50 years since Stonewall. Half a century of LGBTI struggles

June 28 is the 50th anniversary of the historical rebellion of the LGBTI community of New York, that confronted the police and made it back down. Since then, the movement has conquered democratic rights with mobilizations in a great part of the world. The current situation and challenges.

The bar Stonewall Inn still exists in Greenwich Village, the gay neighbourhood of Manhattan. In those times it was frequented by trans people, drag-queens, gays and taxi boys. The police harassed them and frequently carried out roundups, until the early morning of June 28th, when the people got fed up. With the trans women in the front, they rebelled and hundreds joined them screaming “gay power”. The clashes on the streets lasted several days and finally the police had to back down. Since then, the LGBTI movement organised, grew and spread across the United States and almost the entire world. The following year, a mobilization inaugurated the Pride Parades, which combine a celebration of our triumphs with the struggle for our pending demands.

From Stonewall onwards, the advance of sexual diversity rights are undeniable. According to the last annual report of the ILGA (1), the countries that, under different legal forms, persecute and punish sexual and gender dissidence went from 138 in 1969 to 70 today: half. Among those countries are the most populous, China and India. In half a century, the LGBTI people of the world susceptible to being criminalized lowered from 74% to 27%.

Despite this global advance, in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia or Iran, male homosexuality (between adults and consented) can be punished with the death penalty, according to fundamentalist versions of Islamic law (Sharia). This also happens in Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Mauritania and Pakistan. Dozens of other countries punish male and female homosexuality with imprisonment.

At the same time, even in the countries where there are juridical advances, real life presents many problems. For example, here in Argentina, where we have conquered vanguard laws with collective struggle, like the Equal Marriage Act (2010) and the Gender Identity Act (2012), every week brings news about a beating of a gay person, discrimination against a lesbian couple or even worse, a travesticide (2).

The current system here and in the rest of world is still patriarchal and capitalist, which are two sides of the same coin. The exploitation of the working class compounds with the gender-based oppression of women and sexual dissidence (3). The capitalists benefit from oppression through the unpaid domestic labour of women and that is why every institution sustains that power inequality, a permanent source of stereotypes and misogynistic violence. One of those institutions, financed by the Argentine State, is the Apostolic Roman Catholic Church: its anti-rights role is similar to that played by sharia.

“Male and female He created them”

With that medieval title, a document of the Vatican Congregation for the Catholic Education was published a few days ago. It talks about “respecting everyone” and says that “society is in debt with women” (big news), but its main theme is an attack against so-called “gender ideology” because, according to them, it “denies the natural difference and reciprocity of man and woman”.

The barbarian text says: “The cultural climate of our times has recently contributed to deconstructing the family, with a tendency toward eliminating the differences between man and woman, considered as simple effects of historical and cultural conditioning”.

The Pope and the Church once again deny that gender is a social construction (and deconstruction) and reaffirm the heteronormative binary family model that is so functional to the capitalist system. While they condemn sexual dissidence, integral sex education, contraception, legal abortion and other rights, they hypocritically continue to cover for their paedophile priests, like in the Provolo Institute, where they sexually abused deaf children.

Assimilation versus revolution

As in other social movements, if they cannot defeat them, the capitalist system and its governments try to divert and assimilate every progressive social-political phenomena in order to neutralise its questioning of the system. They do so with feminism, human rights or environmentalism.

This way, supported by the upper class sectors of the community, they co-opt some referents and apply gay-friendly policies to hide the persistence of patriarchal oppression. Another great example of pink-washing is that of the State of Israel, which promotes its tolerance of LGBT people across the world to hide its historical and violent oppression of the Arab people in general and Palestinians in particular.

On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, the New York police has just “apologised” for its repressive action half a century ago, the mayor organises official parades sponsored by private companies and even the homophobic and misogynistic dinosaur Donald Trump “celebrates” the extraordinary contribution of the LGBT community.

We do not want to adapt to this system nor are we satisfied with its reforms. We fight for a real and total sexual and gender liberation, which will only be possible when the working class defeats the capitalist and patriarchal system in revolution, replacing it with the construction of an equalitarian liberation, free from exploitation and oppression: socialism.

Pablo Vasco

1. International Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans e Intersex People. State Homophobia 2019.

2. For example, a year ago, a unitary fight achieved the Justice recognition of the murder of Diana Sacayan as travesticide. A few days ago, in Rio Gallegos, we achieved the change of charges to aggravated homicide due to gender identity hate in the murder of Marcela Chocobar.

3. Sometimes other oppressions coexist, as imperialism or racism.