Stonewall riot activist speaking to students on LGBTQ2S+ history

Martin Boyce was in New York during the Stonewall riots which many consider a pivotal moment LGBTQ2S+ history. As Mark Neufeld reports, Boyce shares his view on the historic turning point more than 50 years later, with students across the country.

By Mark Neufeld

A Stonewall riot activist is speaking to students across the country about what is considered to be one of the most pivotal demonstrations that helped transform the LGBTQ2S+ liberation movement in Canada and the U.S.

Martin Boyce says he still remembers the sights, sounds, and even the smells of the Stonewall riot – also called the Stonewall uprising or Stonewall rebellion – members of the gay community held a series of protests in response to the 1969 police raid at the stonewall inn. A known safe space for New York city’s gay, lesbian and transgender community.

“All of us had done some kind of active work for other groups, we never thought about ourselves. Our culture was more powerful than ever, we were having an effect on the world, and I think our induvial pride, it was not a group pride yet, the induvial pride ignited that night into a group pride,” Boyce explained.

“I thought that the police were going to crack down on us and that we were going to be very, very punished.”

Boyce says the local community’s response to the violent police raid sparked a unification with pride marches and pride walks across North America transforming the fight for LGBTQ2S+ rights and equality. Now more than 50 years later, Boyce is speaking with over 5,000 students at over 150 schools encouraging today’s youth to stand up to hate.

“I hope that they understand that the history is open to them, that they should pick up their courage, and fight discrimination on every level.”

Destiny Klassen is a student and member of the Dakota Collegiate Gender Sexuality Alliance. The GSA reached out to Boyce asking him to stop in Winnipeg and share his story with students. Klassen is excited to learn more about a unique turning point in LGBTQ2S+ history from a person who was there, adding there is still more work to do in 2022.

“I feel like importantly in high school you are trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in,” said Klassen.

“I definitely feel like there is still discrimination, as well as like unfair treatment, so I definitely feel like there is room to grow, but we have had amazing progression and things have gotten a lot better, but there is still always work to go.”

Teacher Benson Shapiro says bringing Boyce in to speak, offers the students a unique lens into the movement and evolution of LGBTQ2S+ history.

Boyce, a prominent gay rights activist, wants to encourage representation in the school and provide a safe place for students to be themselves in a way that was not possible decades ago.

“Growing up and being in high school I never had representation or positive representation of who I am today, and that kept me in the closet for 30 years. So, it’s everything we can do as a school to create a safe space and let students know that even though now might not be the right time for them, it gets better,” explained Shapiro.

Boyces next stops are in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

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