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International Impacts of the Stonewall Riots, and Positivism’s Shortcomings in Analysis
18:37, april 3, 2022

The Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City were a turning point for LGBTQIA+ policies not only in America, but worldwide. The short-term and long-term effects of these riots were felt throughout the international community and were impossible for positivist methodologies to predict. This essay will analyze the shortcomings of positivist approaches in international politics, focusing on the global effects of the 1969 Stonewall riots, and the subsequent failure of positivist methodologies in the international stage.

The Stonewall riots were a series of protests in the streets of New York, taking a stance against a violent altercation between police and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, on an early morning on Saturday, June 28, 1969. The inciting altercation occurred outside of a gay bar in Lower Manhattan, named the Stonewall in. A group of policemen entered the bar on a warrant to search for illegal alcohol sales. Finding what their warrant was after, they then arrested a total of thirteen people. Among these people were employees, and, in accordance with New York's criminal statute at the time, anyone who was not wearing at least three pieces of 'gender-appropriate' clothing. As word got out about the incident, an angry crowd began to form on the street outside of the entrance to the bar. When the police finally did emerge, patrons and employees in custody, the crowd outside reached a breaking point. Increasingly upset with the treatment from the police, a riot broke out, with onlookers throwing stones, bricks, bottles, and other objects at police and at the bar. Over the next few hours, the police would call in other precincts to help restrain the crowd. However, they would be unsuccessful. The following Saturday and Sunday, thousands took to the streets to continue the protests. Though the situation had calmed down on Monday and Tuesday, the most major protests took place on Wednesday. The protests finally came to a head on Thursday, July 3, but by that time, the momentum had begun for LGBTQIA+ activists, not only in New York, but throughout North America, and, eventually, the world (Stein, 2019). These events are motivated by people's emotions, a culmination of fed up individuals, offensive and irrational police tactics, and reactive bystanders. Thus, they are something positivism could not have predicted.

After the incidents in New York, news of the protests spread slowly but surely throughout international communities. Activists in the Philippines and Brazil caught word of the incident, inspiring them to protest the unfairness that they saw mirrored in their own communities (Silva & Jacobo, 2020). Similarly, activists and allies throughout Denmark and the Netherlands started their own series of protests and demonstrations, citing both the Stonewall riots and Anita Bryant’s outspoken anti-gay positions as the inspiration for these events (Shield, 2020, 199). Though it took some time for the international movement to really take off, in 1977, the first annual late-June demonstration in the Netherlands took place, copied from the Christopher Street Day Parade. Initially known as the ‘International Gay Liberation and Solidarity Day’, it later came to be known as ‘Pink Saturdays’. However, it continued to employ the theme of international solidarity, drawing attention to not only local issues faced by LGBTQIA+ community members, but also challenges faced by community members across the globe (Hekma, 2002, 84). These events continuously cited Stonewall as the inspiration and stepping stone for their actions (Shield, 2020, 199). Pink Saturdays continued to circulate around the Netherlands, not just staying rooted to the populous and vibrant city of Amsterdam, but taking place in several other provinces across the country, further spreading the influence of the events at Stonewall. The lasting legacy can be seen in the recurrence of Pride celebrations at the end of June, not only in America, but around the world.. In Canada, for example, pride month is recognized throughout all of June, informally celebrated by people all across the country. In 1994, the first gay pride march was held in the Philippines, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots (Tan, 2001, 126). In Australia, the first Sydney Gay Mardi Gras was held on the 24 June 1978, as a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, as well as an opportunity to express pride in homosexuality (Markwell & Waitt, 2009, 152). A plethora of evidence proves to us that it is undeniable that the Stonewall riots have influenced and inspired pride demonstrations and celebrations around the world. Though current celebrations have parted from the initial source of the Stonewall riots, they are still undoubtedly rooted in the events of that week in 1969.

