50 Years on From Stonewall the Fight for LGBT+ Rights Goes On

28 06 19

A guest contribution from Mikhail Tumasov, The Russian LGBT Network

This week is 50 years since the Stonewall riots, the moment when a small group of people rebelled against the existing order and resisted the well-established traditions of New York society.

Since then, the LGBTIQ movement has achieved a lot and not just in the United States and Western Europe: the Prime Minister of Serbia is an open lesbian and Prides are held in Chisinau and Kiev, for example.

Issues currently on the LGBTIQ agenda include the inclusion of a third gender or changing “mother” and “father” to “parent one” and “parent two” on official documents, or campaigning to stop transgenderness being treated like a disease; issues which the participants of the 1969 riot may not have even considered at the time.

Right now in our world, one in which economic and political crisis and chaos reign, we often hear that now is an inappropriate time to deal with these issues of equality. Many also believe that the gains we have already made and the freedoms that have been won are safe forever and nothing can cancel or detract from them.

Yet this is a serious mistake. History shows us how easy it is to turn a person back into a slave. This is well illustrated by the history of the Jews in Europe. Or in Russia, where, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, many sincerely awaited the victory of the pop group t.A.T.u. at Eurovision only to now be experiencing a return of conservatives who dream of restoring the Soviet Union to its worst model.

Meanwhile in the West, we see the growth of radical right-wing forces, and unfortunately, some LGBTIQ people consider it acceptable to vote for representatives of these parties believing they will protect their rights. However, accepting that your rights and freedoms will be protected by discriminating against others is very dangerous.

This is clearly seen in the example of Russia. The current regime has long spread the myth that a global conspiracy of homosexuals is seeking to destroy the country and that LGBT people threaten national security. The official Russian media play with society, selectively showing reality, and sometimes even showing an absolute fake.

All this leads to the fact that even some Russian LGBTIQ people themselves believe that they lead an inappropriate “lifestyle”, and all human rights NGOs are foreign agents whose goal is to undermine the integrity and inviolability of the country.

All of this contributes to numerous crimes against people solely on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to internal monitoring, the life of one LGBTIQ person is endangered or blackmailed almost every day in Russia.

The worst persecution is the result of the actions of the Chechen authorities in relation to local LGBTIQ people and the indifferent inaction of the Russian federal authorities. No one could believe that at the beginning of the 21st century, in a country we call civilized, which gave the world Pushkin, Shostakovich, Chekhov and Tchaikovsky, we face gay hunting, conscious and consistent persecution of the LGBTIQ community, and the most terrible, cold-blooded murders.

Unfortunately, this trend is observed not only in Russia, but throughout the world, even in places where things seemed positive. We have read the articles about the growth in the number of crimes against LGBT+ people in England, France, the United States and other countries. Look also at the political and, accordingly, social changes that are occurring in Poland and Hungary, where the authorities are already trying to convince society that gay people are a threat not only to our own countries, but to all of Western civilization.

And here is the challenge for us — will we “sacrifice” our freedoms to the “false” guarantee of “security” that some leaders promise us? How was it in 1969? Will we be content with hanging out in gay clubs with our own people, or finding a sex partner on Grindr or Hornet, or is this a matter of our dignity, our ability to get out of them and walk along the streets?

Now there are Prides in many places, where we have fun and enjoy the rights and freedom we have achieved, but shouldn’t we challenge those who are willing to sacrifice these achievements, sometimes marching alongside us at these same Prides?

As well as the small group of people who are tired of enduring humiliation in a corrupt ghetto bar, drinking low-quality drinks from dirty glasses, each time fearing for themselves and for their loved one, it is possible that Prides could become an instrument for further struggles for freedom and not only for LGBTIQ people, but all those who still feel shame, fear and who still do not have equal access to the benefits of society.

Stonewall has long ceased to be just an event, it has long been a process within which we live. And what it teaches us is that if we want to be, and not to just exist, we do not need to wait for someone who will organize a new Stonewall for us. We need to stand up and firmly say, “Liberate the world!” And the people who can do this are reading this article now.

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