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On a Holy Night in 1969

On a holy night
In 1969,
In an Inn, also known as a bar,
Called the Stonewall Inn,
A basement—
which had no running running water,
Nor safe fire exits—
Queer people, of many colors and kinds,
Danced together,
For it was the only place
Where they were allowed to dance,
At least, permitted to, by the mafia who ran the Inn.

In those days,
It was common for the police to frequent this Inn,
No to join in the dance, the underground celebration,
But to send the dancers home and make arrests.
When they would arrive,
The lights would go on,
The people would be lined up,
And then
All those in drag,
All those who were trans,
All those without proper identification:
They were arrested and taken into custody.

But on this holy night,
That early morning of June 28,
The people said “not tonight.”
As they called to them to line up,
The transwomen refused to go.
And as they police began to beat and arrest them,
And as the people spilled out from the bar on to the street,
Christopher St,
A crowd grew to watch.
And then,
As transwomen, lesbians, and gay men were getting arrested,
A yell came from the crowd: “Gay Power.”
And as a transwoman was shoved,
She shoved back and the crowd began throwing bottles at the wagon,
And suddenly it erupted.
For once the people didn’t line up;
For once the people said “no more; we've had enough.”
It was almost as if, that night,
being pulled out of the darkness of the underground at Stonewall Inn
One too many times,
They said, “I’m ready to be seen.”

On this holy night, when the power of the oppressed rippled through the streets of New York,
When queer people said, No more
Our world would never be the same.

Fifty years ago,
It was illegal to be gay, to be trans, to dance and to love and to celebrate.
And now, only fifty years later,
Here we are celebrating at a church.
Gay and straight together?
Queer and straight together?
Trans and cis together?
All in this together.

And so as we hear these stories of life and love and defiance and celebration,
Let us also remember and pay tribute to our movement ancestors,
Many of them transwomen of color who led the first rebellion that night.
You see, Pride is a celebration of that anniversary:
the anniversary of that riot, at the Stonewall Inn in New York city. A holy night.

So Happy Pride.
Welcome to this joyful celebration,
Bring your whole selves
Your gay
Lesbian
Bisexual
Transgender
Queer selves
Your drag queen
Butch and femme
Cross-dressing
Nail-painting
Tutu-wearing
Selves
Your
Genderqueer
Genderfluid
Agender
Pansexual
QUILTBAG selves
And all the other identities
That are and will be
And let’s have a celebration,
Because joy is a rebellion, too.
And this church is Queer;
Queer and fabulous.
Amen?

Let us begin!

About the Author

Otto O'Connor

Rev. Otto O'Connor has served the First Parish in Malden, Massachusetts since 2017. He is a white, openly transgender man from Canada, and lives in Malden with his wife, Amy, and their 5-month-old baby.

For more information contact worshipweb@uua.org.

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