…there’s more to love than boy meets girl

Viewed by many as a way to support human rights for all, there are now Gay Pride celebrations in numerous cities throughout the world.  In Reykjavik, for example, the annual parade attracts some 80,000 people…which is nearly a third of Iceland’s population.

While estimates vary (based upon whichever study/survey you subscribe to), we’re on solid ground when we say that at least 7 percent of women and 8 percent of men, between the ages of 14 and 94, identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual in these United States.  With a sum total in the vicinity of 25 million, that represents a population that’s greater than those of most countries on earth.

Yet well within Baby-boom memory (‘though many of us remained blithely unaware), this considerable segment of society was deemed to be un-American and subversive. Designated as “security risks” (ostensibly for their lack of “emotional stability”), the names of known homosexuals were included on the same U.S. State Department watch lists as anarchists and communists.

Right through the 1960s, the FBI, local police and even the U.S. Post Office also “kept track” while state and local legislators amped the vitriol even further.  Thousands of American citizens were harassed, humiliated, jailed or institutionalized. Gay enclaves (discreetly) remained in major cities like New York, of course, but there were no legal establishments where gays or lesbians could openly congregate without being arrested.

Ever a bohemian magnet, New York’s Greenwich Village, with its rich history of Prohibition speakeasies, seemed to provide a tolerable remedy at least, and right through the ‘60s “private bottle clubs” catered to members of the gay community. With peepholes at the door so that bouncers could examine those wishing to enter, such unlicensed “clubs” were generally owned by mobsters, who overcharged for watered-down drinks and treated their patrons with distain.

The Stonewall Inn at 43 Christopher Street was a prime example of such an establishment, with overrunning toilets, no fire exits and used glasses that were “washed” in tubs of water behind the bar prior to reuse.  However, it was the only gay club in all of New York that allowed dancing, and on Saturday the 28th of June 1969, the place was packed.

That evening a number of undercover police had infiltrated the swarm to gather “visual evidence” while the Sixth Precinct’s Public Morals Squad waited quietly outside. When the signal was given, they commenced with their raid and in typical fashion, the lights were turned on, the music turned off and harried customers were lined up to have their IDs checked and recorded.  Those in full drag, or in the case of women, those who weren’t wearing at least three pieces of “feminine” clothing were arrested, as were those without proper identification.

Two paddy wagons were needed that night and when the first one arrived a crowd began to gather.  But the second wagon was delayed, leaving incarcerated patrons and their police captors in full view of an ever-growing throng.  When a cop shoved one of the drag queens she hit him on the head with her purse and someone shouted “Gay power!” which became a chant.  Meanwhile it was being rumored that people were being beaten up inside and onlookers began to throw coins, then bottles at the police.

Next came an “unknown woman” in handcuffs (described as typically “New York butch”) who’d been struggling with the police and, in plain sight, was bashed in the head with a billy club.  Staggering, she turned to the crowd and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something!?” And thus began the Stonewall riots.

By dawn a “surreal quiet” is said to have descended over Christopher Street, as the morning’s newspapers all displayed a similar tally: four police officers injured, thirteen people arrested, some of them hospitalized.  There was further rioting that Sunday night (and for a few nights after that) with many more police (including the riot squad) and many more protesters, some of whom would come to form the Gay Liberation Front in the months ahead.

Beat poet (and gay literary icon), Allen Ginsberg, himself a Christopher Street resident, was there as well. “You know, the guys there were so beautiful,” he later commented. “They’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.”

As another witness put it, “From going to places where you had to knock on a door and speak to someone through a peephole in order to get in. We were just out. We were in the streets.”

“Stonewall” is now recognized as the catalyst for today’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) movement, and in the United States LGBT Pride events are generally held in June as a result.  “Boston Gay Pride” the largest such event here in New England, takes place this weekend (June 8 – 10).  And to commemorate a classic human rights struggle we posit this “weekend” selection.

Known equally for his falsetto voice and his vocal support of gay rights, the diminutive James William Somerville was born in Glasgow in 1961.  In 1983 he co-founded the openly gay, “synth pop” group, Bronksi Beat, which proceeded to have a string of hits on the British charts.

Then, in 1985 he and classically trained pianist, Richard Coles (now of Church of England Vicar) formed the “synth pop” duo, The Communards, which also had a string of hits during its three year run.  Today’s selection, co-written by Somerville and Coles, is the second track from the duo’s second album, “Red” released in 1987.

LISTEN TO THIS WEEKEND’S SELECTION – Friday/Saturday 8/9 June  

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

I would like to shout it from the highest mountain

To tell the world I’ve found love and what it means to me

But all around there’s violence and laws to make me think again

Maybe one day they will understand

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

For love is strange and uncontrolled, it can happen to anyone

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

How can one man decide the fate and destiny of innocent lovers

And why is it less of a crime to take the life of another?

Through time they’ve always tried to hide

and cast aside this love denied

In the shadows we held each other tight

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

For love is strange and uncontrolled, it can happen to anyone

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

 I saw your face, it caught the light, infatuation swirls inside

My every thought for days was only you

So I’ll climb that mountain and shout it loud

I’ll never let them bring me down

And one day they will have to understand

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

For love is strange and uncontrolled, it can happen to anyone

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

For love is strange and uncontrolled, it can happen to anyone

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

 There’s more to love than boy meets girl

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

For love is strange and uncontrolled, it can happen to anyone

There’s more to love than boy meets girl

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