It’s 50 years since the Stonewall Riots, an event that took place on June 1969 when the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, a mafia-run bar that provided a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community during a time when same-sex marriages were still illegal in New York. It was one of the very few gay bars in NYC and a place for the community to socialise and truly be themselves. It was a space of inclusivity for those that were otherwise outcast.
The Riots sparked a movement for the LGBTQ+ community and marked the first step in a series of events that would pave the way for legal and social change. The anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is an opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community but it’s also important to remember that there is still so much to be done.
Brunei’s Leader’s recent plans to introduce stoning as a punishment for same-sex relationships shows how far we still have to go. In May this year it happened on our doorstep. As Melanie and Chris, two gay women, we’re attacked on their way home on a London bus for refusing to kiss. It hurts to know that attacks against LGBTQ+ people in London have nearly doubled since 2014.
Same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK in 2013, but couples are still reporting that they avoid physical affection when in public out of the fear of negative reactions. While the laws have developed, some social attitudes remain unchanged. Progress is being made, with, of course, equal rights to marriage, more prominent non-binary identities and the awareness of the variations of gender. Yet, we’re a long way from equality. It’s time to champion acceptance without exception. Growing up LGBTQ+ is still one of the most challenging experiences young people can face. The negative experiences as a result of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity undermine aspiration, reduce performance and limit the potential of young LGBTQ+ people. The Just Like Us organisation works to support LGBTQ+ students and young people to ensure we can all thrive in a diverse world.