by Brian Burns and Judd Proctor
Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s Discovery
Psychologist Dr. Evelyn Hooker conducted research in the 1950s, challenging the notion that homosexuality signaled mental illness. Having earned her doctorate from Johns Hopkins in 1932, she became a psychology researcher at UCLA. She decided to study gay men at the urging of a gay friend, Sam Fromm. He said, “It is your scientific duty to study people like us, homosexuals who function very well and don’t go to psychiatrists.”
In her study, she administered highly-regarded personality tests to heterosexual and gay men. Her research found that the two groups were psychologically indistinguishable.
At first, her conclusions caused heated debate amongst scientists. But in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association officially removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. While there was still much work to be done to de-stigmatize what it is to be gay, Evelyn Hooker had shattered one enormous myth.
Where It All Happened
As gay history can attest, there’s a hallowed site on Christopher Street in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Photographs dating back to 1899 show two stables at 51 and 53 Christopher Street. But with the creation of Henry Ford’s Detroit auto plant the same year, the property soon became a French bakery. In 1930, the two buildings became one to create a teahouse named Bonnie’s Stone Wall, which became a restaurant popular for banquets and wedding receptions.
In the 1940s, its name changed to Bonnie’s Stonewall Inn. After a fire gutted it, the property sat vacant, and in 1967 it opened as a gay club called Stonewall Inn. No one would have guessed that just two years later, on June 28, 1969, at that very site, the Gay Liberation Movement would take off.
On June 24, 2016, the Stonewall Inn officially received its designation as a U.S. National Monument from President Barack Obama, making it the 412th unit of the National Park System. The 7.7-acre site is widely regarded as the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement and is the first U.S. National Monument dedicated to LGBT history.
The Birth of the Gay Pride March
On November 2, 1969, in Philadelphia, a resolution was made at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations that sparked the creation of Gay Pride celebrations. In part, it read:
“We propose that a demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday in June in New York City to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street and this demonstration be called CHRISTOPHER STREET LIBERATION DAY. No dress or age regulations shall be made for this demonstration. We also propose that we contact Homophile organizations throughout the country and suggest that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day. We propose a nationwide show of support.”
Thus was born the Gay Pride parade as we now know it.