So the story or popular mythology goes, a butch lesbian may have thrown the first brick at Stonewall by urging patrons to resist arrest. But lesbians weren’t just present that famous night—they were absolutely instrumental in the 50-year period of LGBTQ activism that followed.
Joan Nestle, the 79-year-old co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, remembers standing outside the Stonewall Inn the night after the raid, struck by the grittiness of the West Village crowd in contrast to the more buttoned-up, polite “homophile” pickets that had been taking place throughout the 1960s.
“[Stonewall] was a sexualized site. It was in the streets that we acted out our erotic lives,” said Nestle. “Queer sex is a political motivator, and it was clearly evident in the streets of the Village that night.”