I want to talk about Stonewall today. I want to talk about movements for social change — not just queer, but atheist, and feminist, and black activist, and disabled activist, and just about every other movement for social change I can think of. And I want to talk about the conflict that has gone on in every one of these movements I know about: the conflict between accomodationists and confrontationalists, between people who want to make change by polite, patient diplomacy, and people who want to make change through passionate confrontation.
And I want to point something out:
The Gay Pride parade is a celebration of a riot.
And that riot is generally considered to have sparked the modern LGBT rights movement.
There’s a story — it may be an urban legend, I can’t find an attribution for it, but it doesn’t actually matter — about a plan to put up a monument to Stonewall in Greenwich Village. A prominent gay politico was asked what he thought would be an appropriate monument… and he answered, “A drag queen with a brick in his hand.”
Drag queens with bricks in their hands. That is what we’re celebrating.
I don’t say this to denigrate polite, diplomatic activism. To the contrary: I strongly believe that any successful social change movement needs both diplomats and hard-liners. Without the quiet work that the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society and such had been doing for years, the LGBT movement would have had a much harder time getting off the ground. I believe that diplomacy and confrontation are stronger together, and work together in a synergy that is far more powerful than either would be alone. It’s like playing good cop/ bad cop.
I’m just saying this:
And it’s important that we not forget that.
Good Cop, Bad Cop: Atheist Activism