Courtney Boland - Berkshire Bank

Why Stonewall?

Courtney Boland, Berkshire Bank Ally

Courtney (L) with her Sister-in-law celebrating PRIDE.

Recently, our Berkshire Bank PRIDE Employee Resource Group shared some great facts about #PRIDE. One of those facts was the reason why it is celebrated in June. June was selected to commemorate the anniversary of New York’s Stonewall Riots, a seminal moment in LGBTQ history, that took place at the end of the month in 1969.

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. During this time in NYC, it was against the law for homosexuals to meet in public or in private businesses. Police raids happened often in the area, but this time was different. Patrons of the Stonewall, other Village lesbian and gay bars, and neighborhood street people fought back when the police became violent. The riots are widely considered to constitute one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and the twentieth-century fight for LGBT rights in the United States. Within weeks of the riots, LGBTQ organizations were being formed and on the first anniversary, the first Pride parade was held. Now, 52 years later we still reflect on the events of that day and how it has affected our history, this generation, and future generations to follow.

Even as an ally I think about how the Stonewall riots have changed my own life. Having close friends and family members who have come out to me, I know it all stems from those events. I grew up in a household where sexual orientation or the color of your skin never mattered. All that mattered was who you were as a person and how you treated others. I went to a Catholic school when I was young but was never taught that being gay was a sin, I was taught not to judge. Who am I to judge who you love? Love is love, right?

I remember my mom watching a movie when I was younger about AIDS called “And The Band Played On” and wondering what being gay meant. Then in high school, I became an active member in my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. From then on, I learned that being an ally was important. It meant that my LGBTQ friends had a safe place to come and talk, a safe place to come out, a place where they knew they wouldn’t be judged.

Since the riots, thousands of LGBTQ organizations, books, movies, magazines, TV shows, and so much more populate today’s culture. It almost seems normal to see something LGBTQ related in stores and in the media. Why is that? The riots have shown us that we just need to fight for what we truly want. Stand our ground, be brave, and fight. Civil rights don’t get handed to people. Women, people of color, the LGBT community, etc., they all had to fight to get basic human rights. I know in my heart that if I was to ever have a child that was LGBTQ, that child would feel comfortable in coming out to me and they shouldn’t have a problem coming out to the world. People are people, they bleed red as I do, they have the same feelings I do. Regardless of who they love, they are human beings and should be treated as such.

As we take stock of the history of the LGBTQ movement it is important to remember that there is still a long way to go, we still have to move toward a day when coming out is not a necessary proclamation and our culture and our communities are accepting and compassionate.

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