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How LGBTQ generations born before Stonewall navigated life, in 4 stories

The 1969 police raid at Stonewall Inn in New York City was a watershed moment in LGBTQ history, when, after years of police harassment and mistreatment, the bar’s patrons fought back.

The initial raid and the resulting violent protests began June 28, 1969, and lasted several days. Though the gay rights movement had already begun to gain momentum, the explosive pushback at Stonewall got the nation’s attention.

Fifty years later, the New York Police Department issued a broad apology for the raid for the first time ever this month.

“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong — plain and simple,” New York police commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement. “The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”

READ MORE: This ‘Gayborhood Guru’ shares LGBTQ history so it will be ‘harder to erase’

The Stonewall riots provided more visibility to the LGBTQ community and the oppression they faced. But before and after that moment, and far beyond New York, there were legions of queer people who had to navigate society in the shadow of stigma.

StoryCorps is preserving this history with their “Stonewall Outloud” collection, which gathers conversations and stories from LGBTQ individuals from across the country who were born before the uprising in Manhattan.

Here are just four of these stories:

“The Door She Opened”


Directed by Richard O’Connor, Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. Video by StoryCorps

Dee Westenhauser came out as a trans woman in 2018. She described to StoryCorps how her aunt created a space for Westernhauser to be herself while growing up in El Paso, Texas, in the 1950s.

A Life, Complete


Directed by Richard O’Connor, Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. Video by StoryCorps

Two military veterans, John Banvard and Jerry Nadeau, ruminate on their 25 years together as a couple, including getting married at the veterans home where they both lived.

“The Saint of Dry Creek”


Directed by Julie Zammarchi. Video by StoryCorps

Patrick Haggerty, the son of a Washington state dairy farmer, described how his father’s advice to be proud — and not sneak — proved valuable during the 1950s and the decades to come.

“Love Lost, and Found”


Directed by Richard O’Connor, Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. Video by StoryCorps

Sue McConnell and Kristyn Weed first met at a support group for transgender veterans. They talk about how isolating it was when they transitioned before they met, but also how their friendship has created a safe haven of sisterhood ever since their chance meeting.

And one story from the perspective of an 8-year-old trans kid


Directed by Richard O’Connor, Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. Video by StoryCorps/Upworthy

This is a conversation between Gabe Lopez with his mother about being a trans kid. Lopez talks about what the future might hold for him, and how he worried about telling his mother that he is transgender. Gabe was 8 years old at the time of the 2016 interview. He’s now 12.

Learn more about StoryCorps’ “Stonewall Outloud” project — and how to even contribute yourself — here.

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