Will homosexuality ever become acceptable in Africa?

Stonewall riot in New York50 years of gay pride

It's a night of turmoil. Stones and bottles fly, police cars are attacked.

The riots around the Stonewall Inn bar on New York's Christopher Street are a turning point. The beginning of something new.

"In retrospect, people think Stonewall has changed all the problems that gays had. In fact, it was about the gay community believing they could fight back. That was the bottom line."

It is a time when the World Health Organization lists homosexuality as a disease. In which the initiation of same-sex relationships is illegal not only in New York. In the so-called "sodomy laws" make gay sex a punishable offense - even in 1986 once again confirmed by the highest court in the USA.

And it is a time when "public service announcements" on television warn: The nice neighbor next door, he may seem "normal". But he is actually sick, invisible - but contagious: homosexual.

Electric shocks were the means of the times

"What you maybe didn’t know, that Ralph was sick ..."

Fear of the police, of the neighbors, of the consequences for their own health, and even the salvation of their soul shape the lives of many gays and lesbians. It's an ongoing game of hide-and-seek. However, there is nothing playful about it: it denies its own identity. Some parents want to cure their children from the supposed disease. Electric shocks were the means of the times.

"A friend of mine - John - had his mother give him shock therapy. He went crazy. They finally had to lock him up. His mother actually wanted to cure him. In the 50s and 60s being gay was an illness. If I was you touched or hugged, you could become gay. "

Historical newspaper article about the raid on the Stonewall Inn in June 1969 (ZUMA press / imago)

50 years of the Stonewall Inn - this is the story of a struggle for equality and respect. A fight that experienced a symbolic climax in the bar of the same name. When the police carried out another raid on the night of June 28, 1969, it was one time too many. The resistance begins. Many New York institutions are reminiscent of this, from the art museum in Brooklyn to the library in Bryant Park.

The "Historical Society" dedicates its exhibition to the gay and lesbian nightlife around the "Stonewall Inn". Museum director Margi Hofer names the Cork Club on the Upper West Side, the Matchbook bar in the Astor Hotel on Times Square or the Blue Parrot.

"Those were some of the few places where gays and lesbians felt safe, could celebrate and let go. But they were also places to shake people up, to become part of a movement and to change things."

Back then, hide and seek could have a cruel end

For a long time, these bars were only a temporary shelter, only supposedly providing security. The now 77-year-old Lee Zevy burned himself into his memory with their many raids. The New Yorker lived with her long-time friend and later wife in the north of the metropolis, in Upstate New York, but repeatedly went to lesbian bars in Manhattan.

Can she still remember her first visit? She just laughs. Naturally! How could she forget this incredible moment ?! She was picked up by a friend from high school.

"She took me to my first bar, which was called 'Pony'. To get in, I first had to have a manly cut suit. But I also had to wear stockings. And heels. So I went in - and all these women turned around and looked at me. Then I thought - dear time, that must be heaven. That was so exciting, also a little bit scary, but above all exciting: To have a place where women actually wanted to meet women. The guessing game was over - all these risks and attempts. "

Lee Zevy is still working as a Gestalt therapist at the age of 77. And she continues to support the Identity House she co-founded. Since 1971 it has been a counseling facility that helps people come out.

Lee Zevy says: Back then, in the years surrounding the Stonewall riots, she was simply lucky. You never witnessed a police raid.

"I was one of the lucky ones ..."

Admittedly not witnessed. But heard enough stories. About the cruel end the game of hide-and-seek could have when it failed and the police stormed a bar.

Especially popular with gays and drag queens

"Shortly before Stonewall I was in a bar called 'The Dutchess'. And in a neighboring bar - it could even have been the Stonewall or 'The Monster', there was a young man from Argentina because of a raid out the window of 1 Jumped floor. He was impaled by a fence and died. Stories like that happened all the time back then. "

It is Friday evening, the weekend that is, on the night of June 28, 1969. The "Stonewall Inn" bar, which is particularly popular with gays and drag queens, is well attended.

