Monday, December 22, 2014

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As part of NYC Pride Week 2014, NY1 examines some of the issues facing the city's transgender community.

Pride Week 2014: Christopher Street Storefronts Chronicle Village’s Role in Gay Rights Movement

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As NY1's coverage of Pride Week continues, the channel takes a tour of Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. Travel books and tour guides have long showcased the area as the battleground in the gay rights struggle almost a half century ago. But there have been few visible markers on the street itself. That is, until now. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

The store windows of Christopher Street are alive, not just with the wares inside, but with the chronicles of the neighborhood's living history.

"Think of where this story has come,” said Susanna Aaron of Stonewall 45.

A story told in part through panels. They detail a key era in the gay rights movement, timed for the 45th anniversary of a seminal event.

With laws criminalizing their behavior, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people found safety on Christopher Street, including a bar at 53 Christopher.

A police bust 45 years ago turned their quiet resistance into a national movement.

"As in every raid, they would always round up some of the patrons. It was illegal to cross-dress, that was illegal,” said Aaron.

Six days of riots started when a man wearing woman's clothing was arrested.

"The crowd didn't go for it. The crowd started fighting back,” said Aaron.

It spread. Sixty gay rights organizations in 1969 had by one count mushroomed into at least 1,000 a year later.

Another picture is of activists occupying the city clerk’s office. Theirs was an unthinkable cause: same sex marriage.

The exhibit is the brainchild of Aaron, who has always lived in the area.

"I was hoping through this project to bring more of a sense of place to the history, and more of a sense of history to the place,” she said.

"People have been stopping by, we see them looking in the window,” said William Felder, a Christopher Street shop owner.

There are 26 signs in all, and they're only up through Sunday, but there's hope that they'll spark a more permanent exhibition.

That is, a history museum in Greenwich Village, covering much more than the year of the Stonewall riots.

"LGBT history, HIV and AIDS history is New York history. And we have to ensure that it's told for future generations,” said Councilman Corey Johnson.

But for know, there's just this simple hope: a walk down Christopher Street becomes more mindful of what happened before.

"People begin to make a connection between this incredibly powerful movement and the place where it began,” said Aaron.

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