From Riots To Recognition: Celebrate Stonewall Day With Geena Rocero
Playboy Africa|December 2020
Our August 2019 Playmate joins the team behind Stone wall Day to honor LGBTQ progress, advocate on behalf of marginalized individuals and salute the trans activists who made history in 1969
Tori Lynn Adams
At 1:20 A.M. on June 28, 1969, eight police officers stormed into the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar that welcomed drag queens, trans folks, sex workers and other outsiders. It was a routine raid; cross-dressing was then criminalized. The officers started lining up patrons outside to be transported to the precinct.

As the police began inappropriately frisking and aggressively shoving the detainees, a crowd gathered, throwing pennies and beer bottles at the police cars. Others formed a chorus line and began high-kicking and singing in protest. The chaos soon devolved into a brawl between the quickly amassing LGBTQ crowd and the authorities. Outnumbered, the police barricaded a small group of employees and patrons in the bar and waited for backup, which eventually arrived.

But it was a major turning point. Queer New Yorkers protested again the next night and on several subsequent occasions. Overnight many in the city’s LGBTQ community went from a relatively private and unseen existence in which they quietly visited underground bars where they could be themselves to storming the streets and very publicly demanding their legal rights and protections. Eventually known as the Stonewall riots, these protests catalyzed the LGBTQ movement.

Exactly one year after the original Stonewall protest, the first pride parade was organized to commemorate the landmark event, celebrate the LGBTQ community and highlight the need for laws to protect queer rights. Every year since, LGBTQ communities have organized events in June to honor those who stood up for their rights at Stonewall and to raise awareness of the ongoing struggle for equality.

Stonewall Day was born in 2018, launched by Pride Live, a national nonprofit organization that elevates awareness and support for the LGBTQ community. This year the celebration will take place June 26 (one P.M. to three P.M. EDT) via a livestream, and it will highlight LGBTQ voices and performers such as Hayley Kiyoko, as well as allies including Demi Lovato, Barack Obama and Chelsea Clinton.

Serving as national chair for the event is August 2019 Playmate Geena Rocero, who is focusing on organizing, fundraising and amplifying the reach of the program. Rocero, no stranger to activism, chatted with me this week about intersectionality, resiliency, what Stonewall Day means to her and much more.

PLAYBOY: Unjust police raids and police violence targeting the LGBTQ community sparked the Stonewall riots. Sadly, police violence is still an ongoing problem for many marginalized groups, especially BIPOC and trans people.

ROCERO: The Stonewall riots are absolutely connected to what has been happening with Black Lives Matter over the past couple years. Police brutality is exactly what the queer community was fighting against at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. Queer people, specifically queer people of color, were being targeted by the police when they were out walking on the street or when they were at LGBTQ-friendly bars just having fun in a safe space. Back then, there was an informal “three-item rule” that was used to police the outfits of trans and gender-nonconforming people. Trans women couldn’t wear more than three feminine items. Eventually they got tired of not being recognized as women, so they fought back.

It’s also important to note that there were a lot of other LGBTQ-led riots leading up to Stonewall, including the Cooper Do-Nuts riot in Los Angeles in 1959, the Dewey’s Restaurant sit-in in Philadelphia in 1965, the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco in 1966 and a handful more. Many of these historic moments were influenced by the civil rights protests that were happening around the same time.

PLAYBOY: What does it mean to you to serve as the national chair for Stonewall Day this year?

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