The Stonewall Riots, 50 years past now. For those who only vaguely recall the phrase, the Stonewall Riots were four nights of riots in Greenwich Village following the raid on a bar “frequented by homosexuals” according to the New York Times.

The story has always been unclear and always will be due to how much time has passed and the poor documentation at the time.

Police raided the Stonewall Inn for the suspected sale of alcohol without a license.

Around 200 men were ejected due to this. Instead of going home, they remained outside on Christopher Street which is close to Sheridan Square. In an estimate of 45 minutes, the crowd grew by a couple more hundred people.

The New York Times article from June 29, 1969 states that it was only men involved, but the attendance of women has been supported by arrest records from the first night. Members of the crowd, which have been rumored to include Sylvia Rivera, eventually threw the first bottles which then sparked the riots.

13 people were arrested the first night and 2 were said to be severely beaten by police. 4 police officers were injured as well.

Homosexual sex was still punished at this time and would not be overturned until 1980.

The Stonewall Riots are said to be the start to the gay civil rights movement and in the last 50 years things have improved drastically due to early activists like the people at Stonewall that fought against police treatment and the targeting of gay people.

The gay community and allies have fought for years to reach a place that for the most part is accepting of sexuality minorities.

The US is only recently accepting of the LGBTQ+.

Sodomy was only legalized nationwide in 2003. The laws were hard to enforce, but still could be.

In 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same sex marriage in the US.  This monumental Supreme Court case has still drawn criticism and some people still refused to acknowledge gay marriage.

Kim Davis who was a county clerk for Rowan County in 2015 refused to issue a marriage license for a gay couple and was then jailed for it.

The targeting of gay people is still an issue. There are still cases of hate crimes committed against the LGBTQ+ community.  

Blaze Bernstein, 19, was stabbed more than 20 times by a former classmate, Samuel Woodward, 20, in a California park in what has been said to be a hate crime over Bernstein’s sexuality. According to Woodard, Bernstein had kissed him and he had pushed him away.

Cases such as these show that there is still progress that can be made for the gay community. There is still persecution and targeting of people of different sexuality. There are still people who force their religious views on others.

There are still people who refuse to acknowledge different sexualities like homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality and more.

Even if you are not LGBTQ+, you can still be an ally to the community. There are simple things that can be done to encourage people to change their minds or begin to.

Actually listen to people in the community. Talk to your  gay friends just like you would any straight friends. Listening is more important sometimes than expressing how much you just love gay people.

Listen to them whether they are coming out, talking about a significant other, or their experiences in life. Ask follow up questions and keep an open mind. If you do not understand something you can do research or ask someone respectfully.

Recognize that some people have more privilege than other and utilize it. Someone with more privilege is able to talk about issues that may be brushed aside when stated by someone less privileged. You can defend people who are different than you and respect their lifestyle even if you don’t understand.

Understand that not everyone is the same so don’t stereotype based on media representation or limited experiences.

Being a true ally means remaining an ally even if someone is not as nice as you think they should be.

Recognize that it is not about you. Support people even if they’re different because it is the right thing to do, not just for your own benefit.  

Gay people should not have to fear showing affection to their significant other in public.

Gay people should not have to justify their sexuality at every step.

A lot has changed in the 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, but things can still be done to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.