On the 40th anniversary of Stonewall we were faced with what seems to be a rather questionable raid on a gay bar in Ft. Worth. The police say they were just answering complaints, others say it was just good-ole-boy homophobia. The details of the police raid keep coming out. One of the latest developments is that officers are now basically citing the tired old gay panic defense, saying that patrons hit on them, and therefore got what they deserved. Tragically one patron that was roughly thrown to the ground and had his head bashed against some concrete steps is still in ICU with brain injuries. This story won’t go away soon, coming on the Stonewall anniversary it’s going to become a test case for just how far we’ve come, or not, on gay rights.
Now Stonewall is about a lot of things, and sparked a whole civil rights movement. However, revolutions sometimes start with simple little things. Rosa Parks started a revolution cause she was just too damn tired from a long hard day of work to have to put up with any crap. Likewise the drag queens and street hustlers at Stonewall just wanted to be able to meet with friends, have some fun and have a few cocktails, they just got tired of being punching bags easy marks for the cops.
At it’s core though Stonewall was about the right to socialize and be around other gay people, or at some level just to get drunk in a gay bar. That may sound like a frivolous excuse, but it’s actually not a small thing. Gay bars for decades were very secretive back alley affairs, where patrons were always looking over their shoulders for the inevitable police raids. The whole routine only adding to the shame and prejudice they were already feeling. Gay bars after Stonewall would be rallying points and safe havens for gays and lesbians for decades to come, and even today serve those same functions. We've also been able to move on to political action groups, lobbying groups, social groups, even bowling leagues. Today, most people take gay bars for granted, but when you really think about it, it’s no small thing. We are able to meet with friends, socialize, meet new people – without the fear of the police coming in the door at any moment. You would think after 40 years we’d have gotten past the era of bar shake downs and raids targeting homosexuals. Apparently in Ft. Worth we aren’t there yet.
Above: here I am recently celebrating my right to get drunk in a gay bar. Lafitte’s on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, it was the Saints and Sinners literary festival. I was with a bunch of other writers and poets (poets are always trouble). As you can see I’m pretty smashed, when I’m smoking a cigar that’s always a bad sign. But I was with a bunch of friends, celebrating some new publications, enjoying meeting some new friends, and certainly able to walk home. At no time did I ever worry that the police might come in and twist-tie my wrists and throw me to the ground. Apparently some police officials in Texas would like to instill that fear back into some people.