In the context of international relations, positivism is a methodology which involves approaching the subject strictly as a science. There is an emphasis placed on quantitative results over qualitative. Founders of the positivist school of thought, such as Auguste Comte and Émile Durkheim, emphasized the value of the natural over the supernatural, and worked to convince researchers to focus on finding laws that could be applied universally to sociological situations, regardless of time, place, or influence. However, despite his stress on the value of empirical datasets, Comte did say ‘mathematical analysis itself may betray us into substituting signs for ideas, and that it conceals inanity of conception under an imposing verbiage’ (Compte, 1853, 108). Using mathematical analysis in solitude restricts researchers to a very limited scope of view. A quantitative dataset, removed from its initial context, is meaningless in the scope of a social science. Positivism’s claim to certainty is based on certainty in numbers and statistics, but it says nothing about the certainty of human behaviour. Social structures and behaviours are not removable from the individuals, activities, and institutions that form them. They reflect the views, morals, and opinions of the actors that shape them, and can change with time. Positivism’s goal of finding laws that can universally apply to situations, regardless of outside factors, is dismantled by the fact that social structures are fundamentally shaped by the actors that they affect, and will change depending on the individuals or states involved, timeframe, and location. Positivism’s claim of truth relies on the false assumption that truth has only one facet to it, quantitative and based on concrete objects. In fact, the concept of ‘truth’ is multifaceted. No agent in the anarchic stage of international relations can separate itself from what it shapes, and what shapes it. In a social setting, truth has unseen and abstract aspects, such as emotions, values, and morals of the actors. Positivism assumes that states will act rationally and in their best interests, but this is directly disproven by the irrational actions of the protestors at Stonewall. They did not act as rational actors, in their own best interests, instead sacrificing their own safety to defend their values and morals. Humans are not robotic actors, and they make the choice to act selflessly and irrationally. Subsequently, states and institutions are fundamentally made up of human actors with irrational thoughts and beliefs that often directly contradict what positivism would see as a rational decision.

Another issue that positivism fails to recognize is the flexibility of datasets. Though all of the information in a dataset may be fully true, if it is separated from its original context, individuals are free to project a context onto the dataset that warps the information to fit their worldview or goals. Similarly, statistical datasets can be cherry-picked for information. By selectively omitting or stressing points within a set of data, one can modify the context that the dataset is trying to express. Void of its original context, datasets can be used and misrepresented freely under the positivist approach. Alongside this issue, positivism does not tell researchers how to approach these datasets. It simply stresses that the world must be viewed in a purely concrete and empirical sense. However, once these statistics have been collected, positivism does not provide a method with which to analyze this data. The trends and graphs that positivism supplies, once again, can not predict the unpredictability and spontaneity of human emotion and choice. Humans are fallible and influenced by irrational concepts, like their emotions, passions, values, and dislikes. States, in turn, are run and affected by these fallible humans and their irrational choices. By failing to acknowledge the flexibility of humans and the effects that they have on states and international actors, positivism fails to accurately predict or analyze the contemporary landscape of international politics.

Post-positivist thinkers such as Morgenthau and Bull rejected positivist views for these reasons. They viewed international relations as requiring conceptual and interpretive judgements. They valued viewing concepts as they existed and interacted with actors, instead of focusing wholly on the numbers and statistics that concepts presented. Under a positivist view, the events at Stonewall should have never had the global effect that they did. Empirical data could not extrapolate that nine police officers, 13 arrested individuals, and an initial crowd of roughly 300 would expand into global movements still celebrated worldwide to this day.

The largest pitfall of positivism in the contemporary stage of international relations is the inability to predict the choices and influences of human emotion. The interpretation of purely numbers has little bearing on today’s landscape of individual driven politics and political movements, and post-positivist positions such as Hedley Bull’s positions in the English School of thought are far more apt approaches for an ever-changing landscape.

Compte, A. (1853). The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte (H. Martineau, Ed.; Vol. 2). John Chapman.
Hekma, G. (2002). Amsterdam. In D. Higgs (Ed.), Queer Sites: Gay Urban Histories Since 1600 (pp. 61-88). Taylor & Francis.
Markwell, K., & Waitt, G. (2009, April 29). Festivals, space and sexuality: Gay Pride in Australia. Tourism Geographies, 11(2), 143-168. 10.1080/14616680902827092
Shield, A. D. (2020, January 18). The legacies of the stonewall riots in Denmark and the Netherlands. History Workshop Journal, 89, 193-206. 10.1093/hwj/dbz051
Silva, M. R., & Jacobo, J. (2020). Global South Perspectives on Stonewall after 50 years, part I—South by South, Trans for Trans. Contexto Internacional, 42(3), 665-683. 10.1590/s0102-8529.2019420300007
Stein, M. (Ed.). (2019). The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History. New York University Press.
Tan, M. L. (2001, May 21). Journal of Homosexuality, 40(3-4), 117-142.


Canadian Law, Indigenous Populations, and Subjugation
17:53, august 9th, 2021

Historically, the law in Canada was used extensively to subjugate Indigenous people. Initially, upon arriving in Canada, European settlers claimed that they had "discovered" the land, despite the Indigenous population already living on it and utilizing it. They claimed that Indigenous people were using the land incorrectly, and enforced the belief that if the land was not being used for Eurocentric purposes, it was not being used properly. The European settlers seized the land from the Indigenous people, withholding food and resources and using violence as a means of coercion to move the Indigenous population into reserves. These reserves have lasting impacts today, often being placed on areas with poor or rocky soil. On reserves, infrastructure is often poor, and overcrowding and underfunding is a large problem. Children on reserves attend poorly constructed schools with few resources, and unemployment rates on reserves are high.

