with you and with history, our place in it together, and unites us in our future as a Community.

LJP

Reposted from June 28, 2019.

My Journey to Stonewall

It’s September 1996, I was a late bloomer and have only been out two years to myself and my friends all of whom said, “what took you so long?”  It never occurred to me at the time, but I had come out in 1994 during “Stonewall 25.”  Before moving to New York City in I came out to my mother who said, “I wish you never told me.”

Since coming out I’ve been fascinated with our Community’s history and never understood those of us who don’t know or care about its vibrant story and heritage.  I could not wait to see my first Pride March in the birthplace of the LGBT Community!

When I watched that March in June 1997, it was the last time.  I was so overwhelmed with pride and emotion I could no longer be a spectator; I had to march.  The following year as part of the LGBT Center’s unit, I marched across Christopher St in front of Stonewall.  The rush of empowerment, energy, and exhilaration was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  Being part of something bigger than yourself, connecting with the generations of people who paved the way, is an instant recharge for the spirit to fight on for another year.

It happens every time I march by Stonewall on the last Sunday in June.

The police raid prompting our founders to say “enough!” occurred around 1AM on June 28th so last night I decided to take a late-night trip and bear witness to a moment fifty years in the making.  Arriving in the Village before midnight (the synchronicity  of NYC’s first summer heatwave was not lost on me). I walked around Sheridan Square, Christopher St., Seventh Ave, retracing the steps protesters took around the block to Julius’s and then to Stonewall.

Along the way, I saw a man wearing a T-shirt saying, “BOOT EDGE EDGE.”  It is Stonewall 50 and an openly gay, married man is run for president of the United States.  In their wildest dreams, the men and women who fought back on these very streets 50 years ago could not have imagined it.

I almost started crying.

As I stood, in front of Stonewall watching people lined up to get in and take pictures in front of the neon sign, a group showed up with a banner reading, “Every Black Lesbian knows Stormé DeLarverie started the Stonewall Riots.”  There’s been a lot of talk recently about who started the riot, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.  While living in New York, I’ve attended events where two different notable gay men have said they were the one who pushed the cop off them when they were being arrested inside Stonewall.

Who started Stonewall will probably be a contentious subject forever, but I’d argue what really matters is this.  Stormé, Jerry, Marsha, Danny, Miss Major, David, Sylvia, Jeremiah, and hundreds of others didn’t just fight back that night; they came back again, and again, and again over four nights.

One fact, not in contention is some of the first protesters on the scene outside of Stonewall in the wee hours of June 28th began throwing pennies at the “coppers” who had raided the bar and begun hauling patrons out to waiting patty wagons.  Before leaving home last night, I pocketed a handful of pennies.  Just after midnight, I placed them on Stonewall’s windowsill in tribute to all the people courageous and tenacious people 50 years ago, whose names we know, names we’ve forgotten, and names we’ll never know.

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

 

Read our previous Pride Month 2024 posts:

“Proud Out Loud! – PRIDE 2024”
“Gilbert Baker’s Gift of Pride — The Rainbow Flag” 
“Make Your Voice Heard and Vote with Pride”
“Music of Pride – The Classics” 
“Amber Riley visits “MacArthur Park” for Pride: VIDEO”
“Pulse Massacre 8th Anniversary Remembrance”
“Lady Bunny is Fired Up for ‘Hot Troll Summer’ Shows”
“Podcast: Pro Wrestler Comes Out, Pride Month TV + More” 
“Music of Pride – Broadway” 
“Forty Tony Years of ‘La Cage aux Folles’”
“Docuseries Reveals How Disco Changed the World: Trailer” 
“Rejoice on Juneteenth with Alvin Ailey’s ‘Revelations’: VIDEO” 
“Show Your “True Colors” in ASL: VIDEOS” 
“Music of Pride – Divas & Legends 
“Alan Turing – Code Breaker and Father of Modern Computing/AI” 
“Stonewall National Monument Gets New Landmarks”
“‘Pride Across America’ a Streaming Celebration Returns Sunday” 
“Mancandy – Pride Edition”

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