THIS is the day the Liturgical Calendar of the Religion of Antinous sets aside for remembrance of Saint Judy Garland, whose death was the spark that ignited the Stonewall Riots on a sultry night in 1969 when a bunch of drag queens and assorted other gay men decided they weren't in the mood to put up with yet another raid by the corrupt and brutal NYPD.
Gays had had enough and they had just suffered a terrible shock — Judy Garland's tragic death on June 22 had rocked the gay world. It was said that 13 twisters raged through Kansas the day Judy died, which — in Kansas — in June — is a pretty safe bet, in any case. But still, and all the same ....
Judy had died in London, and amid much news media hype, her body was flown back to New York for a memorial service which drew a huge crowd of grief-stricken gay men who gathered outside Campbell's Funeral Chapel in Manhattan — on June 27, 1969.
Afterwards, the bars were jammed with gay men drowning their sorrows in booze and drugs while listening to Judy Garland songs full blast on every jukebox.
The mood was electrified by a sense of solidarity in grieving for a fallen idol. Gay men had surprised themselves by turning out en masse for Judy's funeral. They had experienced strength in numbers for the first time. They had been on national TV news.
In an unprecedented move by prime-time national news anchormen, Walter Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley had talked about Judy Garland's "tremendous appeal among male homosexual fans" — at supper time when whole families were watching the evening news!
Blacks were standing up for their rights. Women were burning their bras. The Chicano Movement was gathering steam. And now "ho-mo-sexuals" (the announcers were unaccustomed to speaking the word aloud) were having the audacity to congregate outside a sacred chapel in broad daylight — and they even showed their faces on the evening news!
Straight people were being confronted with homosexuals right there on television beamed into their homes. And — more importantly — homosexuals were seeing themselves and their brothers/sisters on national television news. Gays in isolated places who had worshipped Judy Garland at the movies or on LP and tape, were now watching other gay people weeping for her in New York. For the first time, gay people in isolated places saw themselves on TV. We were not alone in our grief at the passing of a star with whom we somehow innately felt connected.
It was a Friday night. Late June. Hot and steamy. The bars were filled to bursting. Gay men were sharing a rare moment of solidarity in powerful emotions. There was a feeling, not only in New York, but around the world, that a paradigm shift had taken place. A gay icon had died suddenly and tragically (shades of Antinous) and we gay people everywhere found ourselves in a catharsis of identity change. None of us understood what was happening. Just as it was with being gay, we gay men couldn't explain it, we just "felt" it and "knew" it to be true.
And THAT moment was when the Manhattan police happened to stage one of their periodic raids on queers. Basically it was a routine raid on an average gay bar. Nobody had reckoned with what would happen next. Even gay men were surprised by what happened next.
ESPECIALLY gay men.
We were men who had been accustomed to being timid fraidy-cats. Men who had never dared to stand up for their sexuality. Drag queens and faggots never fought back. That was a fact of gay survival. We knew we were gay. And we knew what we weren't. We were not "MEN".
Grief turned to outrage. It was a spontaneous uprising fuelled by rage. The vice squad was overwhelmed. Reinforcements had to be sent in. Gay men stood their ground and advanced on the police, pushing them back.
It was the turning point for us. Gay men throughout America — and later in London, Berlin, Sydney and elsewhere — began standing up for themselves under the banner "Remember Stonewall".
In a sense, Judy Garland died for us. Had it not been for her tragic death — strangling on vomit over a toilet bowl in a London hotel suite — there might not have been any Stonewall Riots.
Flamen Antinoalis Antonius Subia puts the Stonewall Riots into a spiritual context:
"It was the first resistance by homosexuals against the repression of two thousand years, and the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement. The importance of the Stonewall Riots is the awakening of gay consciousness, the throwing off of the coils of the python that had for so many centuries enveloped our divine form of Love. This sacred revolt is holy to Apollo, Dionysus, and Diana combined as the guardian spirits of Homosexuality. Our modern Gay society was born on this occasion, and all of the peace and freedom that we have obtained in the these short decades are due to the courage that erupted on that Sacred Night in front of the Stonewall Bar."