THE BIG BANG IN PINK

Who was Chris­to­pher Street? And what is Sto­ne­wall? An ex­cur­si­on into the his­to­ry of CSD

Gay Friendly Germany - - History - Kay

The ab­bre­via­ti­on CSD stands for Chris­to­pher Street Day, and doe­sn’t re­fe­rence Chris­to­pher Street (a per­son), ins­tead re­fers to a street – whe­r­e­by Wi­ki­pe­dia tells us that in 1799 the street was na­med af­ter Charles Chris­to­pher Amos, the man who ac­qui­red the land sur­roun­ding it. Chris­to­pher Street is lo­ca­ted on the is­land of Man­hat­tan in New York Ci­ty, spe­ci­fi­cal­ly in west Gre­en­wich Vil­la­ge, the tra­di­tio­nal neigh­bourhood for gays and les­bi­ans, drag queens and trans­se­xu­als, not to men­ti­on il­le­gal street pro­sti­tu­ti­on, which flou­ris­hed the­re in the 1960s. Hea­ding west the street leads to the docks on the Hud­son Ri­ver, a po­pu­lar mee­ting place for quick, an­ony­mous sex bet­ween men – for pro­fit or just plea­su­re – in the dark nooks and cran­nies bet­ween lor­ries, loa­ding plat­forms and in­dus­tri­al buil­dings in the 1960s and 70s. Un­sur­pri­sin­gly, the bars in this part of town we­re ty­pi­cal­ly neit­her chic nor gla­mo­rous, es­pe­cial­ly sin­ce ma­ny we­re al­so con­trol­led by the Ma­fia. One of the­se sha­dy jo­ints was the Sto­ne­wall Inn. And cer­tain­ly no one would ha­ve sus­pec­ted that it would be ex­act­ly this shab­by bar whe­re his­to­ry would soon be ma­de. And on the night of Fri­day, Ju­ne 27, as it tur­ned to Sa­tur­day, Ju­ne 28, 1969, around 1:20 a.m., the­re must ha­ve be­en so­me­thing elec­tri­fy­ing in the air: the­re was a per­fect­ly or­di­na­ry, al­ways un­plea­sant and bru­tal po­li­ce raid on the bar. Of­fi­cers took down the na­mes and ad­dres­ses of the gu­ests, and ar­rested tho­se wea­ring mo­re than th­ree pie­ces of clo­thing be­long to the *op­po­si­te sex.* On this eve­ning, howe­ver, the re­gu­lar pa­trons at the Sto­ne­wall Inn fought back against the po­li­ce, initi­al­ly with abu­si­ve lan­gua­ge and the thro­wing of beer bott­les. The com­ple­te­ly sur­pri­sed and se­rious­ly out­num­be­red po­li­ce­men re­trea­ted into the Sto­ne­wall Inn and bar­ri­ca­ded them­sel­ves in the bar. The in­cen­s­ed crowd rio­ting outs­ide in front of the bar soon built bar­ri­ca­des on the street and we­re ven­ting ye­ars of pent-up an­ger for the first time. Mo­re drag queens, pro­sti­tu­tes, gays, les­bi­ans and trans­se­xu­als soon joi­ned the spon­ta­neous pro­test from the sur­roun­ding area, and this street batt­le ra­ged for th­ree days. It was any­thing but a mi­nor, pe­ace­ful pro­test of just a few an­noy­ed ho­mo­se­xu­als. The news of this event set into mo­ti­on the foun­ding of the mo­dern les­bi­an and gay rights mo­ve­ment in the Uni­ted Sta­tes, and in the sum­mer of 1970 the­re was a “Chris­to­pher Street Li­be­ra­ti­on Day” march in New York Ci­ty and ma­ny other *gay li­be­ra­ti­on* pa­ra­des across the coun­try in ma­jor ci­ties. This pheno­me­non cros­sed the At­lan­tic and re­ached Ger­ma­ny ten ye­ars la­ter, whe­re the first de­mons­tra­ti­on of this ty­pe took place in Ber­lin in 1979. The event was al­so na­med af­ter the street whe­re it all star­ted: Chris­to­pher Street Day. The term isn’t ne­ces­sa­ri­ly un­ders­tood around the world as it is used in Ger­ma­ny – and the sa­me ap­p­lies to Sto­ne­wall – be­cau­se CSD events are usual­ly sim­ply known as *gay pri­de* pa­ra­des. Back in this era, gay, of cour­se, ori­gi­nal­ly de­scri­bed both les­bi­ans and gays. Chris­to­pher Street Day and Sto­ne­wall re­fer both geo­gra­phi­cal­ly and his­to­ri­cal­ly to the sa­me ex­act event, and aren’t re­al­ly used el­sew­he­re around the world (ex­cept per­haps in the US) to de­scri­be gay pri­de events. On a si­de no­te, the Sto­ne­wall Inn was clo­sed for a time, was re-opened, and then went out of bu­si­ness on­ce again be­fo­re being new­ly re­o­pened as a fast-food chain fran­chise by se­veral de­di­ca­ted gay men. To­day the Sto­ne­wall Inn, if not per­fect­ly iden­ti­cal, is al­most lo­ca­ted in the ex­act sa­me space as it was in 1969, and is now a two-storey­ed esta­blish­ment with bar and club and has be­co­me a mee­ting po­int for gays and les­bi­ans from around the world with his­to­ric pho­tos from the 1960s and 70s on its walls. In 1999, it was ad­ded to the Ame­ri­can Na­tio­nal Re­gis­ter of His­to­ric Pla­ces. Inas­much, no one holds rights to the na­me *Sto­ne­wall*, ex­cept per­haps the bar ow­ners them­sel­ves.

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