But on this day, something different happened when the cops showed up. It was the second raid that week, and Stonewall’s patrons had had enough. As cops hauled transgender folks out of the club — many of whom were people of color — this time, they began fighting back. They hurled beer cans, bricks and bottles at the paddy wagon headed for the 6th Precinct. Protesters were beaten by police; many were arrested. It was the start of the modern gay-rights movement.
That piece of history wasn’t in any American-history textbooks I read in school. My mother was just 18 when Stonewall happened. It had to have made a huge impact on her own journey to coming out as a lesbian. Stonewall was as significant to my mother’s adolescence and burgeoning adulthood as Rosa Parks’ arrest in 1956, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the escalation of the Vietnam War in 1968.
I felt as if I hadn’t done my due diligence when it came to my mother’s past. Our parents all have their secrets, the small moments that define them in big ways. Uncovering those gems lets us, their children, in on the mystery behind what makes Mom and Dad so cheap, so protective, so hilarious, so temporarily annoying, so them. Just reading my introductory paragraph about Stonewall made me realize at 30 that my mother marches down streets at 60 because she continues to dream.