THE BIG BANG IN PINK
Who was Christopher Street? And what is Stonewall? An excursion into the history of CSD
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.