Stonewall 50 years on

“The first Pride was a riot.”

So said many signs at Pride, Edinburgh last Saturday.

It’s 50 years today that a community, after much discrimination and harassment, finally said it had had enough. Yet another Police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, pushed its customers over the edge, with trans women of colour leading the fightback.

Pink News has the story of how Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera threw things at the Police, sparking 3 nights of rioting and the birth of a movement that has won rights for the LGBT community. Back then, you could be sacked for being gay, you couldn’t marry and you had no rights if your partner died or took ill. Imagine what it must have been like to have your partner dying in hospital but his or her family won’t let you anywhere near them and you have no power to stop them. That was the reality for far too many people.

If Stonewall happened today, it would be all over Twitter in seconds. There would be rolling news coverage. 28th June 1969 was my husband’s 18th birthday.  I asked him if he was aware of what was happening and he said it was years later, through music, that he first became aware of Stonewall.

The Stonewall riots led to the joyous, colourful Pride celebrations we have today when the LGBT community celebrates and looks to advance its rights. At the moment, it’s trying hard not to see rights rolled back as the toxic atmosphere over Gender Recognition Act reform frightens legislators.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the BBC reported this week about the surge in hate crimes against transgender people. And when I say surge, I’m talking an 81% rise. We can’t stand by and see that happen.

Both our leadership candidates have been very vocal in calling out transphobia and supporting Gender Recognition Act Reform and you get the feeling from both of them that this is important to them.

I was slightly reassured this week by the remarks of the Scottish Cabinet Secretary responsible for the legislation. Two days before Pride Edinburgh, she had announced that she was slowing down the process and that there would be a further consultation. While it’s frustrating, at least she told the Equality Network reception in the Parliament on Tuesday night that she was committed to the reform. Importantly, she stated that trans men were men, trans women were women and that non binary people exist.

Today is about paying tribute, though, to all those who have gone before. People like my friend Gregan Crawford who was one of the group of people who ran gay discos in Scotland. Bernard Greaves, who was the first openly gay man to hold office in a political party and who persuaded the Liberal Party to campaign for gay rights. He talked about this in an interview for the LGBT Centre in Leicester he helped to create:

The important thing to realise is that although the world has changed for LGBT+ people, there is a range of needs that a Centre like this one needs to address. The change in the law with near equality, the same-sex marriage and the beginning of rights for trans people lead people to think that all the problems are solved and they are not. For young people growing up coming to realise they are gay, for a lot of people, in particular people from disadvantaged backgrounds, is very difficult. And it is even more difficult for trans people, and what’s happening with trans people is what happened to gay people in the seventies, as they become visible, the transphobia becomes visible too. What’s also happening is social attitudes on trans issues are changing as well, part of the role of the Centre is to promote that change. And the other thing about the Centre is that if you look across the UK, this place is pretty unique. Centres like this ought to exist everywhere because the need is everywhere and the need is not met.

For all the changes in society today, most people are brought up with the expectation that they are going to be straight in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. Coming to terms with the fact that you’re not like that, is difficult for everybody and the harder step is to identify yourself and meet other people who share that identity.

Half a century on, but, as Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton reminded that Equality Network Reception on Tuesday, the price of equality is eternal vigilance. Those who want to go backwards are on the up at the moment. We must keep making the calm and reasonable case for rights. That is tiring and frustrating but we will do it and we will win.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • And with every timing, up pops Putin today to say that liberalism is dead!

  • *eery. Not every, as above …

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun '19 - 1:32pm

    Caron as ever gives a fine account of a very significant issue with a valuable cause.

    The reference to your husband though, does not take into account that era in its general attitude to homosexuality, in this country, even sexuality at large, which was either to be repelled or bothered by it.

    Your husband was admirable in that, being of the age of the progressives, the hippies, the movers of the zeitgeist, he later on related to it all. Many didn’t and why should they have in a society that was steeped in bigotry.

    The black American had endured suffering like no other there, yet still, civil rights had barely been achieved. Women, full half the population, only just being considered equals , not even fully at work, or in politics.

    The gay movement in the US and UK, led this compared to European countries more widely. Divorce only available in more recent years in many, women only achieved the ability to be able to vote in France, in 1945!!!

    I have memories as someone growing up in the seventies, eighties, of the change. I am watching the original Dynasty, loved it as an early teenager, love it yet. It was the first show to deal with being gay, even though it does it by making the main gay character actually bi, and get married and “settle down,” it does do much to make it seem as though people varieties of types, are equal. Reagan, president then, criticised for a slow and poor response to AIDS, was no homophobe. Friends with many gay actors like Rock Hudson, and Reagan’s son Ronald Regan jr. is gay, it was that President , who in fact in his California years, tale end of his being Governor, was staunch, much earlier, in condemning and stopping a proposition in California, to bar gay people, mainly men, from being teachers. Log Cabin Republicans, the LGBT movement in their party structure, started inspired by his stance. But the prejudice of most then, in his circle, was obvious, as in most countries.

    I remember when Ian Mckellan came out on television, his one man show performed for AIDS, funds, charities. I saw him on stage with his cohort in the movement that they helped found here, Stonewall, Michael Cashman. Lord Cashman is now voting Liberal Democrat. A fine man, we should engage with and a fine movement also .

  • OnceALibDem 29th Jun '19 - 3:53pm

    I’ve absolutely no doubt there is little more than a cigarette paper between the two leadership candidates on being opposed to transphobia.

    But whilst I’ve seen two very strong statements on that from Ed (one on his mumsnet chat and one here on twitter –

    I’ve not seen anything as strong as that from Jo – now that may be down to me having missed it. But if I have missed it that in itself is indicative of how a candidate is communicating.

    I rejoined to have a say and was leaning Jo-wards when I did. But Ed is running a much more impressive campaign and is much much stronger, and communicating better from what I see. In a campaign which is a choice between two pretty decent, likeable candidates with strong records that is for me starting to be the real difference.

  • OnceALibDem 7th Jul '19 - 10:57am

    To be fair to Jo (and confirming what I said above there there is really no significant difference between them in substance) this was her piece in Pink News.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Caron LindsayCaron Lindsay
    I think there is a genuine principle about keeping perpetrators of sexual violence, whoever they are, completely away from those upon whom they have a record of...
  • Merlene Emerson
    Thanks Yeow for your blog which came after another by freelance writer, Yue He Parkinson
  • Mel Borthwaite
    Male prisoners who have been convicted a raping another male are jailed in men’s prisons. Female prisoners who have raped another female are jailed in women...
  • Ian Miles
    Hear hear, Graham! I joined LDs in 2016 (then living in Oxon) & am proud to have done my bit as a footslogger for the excellent Layla Moran. But as Britain ...
  • George Thomas
    To be fair to the Brexit idea, it might still have been a success (or at least not as bad) if someone else had been in charge and worldwide circumstances hadn't...