Dean’s Statement on Pride and Stonewall 50

June 26, 2019 @ 5:53 pm
By Interim Dean Irv Garfinkel

June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which took place at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Though many note that the Stonewall uprising did not start the gay rights movement, it was a galvanizing force for LGBTQIA+ political activism and gave rise to the Gay Liberation Front. From that moment on, the gay-rights movement gained momentum and would directly challenge anti-gay repression.

Fifty years on, there is much to take pride in—and still much work to be done. The U.S. Supreme Court decision four years ago, on June 26, to strike down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, and require states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses was a major victory for equity in the LGBTQIA+ community.

But the recent rise in anti-gay legislative proposals and hate crimes signals that U.S. society has yet to fully overcome its deeply ingrained homophobia. Sadly, being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in 2019 means you can be forcibly removed from public spaces, arrested, fired, ostracized by family, and subject to violence. While we honor transgender and gender non-conforming activists such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were strong voices at Stonewall, we must acknowledge the continued threats and almost daily killings of transgender individuals in the U.S.

As members of the social work community, we can take pride in the role we social workers have played and continue to play in advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights. At the Columbia School of Social Work, a number of our most prominent faculty have been engaged in

  • designing targeted health and mental health interventions within the LGBTQIA+ community
  • advocating against bullying and other forms of homophobic/transphobic violence
  • dismantling sexual- and gender-based stigma

At the student level, our new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been working with transgender students to make sure their voices are heard, and I understand that many of our students have signed up with the School of Professional Studies to join the NYC World Pride March on June 30, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. Additionally, there will be a Queer Liberation March and Rally retracing the steps of the original Christopher Street Liberation Day March of 1970.

On behalf of the School’s leadership team, I wish you a #HappyPride and ask that everyone take a moment to appreciate the progress made but also note that we still have much work to be done 50 years after Stonewall.