“We were feeling anger and resentment, but the big thing was that we had a chance to do something now,” Boyce says. “People got hurt. I got hit in the back with a club. But you could see and feel the person next to you wasn’t going to run.”
“People will point out there were acts of resistance before Stonewall. But those acts of resistance were on a smaller scale,” says David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution. “This was an act of resistance that was a mass movement. It was mass crowds. These other events were smaller, they weren’t sustained, and they didn’t get in the media. Plus, the Stonewall riots sparked the gay liberation movement, by the founding of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance.”
Frank Kameny, a leader in the gay rights movement who had been leading peaceful gay rights demonstrations for 12 years before Stonewall, estimates that there were 1,000 organizations formed within a year after Stonewall. After two years, 2,500. After three years, he stopped counting.
“Progress has been enormous,” Kameny says. “Sodomy laws were repealed, so we’re no longer criminals. Mental health classification changed, so we’re no longer loonies. The government is finally recognizing and respecting us. Just this year, an openly gay man [John Berry] was appointed head of the Office of Personnel Management, the group [then called the Civil Service Commission] that fired me over 50 years ago in 1957, and I was acknowledged at his swearing-in ceremony. That is deeply satisfying. It’s a storybook ending. At age 84, I am not sure that I will see full equality in my lifetime, but I have no doubt that we’re heading toward it.”
And best of all, on June 24, 2009, Frank Kameny received a surprise apology for his firing 52 years earlier. The apology was made in public by John Berry, the highest-ranking openly gay member of the Obama administration. Attending a ceremony where he knew he'd be receiving an award, Kameny was nonetheless so totally surprised by the verbal apology, he quipped tearfully,