|Source:Theodore Roosevelt Center- Theodore Roosevelt's connection with the Ariston Bath Raid.|
"While the #Stonewall riots are often seen as the impetus to the gay rights movement, the fight for equality and acceptance began far earlier. In today's blog post, Karen digs into the Ariston Bath Raid of 1903, and Theodore Roosevelt's connection."
"Unlike other cultural groups, the LGBT community has a less visible history, resulting in the assumption that their oppression and fight for equal civil rights has not been long fought. If students learn anything about gay history, they learn about the Stonewall Riots, a demonstration by members of the queer community in response to a violent raid against patrons of the Stonewall Inn 52 years ago on this day. The event is often seen as the impetus for the larger LGBT rights and gay pride movement in the United States, which is why Pride Month is celebrated annually in June. Most Americans’ awareness of gay history beyond Stonewall is minimal though, despite the fact that evidence of gay culture has been recorded since America was a British colony. For this week’s short blog post to close out Pride Month, I wanted to explore a lesser-known moment in the gay rights movement from Theodore Roosevelt’s first term as president — the Ariston Baths Raid of 1903.
Hundreds of sex-segregated bath houses operated in NYC at the turn of the century, spurred by the poor sanitary conditions and limited in-apartment toilets and baths in an increasingly populated city. Turkish baths’ popularity quickly spread from poor immigrants to local ethnic, fraternal and religious organizations, and later hotels and spas, that added steam rooms and massages."
I think a big problem with American politics in how people operate in it and try to understand it, has to do with political stereotypes. A lot of political junkies like to stereotype racial and ethnic groups as being part of this party or that ideological faction. African-Americans and Jews tend to get stereotyped as leftists because they tend to vote Democrat. And the same thing with Irish-Americans, especially Irish-Catholics. Anglo-Saxons (especially Southern Anglo-Saxons) tend to get stereotyped as Republicans and right-wing, because they tend to be Protestant. When the fact is none of these voting blocks are monolithic when it comes to their political persuasions.
Cities, especially big cities, and even big Northeastern cities like New York City is the same way. New York gets stereotyped as left-wing, because you have Greenwich Village there and you have a lot of left-wing professors, hipsters, writers, and cultural leftist leaders, but people tend to forget the Manhattan is the capital of Corporate America. NYC is also the home of Wall Street, it's one of the wealthiest cities (not just big cities) in America, at least when it comes to per-capita income. It also has a lot of blue-collar communities, Italians, Irish, Latino, and other ethnic groups there that tend to vote Republican, because they like Republican economic and even cultural policies.
So when NYPD cracked down on gay bars in 1903 and later in 1968, simply because the people there are gay, you shouldn't be surprised by that. New York has never been a utopia for gays in America or any other minority group. And neither has San Francisco (speaking of big cities) because even though SF is perhaps the most left-wing of any big city in America, gays have been harassed there as well simply because they are gay.