Uprising and Identity: A Jewish Exploration of LGBTQ Pride

What are the origins of LGBTQ Pride Month and the pride parade? How does the Jewish community address the concept of “pride?” When have uprisings helped shaped LGBTQ and Jewish communal identity? This interactive, discussion-driven workshop written by Maya Brodkey will address these questions and more.

August 20, 2019

What are the origins of LGBTQ Pride Month and the pride parade? How does the Jewish community address the concept of “pride?” When have uprisings helped shaped LGBTQ and Jewish communal identity? This interactive, discussion-driven workshop will address these questions and more.

Event Objectives:

  • Participants will gain an understanding of the origins of LGBTQ Pride Month
  • Participants will use a Jewish lens to explore how oppression and uprising shapes identity

Participants: 10-30

Time needed: 6075 minutes

Event Outline:

  • 5 minutes: Facilitator gives a brief overview of the state of LGBTQ life pre-Stonewall, and will provide introduction to Stonewall riots.
  • 20 minutes: Clip from Stonewall Uprising (from 60:20-78:40).
  • 5 minutes: Facilitator will provide info about the birth of LGBTQ Pride Month and Pride parades.
  • Introduce discussion questions.
  • 15 minutes: Break into small groups.
  • 15 minutes: Return to large group, share out.
  • 10 minutes: Discuss contemporary uprisings (optional).
  • 5 minutes: Q&A and closing.

Materials Needed:

 

Introduction:

Oppression and uprising are often key factors in shaping identity. This plays out across identity groups: race, religion, sexuality, class, etc. LGBTQ Pride month is a great example of this: there are also ample examples in Jewish history. Over the next hour, we’ll explore the origins of LGBTQ Pride through a Jewish lens.

Small Group Discussion Questions:

  • What are narratives in our community about Pride (as LGBTQ people, as Jews, or in other ways)?
  • What are notable uprisings in Jewish history (the Hanukkah story, Purim, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising)?
  • How have uprisings shaped narratives around LGBTQ and/or Jewish history and identity?
  • What are analogous contemporary social movements? How are these examples of pride in action?

Large Group Discussion Questions:

  • Have groups share out on each question.
  • Draw connections to contemporary movements (e.g., #blacklivesmatter).

Closing Framing:

The Stonewall Uprising sparked a movement that was decades in the making. While LGBTQ Pride is celebrated yearly in June, the work for equal rights and inclusion carries on year-round.

 

Facilitator Background Information:

Setting the Stage: What led to the Stonewall Riots?

Most people know about the annual LGBTQ Pride Parades that take place in many towns and cities around the world. Less well-known are the origins of these parades. They have their roots in several nights of uprising that took place in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan beginning on June 28th, 1969.

Nationally, LGBTQ people had almost no protection under the law. Homosexual acts were illegal in every state but Illinois; LGBTQ people were often imprisoned (in prisons and mental institutions); LGBTQ people couldn’t hold almost any job that required a certification or license, or any government job; vagrancy and public nuisance laws prevented LGBTQ people from gathering in groups. One of the few places LGBTQ people could gather to be social were bars, and even those were raided with regularity by law enforcement.

The Stonewall Inn was a mafia-run gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village that catered to the LGBTQ crowd, and tended to attract visibly queer patrons: drag queens and transwomen, hustlers and prostitutes, gender non-conforming gay men and women, etc. Due to the New York’s upcoming mayoral election (of 1969), the incumbent mayor ordered a crackdown on “vice,” including gay bars. At the same time, a number of social movements were sweeping the country: Civil Rights, the anti-Vietnam movement, the Summer of Love, etc. LGBTQ people had been involved in all of those.

On June 28, 1969, a police vice squad attempted to raid the Stonewall Inn (which had just been raided the previous week). As the police attempted to drag patrons into waiting paddy wagons, the crowd outside the bar began to react. It’s rumored that a transwoman threw her high-heeled shoe at an officer, which acted a catalyst for further agitation. The police wound up retreating into the bar, barricading the doors until reinforcements could arrive. That’s where the clip we’ll be watching from “The Stonewall Uprising” picks up – we’ll let it speak for itself as to what happened next.

How did the Stonewall Riots birth the modern Pride parades?

The Stonewall riots occurred on June 28, 1969. The following year, to mark the one-year anniversary of the riots, community members organized the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which took place on June 28, 1970. Hundreds of LGBTQ folks marched from Greenwich Village to Central Park. There were simultaneous marches in LA and Chicago, and the following year, even more cities participated. The original marches were radical in character, celebrating the Stonewall Uprising and promoting further LGBTQ activism. They created visibility for LGBTQ people in a very hostile environment. On the East Coast, the parades came to be called “Gay Liberation Marches;” on the West Coast, they evolved as “Gay Freedom Marches.” In the 80s and 90s, the marches began to take on the name “Gay Pride Parades,” and shifted focus slightly to visibility and celebration, rather than the previous heavy focus on activism. However, the spirit of Stonewall lives on in today’s parades, notably in their date: most major Pride celebrations take place toward the end of June, and celebrate LGBTQ spaces and life.

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