"We were dancing together when we suddenly heard screams and shouts. We thought it was a raid like any other. They would say: Line up, girls! We heard the drag queen call Gypsy - don't touch me, my husband is a cop too, but this time it was different.

They threw drugs on the floor and said: Is this yours? We said: no! Finally, a really nice neighborhood policeman helped us. He gave us a sign and three of us were able to sneak out of the bar.

Then there were 25 or 30 people. Then 50. Finally 100, 150. And then we started throwing rocks and bottles and shaking police cars. We broke the lock on a prisoner transport - with around 30 people - and everyone came out. "

A fence decorated with rainbow flags at Christopher Park opposite the "Stonewall Inn" (dpa / Christina Horsten)

Tree Sequoia still looks after the guests at the Stonewall Inn today. The bartender is now 80 years old and tours the whole world to tell the story - but also the stories from back then.

Tree Sequoia recalls that he himself ended up in prison ten or twelve times because he was picked up in gay bars. But not that night. It is the moment that should change what has shaped his life so far.

"In 1969 we had nothing. Absolutely nothing. If someone didn't like you and called your boss, you could get fired. You could lose your apartment, your parents would throw you out. So much has happened since then. Gay marriages. Equality. The changes are amazing Because after the rebellion of 1969 we still thought: That's it now. "

"People were in fear and terror"

Lee Zevy, co-founder of the Identity House, says: Back then it was widespread belief that gays and lesbians would suffer for the rest of their lives. Even novels were only acceptable if the gay character died in the end, committed suicide. A positive life model? Nothing.

"People were in fear, it wasn't just about their self-esteem. They thought they would burn in the fires of hell. Or be thrown out and end up on the street. They would have to suffer for their lives. Many are easy with that didn't get along and were very depressed. "

The park in front of the Stonewall Inn is little more than a green triangle of streets with a few bushes and benches. But when bartender Tree Sequoia crosses it these days and goes to work, then he is on the site of an American national monument. Barack Obama had declared the place a "National Monument" - the first for the rights of gays and lesbians.

Valerie Jarrett, Adviser to President Barack Obama, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler at the National Monument Recognition Ceremony for the Stonewall Inn. (Getty Images / Spencer Platt / Staff)

The then US President sent a video message from the White House.

"So this week, I am designating ..."

The times have changed. An Obama was followed by a Trump. In April he enforced that transgender people are no longer allowed to serve in the military. His State Department recently decreed that in the so-called "Pride" month, the weeks around the Stonewall anniversary, US embassies are not allowed to hoist the rainbow flag of the LGBTQ movement.

The American ambassador in Berlin - himself gay - had wanted it differently. There are signs of a change of course, one that Vice President Mike Pence supports in particular. Clear announcement: Only one flag is allowed to fly over American embassies, says Pence on NBC - the US national flag.

"On the flying pole ..."

The rainbow flag is waving in front of the Victory Column in Berlin during this year's Christopher Street Day (CSD). (picture-alliance / dpa / Wolfgang Kumm)

The extensive area of ​​the elite Columbia University is located on New York's Upper West Side.

Openly gay Trump successor?

Suzanne Goldberg is a law professor. The way to her office leads past Auguste Rodin's sculpture of the thinker.

"These are promising times in the sense that we are experiencing more legal and social equality than ever before. We are seeing a vision of equality and participation like never before in the US and around the world. At the same time, we are experiencing resistance - as always with social movements Justice. We see it with bakers, flower shops or other businesses that do not want to serve same-sex couples at their wedding receptions. Or we see it with schools that try to deny transgender children access to their toilets. "

On the other hand, there is an openly gay democratic politician who would like to become Trump's successor. Same-sex weddings are legal in all 50 states - since the Supreme Court decision of 2015. In Germany, the legislature took two years longer until the so-called "law introducing the right to marry for persons of the same sex" came into force. And the American police pursue so-called hate crimes, i.e. hate crimes, regardless of which minority. At least most.

Applies to run for the US presidential election: The US Democrat Pete Buttigieg is openly gay. (imago images / ZUMA Press)

Just one day before the interview, Suzanne Goldberg gave a talk on LGBTQ rights around the world. With a view of the globe, the same applies as for individual countries: the situation has improved many times, but not everywhere.

