The last few days of June mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The protest started on June 28th at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan and went on for six days. The protest is widely acknowledged as the most important event leading to the Gay Liberation Movement and the fight for LGBTQIA rights in the US.
The protest started after New York Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a famous gay club, thus sparking a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents and violent clashes with law enforcement officials.
The 1960s, as well as the preceding decades, are known to have been hostile towards the LGBT individuals in the United States. Same-sex relations were illegal in the state of New York up until 1980, when NY v. Onofre overturned the existing sodomy law. Many members of the LGBT community were discriminated against, prosecuted, and even incarcerated. For this reason, gay bars and clubs were a place of refuge for LGBT individuals who wanted to socialize and openly express themselves. Those bars were frequently raided and their patrons harassed by police.
The milestone has brought with it the WorldPride Festival, a global event that the organizers believe will bring millions of people to New York City in June. WorldPride’s opening ceremony is Wednesday, and its closing events are Sunday.
There will be screening of movies and documentaries, parties, sports events, thematic shopping experiences, political demonstrations, events for families, and so on.
The highlight of this event will be the Pride March; it will start on Fifth Avenue and 26th Street at noon on Sunday, pass in front of the Stonewall Inn, then head north onto Seventh Avenue, to end at 23rd Street. The two-mile procession will be accompanied by pounding music, costumed New Yorkers and visitors, dancers, politicians, and more.
Although there has been significant improvement in safeguarding LGBT persons’ rights and an increased support of the LGBT community since the famous riot, full equality in such areas of life as healthcare, employment and safety is far from being achieved. A crucial reason for this is the lack of data capturing the daily life and experience of LGBT individuals. According to the UN Independent Expert Victor Madrigal Borloz, when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, “Policymakers are taking decisions in the dark, left only with personal preconceptions and prejudices.”
In order to understand the root causes of violence directed towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in societies across the world, more data need to be collected by individual countries, including the US. Indeed, those data would reveal important information about how people live and what their needs are in areas of life such as healthcare, family, employment, education, housing, and, very importantly, access to justice. According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, “Without data that identifies the needs of the LGBT community, LGBT people remain invisible.”
Borloz found that most countries have an, at best, “incomplete and fragmented” understanding about the realities as lived by most LGBT people, and in many countries such information is “simply non-existent.” The number of countries that still criminalize same-sex relationships is 72 (and 8 UN member countries punish homosexuality with the death penalty), and in 25 countries it is illegal to form, establish or register a non-governmental organization that focuses on issues related to sexual orientation or LGBTQ rights. It is hard to imagine any type of data collected on the LGBT population in those countries. Indeed, Borloz confirms that such information could be used to prosecute LGBT individuals: “I have received multiple accounts of data being used for surveillance, harassment, entrapment, arrest and persecution by government officials in such contexts”.
The criminalization, pathologizing, demonization and stigmatization of the LGBT population hinders accurate estimates regarding all the crucial issues previously named. In order to improve this situation, nations need to implement comprehensive data collection procedures which would capture the trends and patterns of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.