Boston Pride Discusses Stonewall 50 Years Later, What’s Changed and What to Expect for the Future

The rights that members of the LGBTQ community have gained since the Stonewall Riots fifty years ago are not lost on the current population celebrating pride this month in the US.

At least that was the message from a public forum hosted by Boston Pride in Faneuil Hall on June 3.

Dale Mitchell, who was living in New York City at the time of the riots at Stonewall Inn, said it was not surprising to see that the bar was raided by police the night the riots began.

“It tended to be very countercultural. It was the target of police,” said Mitchell, co-founder of the LGBT Aging Project for the private, nonprofit Ethos, which assists the elderly and disabled at home. “Notably when the police raided a bar everyone scattered …and what was really unusual that night is a crowd gathered. And in addition to the crowd gathering, the patrons rebelled and no one had ever seen anything like that before.”

Though the riots didn’t garner the attention of mainstream media they sparked a movement towards fighting for equal rights.

Amy Hoffman spoke about the Gay Community News in Boston and how the riots in New York City were mentioned in the paper.

Back when the paper was published in the 70s and 80s it had to be distributed in a plain brown envelope to hide the fact that it was a gay and lesbian newspaper and with that came many challenges.

“We would get complaints from people if the glue came unstuck,” Hoffman said. “They were afraid that they would be outed to their community.”

Hoffman explained that as a lesbian at the time she felt like the movement following the Stonewall Riots was more centered around gay men, more so around the nation than in Boston.

She credits Gay Community News as “a center for organizing” in those days.

“It always included lesbians and gay men and some transgender folks,” Hoffman said. “Lesbians have organized not only around queer issues but around the fact that we’re women; that we’ve always had to deal with both feminism and gay issues.”

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a former White House aid for the Obama administration and a Brookline native, spoke about intersectionality and the need for the LGBTQ movement to be more inclusive of transgender equality as well.

Freedman-Gurspan is the first openly trans-woman to work in both the White House and the House of Representatives.

Her hope is that the next generation of LGBTQ folks become leaders given the progress we’ve seen just in this past November.

“What we are seeing is LGBTQ folks, especially folks of color and especially woman are leading the charge,” she said of the progressive community. “We saw so many out lesbians winning mayorships of big cities, and that’s incredible and that’s the kind of hold that I believe is going to be the foundation of activism for the next generation.”  

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.