"We are seeing incredible progress. The right to marriage, for example, is booming. It is recognized by more countries than ever before. Including Taiwan, as the first Asian country. We also have more countries than ever decriminalizing sodomy, like that Like just Botswana or India a few months ago, a lot has changed there.

At the same time, there are still 70 countries around the world criminalizing intimate same-sex sexual relationships. Seven of them call for the death penalty and five others impose it under certain conditions. "

Gay refugee in the USA

It is above all African, Arab and Asian states that color the cards of human rights organizations red. But it's not just countries that impose the death penalty. For example, it is also a self-declared state - even if it does not have a clearly defined area.

August 2015. Samantha Power, the then UN Ambassador to the United States, brought a young man to the United Nations in New York. His name is Subhi Nahas, and the Syrian is now living as a gay refugee in the USA.

Samantha Power also brought photos. They show how the terrorist militia Islamic State stones, beheads or shoots gay men. Images that the militia then spreads online as part of their propaganda war. Or she overturns the men from the roofs of houses.

"They gather people up, tell them to come and see the executions. Some come voluntarily, others don't. One of my friends was a witness. But he couldn't look at everything, couldn't stand it.

They led the man to the roof - and then my friend just ran away. "

The cosmopolitan city celebrates

Subhi Nahas was “only” a guest at an informal Security Council meeting. This also means that countries were free to participate. Angola and Chad preferred not to come in the first place. China, Russia, Nigeria and Malaysia took part - but did not comment during the meeting. The ambitious goal of the then American UN ambassador: to anchor the issue of protecting sexual minorities in the heritage of the United Nations.

"We are getting this issue into the DNA of the United Nations."

Such statements can hardly be expected from American government officials today, admits Suzanne Goldberg, law professor at Columbia University. On the other hand, there is more than just the president, more than the government - the system of government in the United States is diverse.

"The voice of the executive is not the only one who represents our national values. At the same time, it is undoubtedly correct to say that our voice is no longer as loud. The US government no longer speaks of the critical importance of, as it did in the Obama era LGBT rights related to human rights. "

The US government doesn't talk about it that much anymore - but the democratically ruled New York, the cradle of the movement, so to speak, does. The cosmopolitan city celebrates 50 years of Stonewall and the consequences for a whole month at the so-called World Pride.

Police chief apologizes

Shortly before that, there is another surprise. Actually, the press conference of the New York police chief is supposed to be about security measures. How the police will protect these celebrations. But Police Chief James O'Neill does not stop at a mere safety briefing.

"I think it would be irresponsible for me to just talk about World Pride Month. Not what happened at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969. I'm certainly not an expert on what happened back then. But I know one thing: what happens shouldn't have happened. What the New York police, the NYPD, did at the time was wrong, plain and simple. The measures and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive. I apologize for that. "

In 2017, O'Neill had refused an apology. Just like his predecessor William Bratton. That was not necessary, he said. So much good grew out of the terrible experience of that time - it should be celebrated.

New York's Stonewall Inn today (ZUMA press / imago)

50 years of Stonewall. These are decades that contemporary witnesses look back on with unmistakable astonishment. People like Tree Sequoia, who still serves customers in the eponymous bar "Stonewall Inn".

"There will probably always be prejudices. Even 100 years from now, people will still be taught to hate others - be they people of different origins, of different races. It will never stop. But it will get better gay presidents? I just said: if he's good, then gladly. "

"The people came out"

People like the bartender Tree Sequoia. But also people like the psychotherapist Lee Zevy, who still supports the counseling center she co-founded.

"After Stonewall a lot got easier. People came out. They became more visible. I met my wife in 1966. We were living an hour's drive north of New York when Stonewall happened. I just thought at the time: Oh, another police story. It It took me and many others to understand that there was much more to it than that.

Our relationship lasted for 50 years. My wife passed away two and a half years ago. I haven't got used to it yet, and maybe never will, not having someone so close anymore. "