San Francisco’s Stonewall: the new year’s ball that sparked a queer power movement

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12/30/2023

As 2024 draws near, LGBTQ+ activists are taking stock of a traumatic year for the queer community. Lawmakers across the country introduced hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, with particular emphasis on trans people. Now, as queer folks are looking toward hope and change in the New Year, they are reflecting on the past resilience of their community. On New Year’s Day 1965, a group of drag queens and gay activists held a drag ball at California Hall in San Francisco. They strutted in, dressed in their finest, ready to dance and celebrate the promise of a new year. It was a historic evening: it would be the first time in American history that a group of Christian ministers would publicly sponsor and host an event for queer people. However, by the end of a night that would come to be known as San Francisco’s Stonewall, police would raid the ball, which had more than 600 people in attendance, make arrests, and inadvertently raise awareness of the plight of queer people and overpolicing.

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