It's been a hot minute since my last check-in.
Can you believe it's already the end of May?! (What even is time?) Monday marks the start of a new month. Specifically, June. Which is also (for those of you who don't already know) "LGBT" pride month. Why June, you probably didn't ask? Well, in order to properly answer that, you'd need to know about the Stonewall riots of 1969.
Here's a quick history lesson:
In the sixties, being and behaving gay was criminalized, and police raids on gay bars were a regular part of the status quo. Here's an interesting (terrifying) tidbit from the Stonewall Riots wiki page:
"Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and police departments kept lists of known homosexuals, their favored establishments, and friends; the U.S. Post Office kept track of addresses where material pertaining to homosexuality was mailed. State and local governments followed suit: bars catering to gay men and lesbians were shut down, and their customers were arrested and exposed in newspapers. Cities performed "sweeps" to rid neighborhoods, parks, bars, and beaches of gay people. They outlawed the wearing of opposite gender clothes, and universities expelled instructors suspected of being homosexual."
Fifty years ago, the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan was the only bar for gay people in New York City where dancing was allowed. It was run by the Mafia. Transactions were made exclusively in cash. And police would leave them alone, as long as they were getting kickbacks.
At some point, the police came to the conclusion that they weren't getting paid enough, and they decided to shut the place down for good. On June 28, 1969, a group of undercover police orchestrated a sting, sneaking into the bar before calling for backup and starting a mass arrest of patrons.
This next part is an excerpt from the wiki article:
The raid did not go as planned. Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested.
Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station, after separating those cross-dressing in a room in the back of the bar.
Maria Ritter, then known as male to her family, recalled, "My biggest fear was that I would get arrested. My second biggest fear was that my picture would be in a newspaper or on a television report in my mother's dress!"
Both patrons and police recalled that a sense of discomfort spread very quickly, spurred by police who began to assault some of the lesbians by "feeling some of them up inappropriately" while frisking them.
Those who were not arrested were released from the front door, but they did not leave quickly as usual. Instead, they stopped outside and a crowd began to grow and watch. Within minutes, between 100 and 150 people had congregated outside.
When the first patrol wagon arrived, Inspector Pine recalled that the crowd—most of whom were homosexual—had grown to at least ten times the number of people who were arrested, and they all became very quiet. Confusion over radio communication delayed the arrival of a second wagon.
A bystander shouted, "Gay power!", someone began singing "We Shall Overcome", and the crowd reacted with amusement and general good humor mixed with "growing and intensive hostility". An officer shoved a transvestite (sic), who responded by hitting him on the head with her purse as the crowd began to boo.
Pennies, then beer bottles, were thrown at the wagon as a rumor spread through the crowd that patrons still inside the bar were being beaten.
A scuffle broke out when a woman in handcuffs was escorted from the door of the bar to the waiting police wagon several times. She escaped repeatedly and fought with four of the police, swearing and shouting, for about ten minutes. [S]he had been hit on the head by an officer with a baton for, as one witness claimed, complaining that her handcuffs were too tight. Bystanders recalled that the woman, whose identity remains unknown, sparked the crowd to fight when she looked at bystanders and shouted, "Why don't you guys do something?"
I'd highly recommend reading up on the riots which sparked the gay rights movement. They are, in a word, relevant.
In solidarity with our LGBTQ+ friends and family, we at the gas station paired up with the amazing artist Pozopilote to create a series of "pride and gay rights" merchandise. All proceeds from the sales of these items will be donated to a charity designed to provide social/moral/legal support to those who need it most.
That was the plan when we first began discussing the best way to honor pride month. And that's still the plan now. However, recent events have made clear that there are important intersections in the never-ending battle for human rights.
For this reason, we have decided that all profits from the pride and gay rights merchandise collection sold between now and the end of June will be donated to the Black Lives Matter Global Network.
In addition, all profit made from ANY of the merchandise items in the gas station store (shirts, jackets, towels, stickers, etc.) will be donated to the Black Lives Matter Global Network. If you've been eyeing that sexy crow long-sleeve, now might be the time to get it. Look awesome, and support an important movement.
I know this is a weird and scary time to be alive. I know that this is weirder and scarier for some. I hope that you all know that you have a friend here at the shitty gas station at the edge of town. We'll get through all of this together.