There have been many remarkable changes in this country and the world over the past 40 years -- an African American president, the woman's right movement, the end of the Soviet Union and South Africa's apartheid, to name a few.
But as a person who has lived most of those 40 years in New York City's West Village, another shift I have witnessed is the change in attitudes about homosexuality. I am sure it is not fast enough or sweeping enough for many people. But remember, it was not that long ago that newspapers like the New York Times did not use the word "gay" to mean homosexual.
Although the struggle for gay rights is a long one, many now mark June 27, 1969 as the unofficial "birthday" of the gay rights movement.
This year, the date will count as the 40th anniversary of the beginning of several days of riots outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 53 Christopher Street in New York's West Village. The riots began with police raid on the bar, which the New York City police believed was an organized crime front selling unlicensed liquor. The raid set off a rock and bottle throwing melee in the early hours of June 28 as angry gay men, some in drag, threw coins, paving stones and and beer bottles at the police. The anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is now celebrated around the world as Pride Day.
Considerable mythology has grown up around the event. One observer to the Stonewall Riots was Lucian K. Truscott IV, then a recent West Point graduate (and later author of the novel Dress Gray), who wrote about the riots for the Village Voice, the famed "alternative" weekly whose offices were across the street from the Stonewall Inn. Truscott offered this 40th year perspective on the riots that addresses some of the mythology that has sprung up about the event.
The Times also offers an extensive collection of articles and links related to Stonewall at http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/s/stonewall_rebellion/index.html
I recently wrote about the issue of gay marriage and the significance of a Supreme Court decision in a blog: "Gay Marriage: A Question of Loving" http://www.dontknowmuch.com/2009/04/a-question-of-loving/
More perspectives on the anniversary and significance of Stonewall and why it is marked as the beginning of the gay rights movement can be found at the website of the alternative radio program Democracy Now:
The original Stonewall Inn is gone. According to the New York Times,
The Stonewall Bar at 53 Christopher Street, the site of the Stonewall Inn uprising of June 27-29, was designated a national historic landmark in June 1999.