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Milestones in Gay History

In the past 50 years—particularly after the Stonewall riots—social, political, and cultural changes have improved the standing of LGBT people. Watch

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Stonewall Riots

LGBT Leaders Age 50+: What Does Stonewall Mean to You?

"The younger generation should know about Stonewall so that they will realize it is possible to make change. It is possible to overcome entrenched, institutionalized prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry. And that they can live full equal lives."Frank Kameny, founding father of the modern gay-rights movement

"Stonewall flourished because of the hard work of the civil rights movement, student uprisings around the country and the world, the anti-war movement, and the second wave of feminism. The late 1960s was a time for people to demand their rights, not hope that the courts or the legislatures would graciously provide them if we waited patiently for another century."Karla Jay, first woman chair of the Gay Liberation Front in New York City, Distinguished Professor, English and Women's and Gender Studies, Pace University, and the author of several books, including the memoir, "Tales of the Lavender Menace," which recounts those early years of the post-Stonewall movement

"Before Stonewall, you took your life into your hands when you tried to be openly gay. Whenever we celebrate pride, a component of that pride should be that we are proud of our history and struggle and [that we] fought back against oppression and managed to have lives under that difficulty."–Martin Duberman, author of "Stonewall"

"It’s very symbolic that the two entry doors to the Stonewall bar were always closed, with just a peephole to allow entry. We were trapped inside. That night when the police came in for the raid, the people inside rebelled and busted the doors down. There was such a feeling of freedom from that. We were out in the open, and we weren’t going back in."Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, participant in the Stonewall riots

"Stonewall is the beginning of a true movement where we said, ‘I will not let you harass, beat, and arrest me just because you don’t like me.’ Of the big things that happened in 1969, such as the moon landing, Stonewall is remembered. It could have been forgotten. Instead, it inspired generations."Sabrina Sojourner, author, LGBT advocate, and the first openly lesbian African-American to hold the title of U.S. Representative (from Washington, D.C.)

"The area around Stonewall was the only gay ghetto in the country at the time. It was sort of like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. He knew it like the back of his hand. Whereas the riot police were coming in from Queens and Staten Island [and] didn’t know it that well. The irregular layouts of the streets made it hard for the police to contain the crowds, but easy for the crowds to break out."Martin Boyce, participant in the Stonewall riots

"Building community, and a community center, was on the minds of LGBT folks immediately after the Stonewall riots. Marking the Stonewall anniversary is a way for older LGBTs to remember that this is our story, our history. It’s important for us to speak up about the issues that impact us now."Robert Woodworth, Director of Meeting & Conference Services and Capital Projects for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Center in New York City, one of the community initiatives developed in the wake of the Stonewall riots

"When I came out, there were no role models. I didn’t know where to go. I was depressed. Today, people who aren’t out have options. Forty years ago, we were fighting to go to a bar and not get arrested. Now we’re fighting for marriage. After we get married, we’ll be fighting with our spouses to be able to go out to a bar, just like every married person does."Michele Balan, comedian and finalist on "Last Comic Standing"

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