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Year 10 History and Politics pupils discuss issues around Black Lives Matter, June 2020.
‘Stonewall and Black Lives Matter’ by Eleanor

This month marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Every June, we remember the bravery of LGBTQ people who protested against the violence of the police. The riots were a watershed moment in the movement, sparking protest across the United States.

In the 1960s, homosexuality was illegal in 49 states of America.  Gay people were often imprisoned and targeted for their sexuality or gender identity. The Stonewall Inn was a safe place where gay people could be themselves. The police regularly raided gay bars, arresting individuals for ‘crimes’ such as non gender appropriate clothing! Outside the bar people in their hundreds began rioting. The riots continued until July 1st 1969.

Although the riots were violent at times, the police were brutal and the riots sparked the creation of the Gay Liberation Front and the first gay pride event in 1970. Today, Pride events are still held all over the world. In 2016, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn a national monument. Through the Stonewall riots the gay movement gained visibility and a momentum that continues to this day.

At the forefront of the Stonewall movement was Marsha P Johnson, a black, American gay liberation activist and self identified drag queen. Despite being far from saintly himself, Johnson faced terrible discrimination. He was arrested over 100 times.

Current events sparked by the killing of George Floyd in America remind us of the ongoing issue of racism. To this day black and minority ethnic LGBTQ people continue to face particular discrimination. Two influential people who have overcome racism and homophobia are RuPaul Charles and Laverne Cox.

RuPaul is a gay drag queen and artist. He has enabled the normalisation of drag culture and has paved the way as the first openly gay television host of an American TV Show. RuPaul openly supports good causes such as registering to vote and AIDS awareness. His message is self-love and tolerance: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?”

Laverne Cox is an American actress and LGBTQ advocate. She was the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an EMMY award and to appear on the cover of TIME magazine. When she was younger, Cox was terribly bullied for not ‘acting the way men should act.’ Her impact and prominence in the media has led to a growing conversation about transgender culture.

These individuals, and hundreds like them, remind us of the importance of acceptance and tolerance. The world is a diverse and beautiful place where everyone should be accepted, no matter what.

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