28th June 2019
A member of SafeLives staff writes on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots
It’s 50 years since a group of LGBT+ people stood up in protest of police raids at The Stonewall Inn, New York. The riots were led by trans women of colour, most notably Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. It’s important to remember them. Marsha went on to be a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and was a member of AIDS activist group ACT UP.
The Stonewall Riots were the catalyst for a Gay Rights Movement spanning decades, the legacy of which we see today at Pride events throughout the world. Pride continues the fight for the right to love.
I came out at 19 and exploded into my first same-sex relationships. It was wonderful. It felt like freedom. I was exploring everything. And at the same time, I started experiencing discrimination and hate crime because of who I was in love with. As a femme presenting queer woman, I also experienced this from the LGBT community. Don’t assume that misogyny is just the topic of men! I became well versed in defending my relationship – it became a sanctuary against a world which was often accepting but sometimes very hostile. And sometimes not ‘very’, but quietly and insidiously hostile; erasing and questioning my truth.
At 22, I had grieved my first love and I was in a relationship with a woman eight years my senior. It’s not a lot – unless you’re 22, and then it feels like a generation. This was not healthy. It was a relationship counsellor who cited it as domestic abuse for the first time, and I started the slow and difficult and totally non-linear process of extricating myself.
There were many barriers to me leaving that relationship, homophobia was most definitely one of them. I experienced homophobia in police responses and my interactions with healthcare.
Being LGBT+ can mean living on the fringes. Marginalisation is common, discrimination still happens and – at the scary end of that spectrum – abuse by the very public services who are meant to keep us safe. This is changing. I am so proud and pleased to see the steps we have taken in the 13 years since I came out. Every year, Pride gets bigger. Every year we see more organisations and businesses pledge their alligence to equalty. And we hear more and more stories of services serving the community well!
I am so proud to work for an organisation that is committed to ending homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and listening to the voices of all people impacted by domestic abuse. For every person who speaks out, we learn a little bit more. Fifty years ago Marsha P Johnson made a stand against discrimination and institutionalised homophobia, and since then we have won the right to marry, to serve openly in the army and have overturned Section 28. That is the power of voices.
If you're LGBT+ and experiencing domestic abuse, you can call the Galop helpline on 0800 999 5428