Before Stonewall

Before Stonewall

“Before Stonewall” is a thoughtful, innovative documentary exploring the homosexual experience through historical references and interviews with those involved in the struggle. The Emmy-Award-winning film aired originally on PBS in the 1980’s and documented the history of the gay community from 1920 through the Stonewall riots in June of 1969. It gives a unique insight into what life was like prior to the Stonewall riots, in which gay and lesbian activists protested bigotry and unfair treatment within their ranks for over forty (40) years.

After watching the film, it was very clear that the beliefs I had already held were true: that being gay or lesbian is not a choice, but actually a biological fact, just like being born heterosexual or even bisexual. Why would one choose such an orientation with the knowledge that life would be much harder and hatred would abound just because of their sexual preferences? This scenario was especially true prior to the Stonewall riots when being gay was so taboo, homosexual support groups would meet behind closed doors and whisper in fear that the police would knock down their doors and haul them in for being “deviants”.

Although the film is a very short 87 minutes, it enlightened me abut little known historical facts that were oblivious to me. For example, back in the 1950’s when Senator Joe McCarthy was attacking the entertainment industry for harboring communist insurgents, this “blacklisting” of Hollywood insiders was as much a homosexual “witch-hunt” as it was about wiping out communism.

I was fascinated to learn about wartime foxhole “romances” and until I watched “Before Stonewall”, I was also unaware of how the civil rights movement helped pave the way for the gay rights movement and how each worked together to advance the other’s cause. The film was truly a great history lesson, regarding not only homosexual culture, but also the American culture in general.

I was also surprised to see Ronald...

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