This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. “In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world...,” according to History.
I have come to view this moment as a reclaiming of a shared narrative of self-respect and self-love. For too long, these individuals had gathered in secret as they were otherwise harassed and belittled. They found safe spaces, such as The Stonewall Inn, where they could come and be themselves openly with people like themselves. On June 28, 1969, they had simply had enough and when the bar was raided — yet again — someone picked up a brick, threw it and our LGBTQ movement began.
They fought back that night to proclaim themselves worthy. To declare their rights were human rights. To proclaim that being lesbian, gay or trans is not an illness or wrong, but simply who they were. Who we are.
That first brick was about shattering a narrative that had been forced on them. That brick laid the foundation for a new reality, and they began marching out of the closets and shadows that had contained them for too long.
Their new narrative took hold, spread and changed the world. Fifty years later, my LGBTQ family and I are fortunate these brave souls came before us and paved the way, one brick at a time.
But the story is far from over.
Today, same-sex couples can legally marry in 26 of the United Nations member states, and while that represents amazing progress, it is critical we acknowledge that in seven UN member states you can be put to death for engaging in same-sex sexual relations. In 63 other member states you can be sent to prison for a decade or more for same-sex relations.
Last week marked the beginning of the biggest LGBTQ Pride celebration in history. So many of us are fortunate to live out and proud in communities that accept us for who we are. Here at Edelman, we work for a company committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for all employees. I am proud that we offer numerous employee networks or diverse members of our community and their allies, including Edelman Equal for LGBTQ inclusivity.
Stigmatization and disenfranchisement have been diminished, but they remain a reality for too many people. In all areas of the world, our LGBTQ family is persecuted – every day.
Members of the LGBTQ community and allies, we cannot stay silent. We must continue to raise our voices in pride — and outrage. We have the responsibility to push employers to do more to support equality in the communities where they operate we must encourage all companies to value the human and equal rights of LGBTQ people over profit. We must elevate brands and companies who support the equality of all people. We must vote at cash registers as well as the ballot box and we must make decisions that demonstrate our individual commitment to equality for all.
Today’s bricks are our dollars, our votes and our actions. In the transformative spirit of Stonewall, let’s consider our bricks to be the stepping stones that will pave the way for those who continue to be treated as less than equal, for those who continue to be persecuted, and for those who do not enjoy the progress we increasingly take for granted.
Ben Boyd is Chief Client Strategy Officer.