Monday, June 24, 2019

History of us

Friday, June 28 (Saturday NZ time) is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion that launched the modern LGBT+ liberation movement. Like all events in recent history, not everything we “know” is necessarily true, and for a very good reason: When historical events happen we seldom know it at the time, so we can’t be expected to record every detail.

The video above from The New York Times talks about the history of the Stonewall Rebellion correcting some myths, rebutting others, and, ultimately, arriving at the obvious reality: There’s a lot we’ll never know for sure, but what we do know about the events that night is based on several sources—just like long term history.

The video also correctly points out that the first gay rights organisation in the world, The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (German: Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK), was founded by Magnus Hirschfeld in May, 1897, in Berlin. The Nazis burned its library and shut it down in 1933.

What the video doesn’t say is that the oldest gay rights organisation in the USA, The Society for Human Rights, was founded in Chicago in 1924 by Henry Gerber, who learned about Hirschfeld’s work while serving in the occupying forces at the end of World War I. It only lasted a few months, ending after several of its members, including Gerber, were arrested.

The Mattachine Society was founded by Harry Hay in 1950. That was the movement that was the first gay activists group.

And all of that was before Stonewall—whatever that really was all about.

The video below looks at Stonewall through the eyes of LGBT+ seniors, and some of that they said directly contradicts what the first video said. Does that matter? I don’t think so, not really. Oral history is always fraught, of course, because people’s memories are imperfect.

When historical events happen we seldom know it at the time. But we can always remember the spirit—and how far we’ve come—and that’s what this week is all about.

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