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    In Search of Stonewall: The Riots at 50

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to In Search of Stonewall: The Riots at 50, edited by Richard Schneider, Jr. The book is presented by The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide to commemorate the bimonthly, nationally distributed magazine’s 25 years of publication.

    The year was 1994. It was the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and, as luck would have it, the year in which a new magazine called The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review was publishing its first issue (Winter ’94). The “Harvard” was dropped in 2000 and “Worldwide” added, but other than that, The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide has had an uninterrupted run of 136 issues over the past quarter-century.

    The fact that our first year coincided with Stonewall’s 25th proved a happy coincidence, if only because it gave us something important to talk about that year. But it also joined our fate with that of the founding event of the modern LGBT movement. This book commemorates our own 25th birthday with a collection of Stonewall-related articles selected from the issues published to date.

    I’ve chosen the title In Search of Stonewall for this collection because it seems to me that the events of 1969 remain elusive in at least two ways. First, there is the journalistic question of just what happened on the night of June 28th (who started the riot, what happened next, etc.).

    Second, because “Stonewall” exists as a symbol of the LGBT movement quite apart from the historic event itself, the search is always on for the meaning of Stonewall as it was first conceived and as it has evolved over the years. If nothing else, it is a marker in historical time with a clearly defined “before” and “after.”

    But to imply that Stonewall interrupted the flow of history, single-handedly resetting the LGBT calendar, is to pile a lot of responsibility onto a single event or era. Still, something happened, and it happened quite rapidly and even magically after the riots, so in this sense the search for Stonewall can also be a desire to reconnect with the overpowering energy and excitement of this period.

    The sequence of events following the riots—the founding of new gay organizations, new publications, the first Pride parade in June 1970, and so on—are indeed a breathtaking slice of history. The question of why Stonewall became the symbolic birthplace of the modern LGBT movement has been raised, sometimes with considerable passion, by many people who point out that the West Coast is where the movement really began, way back in the 1950s, complete with organizations and magazines and even riots long before 1969.

    The fact that it took New York City to spark a national movement undoubtedly has more to do with that city’s sheer size and dominance of the news media, especially at that time, than to a lack of passion or organizing savvy on the West Coast. (Also, let’s face it: “Stonewall” is a damn good name for a popular struggle. What if the riots had happened at Uncle Charlie’s?)

    Richard Schneider Jr., the book’s editor, is the founder and editor-in-chief of “The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide,” which was launched in 1994 as “The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review” (the name changed in 2000). Taking his doctorate in sociology at Harvard in the early 1980s, he taught at the university level for the next decade before founding “The G&LR” as a sideline while working for a Boston consulting firm in the ’90s. The magazine has been his full-time job since 1999.

    “The G&LR’s” mission is to promote equal rights and equality for all sexual and gender minorities, advance the intellectual life of LGBT people, and educate a broader public on LGBT topics.

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQI community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 31 years of successful book campaigns.