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The community I chose to research is the Gay and Lesbian community. I chose to look at this community because, as I meet more and more people in my life, I have found that I come into contact with many Gay and Lesbian people, and to understand their issues, would be beneficial to a social worker. As Berkman and Zinberg (1997), states, social workers are “susceptible to absorbing the explicit and implicit biases held by mainstream society.” I personally feel that the more you learn about other communities, its history and its struggles, it gives us a broader range of understanding and empathy, in which to do our work.
Up until the 1960s, no one questioned the idea that the traditional family was the cornerstone of American society and essential to its very survival. A traditional family was a man and a woman, married to each other, who had children together and reared them in a community full of other such families. A family thirty plus years ago, meant Mom, Dad, the kids, and on holidays, Grandpa, Grandma, aunts, cousins, and in-laws. In those days, a man and a woman didn’t just move into an apartment and live together. Occasionally it would occur, but the practice was not common, and in small town America it almost never happened.
In such a world, then, how were homosexuals regarded?
First, no one thirty years ago thought a lot about homosexuality. It was not a topic that preoccupied the average American. You didn’t hear it discussed on talk shows or depicted in movies. You didn’t see so-called gay pride parades in our major cities. You weren’t bombarded with political pronouncements on the subject. You didn’t have homosexuals militantly proclaiming to the general public the propriety of what they did in the bedroom. Certainly prominent political figures did not announce to the world that they habitually committed homosexual acts and were proud of it.
If someone engaged is such acts, he or she kept the matter to himself or herself, not only because there were laws against homosexual conduct but also because the community at large disapproved of it as much as it disapproved of any kind of abnormal sexual behavior.
Not only did society at large disapprove of a homosexual life style, there were laws prohibiting such conduct. Sexual behavior has always been covered by law, not only in Western society but also in Eastern society. Laws were put into place to protect the very young, who were believed to be susceptible to deliberate corruption of innocence. Statutory rape laws were instituted to protect male children against homosexual conduct, as a hedge against the abuse of youngsters by people of the same sex. Other laws existed to protect society against public flaunting of immoral conduct. The idea was to prohibit the conduct by law, and then you won’t have to be exposed to it in the public arena.
Coming to the end of the 1960s, gay and lesbian groups were springing up across the United States and Canada, jumping from fifteen in 1966 to fifty in 1969 (D’Emilio, 1983). They no longer wanted to define themselves in terms left over to them by the heterosexist opposition; rather, they sought to build a new gay culture where gay people could be free. Civil rights and integration seemed like endless begging for the charity of liberals who conveniently ignored the everyday physical and psychological violence exerted by homophobic society (Adam, 1987).
On the night of Friday 27 June 1969, New York police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall. Bar raids were an American institution-a police rite to “manage the powerless and disrespectable-and in the preceding three weeks, five New York gay bars had already been raided (Adam, 1987). What made the stonewall a symbol of a new era of gay politics was the reaction of the drag queens, dykes, street people, and bar boys who confronted the police first with jeers and then with a hail of coins, paving stones, and parking meters. By the end of the weekend, the Stonewall bar had been burned out, but a new form of collective resistance was afoot: gay liberation.
Gay liberation never thought of itself as a civil rights movement for a particular minority but as