LGBT's: Don't Forget Riots Are What Got Us Here

05/12/2015 02:25 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2016

As a white man, I refrain from talking too much about racial issues because I feel as if I am wildly unqualified to do so. Also, as a gay man, I try hard to not parallel LGBT Civil Rights issues with Racial Civil Rights issues because they are not entirely the same. Yes, there are some similarities, but it's not a cut-and-dry comparison, either. So, this article is not going to really be about racial issues. Instead, I am speaking to the LGBT people who are watching all of the latest events in America unfold.

Since the Ferguson, Mo., case, I have been watching some of my LGBT friends speak up on this issue. Lately, though, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up after the Baltimore riots. I heard LGBT people on both sides of the issue speak out, but they all had one thing in common: they were white LGBT people speaking about this issue haphazardly.

Now, I am not going to use this article to condemn or condone what happened in Baltimore recently. As stated earlier, I don't feel I am qualified to do so. Yes, I spent time in college studying racial issues and the philosophy of racism, but taking a few classes in no way makes me an expert on the issue. Instead, I just want to take this time to remind those LGBT folk that are so quick to condemn the riots in Baltimore that if it were not for rioting, we would not be where we are today.

It was 1969 in New York's Greenwich Village. On June 28, the police raided a gay bar. This was a pretty normal occurrence, considering it was still illegal to "be gay" at that point in history. But, on this night, the people in that bar had had enough. They were tired of police brutality toward them simply because of who they were. They were tired of being targeted senselessly. They were tired of being looked down upon just because of the way they looked. They were tired of getting no support outside of the police force with regular civilians. They were tired of being backed into a corner with no where else to go. Sound familiar?


So, on that night that the police raided the bar, they decided to fight back. Burly bears, drag queens and lesbians alike fought back against the police -- and they actually got the upper hand! This boiled over into the street where it spilled into neighboring bars and businesses. Some poor, unfortunate civilians happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they ended up getting hurt in the incident.

"Gay Power!" began to be yelled in the streets as destruction continued through the streets of Greenwich Village. The rest of the city -- and most of the nation -- looked on in horror as these "animals took to the street, destroying their own city." They said things like, "What is this accomplishing? Why are they destroying their own businesses and bars? They're just freaks!"

But, do you know what they ended up accomplishing? They ended up showing the world that we were tired of being oppressed. They made a statement that we were tired of being treated as "less-than's" or second-class citizens. And from that point on, things were different. Soon came Harvey Milk, followed by people speaking out. Eventually, you get to April 28, 2015, and the Supreme Court is actually about to make a decision on federal same-sex marriage observance.

You see, when people are oppressed to a certain point, they end up feeling like there is no other option than to fight back. A mob mentality builds, albeit warranted, and they decide that they've had enough of the oppression. Does it make the violence okay? I don't believe so. I try to be a pacifist as much as possible, and even though it's hard to stand by my beliefs sometimes, I do believe non-violence is the answer. But, that being said, I do understand. I am thankful that in 1969 a group of gay boys and lesbian girls had the courage to stand up and finally say, "No more!" to the powers that be. That one night changed the course of history forever.

So, don't be so quick to call the people of Baltimore "animals," my fellow LGBT folks. Because it wasn't that long ago that people said the exact same thing about our predecessors.


This post was originally from Brandon's website, Brandon is the author of the new book, Straight-Face, which chronicles the psychological, deeply emotional, and spiritual aspects of his incredible journey from Southern Baptist minister to out-and-proud gay man. You can find Straight-Face on Amazon.