By Rabbi Eliana Kayelle
Four years ago, I stood outside of Stonewall, the place where the movement for LGBTQ+ rights was ignited, and said to my best friend, “Promise me in fifty years, wherever we are, we’ll come back for the 100th anniversary.”
Growing up queer in New York, Greenwich Village was one of the holy places I always knew was part of my history. I longed for the day I could take the subway to this place I had read so much about. I wanted to stand where the changemakers stood and honor the history of my community.
The Stonewall uprising wasn’t the first moment of LGBTQ+ resistance, and it certainly wasn’t the last, but it was the turning point that galvanized a movement. Fifty-four years ago, police raided the Stonewall Inn and like Compton’s and Dewey’s before it, the community fought back. Led by drag queens, trans women of color, and butch lesbians, the Stonewall riots lasted six days and would spark a revolution. It led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade on the one year anniversary — ultimately becoming Pride as we know and celebrate it today.
Stonewall is not a relic of the past. Fifty-four years is not that long ago and it’s within the lifetime of many still currently fighting for the LGBTQ+ community.
And yet, a lot has progressed in the last few decades since Stonewall. There are more laws in place protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination and harassment. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. There are more proudly out elected officials and public figures than ever before.
Still, our community is under attack as the legislation targeting LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and nonbinary people, continues to rise. Over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been written and more than 70 have passed in 2023 alone. Trans folks are being barred from accessing life-saving medical care as well as access to safe educational spaces. “Don’t say gay” bills, disclosure requirements, obstacles for name and gender marker changes, and drag bans are being proposed and passed across the country. Trans women of color are still facing immeasurable violence. And, as we know from the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we can’t take anything for granted.
We must continue to push back against hate while we celebrate the beautiful and holy community we are.
If there is one thing that Stonewall has taught me, it’s that we can’t stop fighting for all of us. LGBTQ+ people are resilient. We are a community filled with joy and we aren’t afraid to loudly proclaim that we are here, from “out of the closets and into the streets” to “trans rights are human rights.” Our eternal flame burns brighter and stronger than ever. I for one am excited to be in this fight with you and to see LGBTQ+ people thriving for generations to come.
Stonewall was more than just a moment. As Ann Bausman wrote in her book Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights, “Stonewall happens every day.”
May we continue to live loudly, love boldly, and rise in resilience.