In the mid-1800s, the Canadian officials implemented the Gradual Civilization Act to assimilate Indigenous people into acting like the Eurocentric model of a "good Indian". In order to be able to vote, Indigenous people had to fall into a certain criteria, including being a man, over 21, debt free, and educated in English or French. If this didn't apply to the person in question, they could be enfranchised, and recognized as a British citizen. This, however, would force them to give up their legal status as an Indian, and would lose all rights associated with it. Because not many Indigenous people were willing to disenfranchise themselves, the government implemented the Gradual Enfranchisement Act, which defined someones legal status as an "Indian" based on a "blood quantum". This meant that people were granted or denied status based on "what percentage of Indian" they were. Any Indigenous person that had "less than a quarter of Indian blood" would lose their status. This has the lasting effect of dividing Indigenous populations based on whether or not they are "Indian enough". Mixed or Metis people were discriminated against based on heritage, and are now still separated from the community.

The Indian Act in the late 1800s restricted the communities of Indigenous people, and confined the legal definition of "Indian", barring Metis and mixed individuals from claiming status or benefits, but still treating them as other. This had the lasting effect of dividing large portions of communities. Indigenous women who married non-indigenous men would lose their status and all benefits or claims associated with it, like reserve property or residence, or participation in politics on reserves. Indigenous men, however, who married non-indigenous women, would keep their status and even be able to pass it onto his wife and any future children.

Residential schools were constructed, where the main idea was to "kill the Indian to save the child". Indigenous children were taken from their reserves and homes, sometimes by force, and put into these boarding schools. Here, children were banned from speaking their home languages, and siblings were separated. Children were taught to speak English exclusively, and taught to read from the Bible. Parents were not often allowed to see their children, only through rarely permitted visits, and children were only allowed to write home in English, a language that the parents often couldn't understand. Children in residential schools also suffered through sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and violence. These children were forced to do difficult manual and emotional labour, and often suffered injuries that weren't properly treated. Instructors at the schools were harsh and violent, and corporal punishment was used as a means of punishment. When these children returned home from the residential schools, they found that they felt detached from their communities and cultures. They were alienated from their own communities, and still not welcomed in the typical Eurocentric communities they had been taught to conform to. Many survivors of residential schools turned to substance abuse and alcoholism to cope with their difficult and painful childhoods. The children of survivors suffer through absent or emotionally distant parents, and suffer from intergenerational trauma. Having to see their parents suffer so heavily and having parents that may be abusive or absent in turn hurts them, and if they turn to alcoholism or substances like their parents, the cycle may continue onto their children as well.

The past is not so far away, with residential schools, as the last one closed in the mid 90s, less than thirty years ago, and the impacts still resonate heavily.


the issue of kink at pride
21:09, june 7th, 2021

Kink being present at pride has been a very touchy subject around quite a few of my friends lately, with a few divided opinions. I'd like to touch on it but I'd rather not upset someone I'm going to have to see face-to-face eventually, so I'm writing on it here.

I will be using "queer" to describe the LGBTQ+ community, as I describe myself as queer and its easier to type than an acronym. I understand and acknowledge that not everyone prefers or likes this label.

The discourse at the current moment boils down to whether or not kink and BDSM belong at pride parades.

Kink spaces and LGBTQ+ spaces have long been heavily intertwined. Kink and BDSM have a long and taboo history. The norm has long been to not discuss sex, sexuality, and relationships that fall out of a traditional box. Queer relationships and kink/BDSM (hereinafter just shortened to 'kink') relationships very obviously both fall under this taboo. Before civil rights movements had established themselves, queer communities and kink communities found themselves in many common spaces, with the common idea of forming relationships and discussing ideas that didn't fall into the societal norm. In an environment where both were pressured into limited spaces, those spaces ended up having to be shared, and communities flourished and thrived together.

Along with kink comes the encouragement to openly discuss sex, sexual health, and healthy exploration of different types of relationships and boundaries. The open discussion of these topics is something that should be approached with heavy tact and care, and they definitely should not be ignored.

At the same time, however, children should and need to be allowed to feel safe in public, and in queer spaces, where it may be most important to them. To have kink at pride is to invade a public space with mature content, which is undebatably NOT okay for minors to be so heavily exposed to. Sex, kink, BDSM, and everything related need to be conversations that are encouraged, but the actual visual content should be kept to particular spaces, not to discourage it, but to protect minors. Similar to how you don't want a 12-year-old watching an R-rated movie, you don't want to expose children to R-rated content, regardless of the community it has history with.

There is a deep and long (pardon the innuendo) history between kink and queer spaces, and they do tend to overlap. However, that should not be taken as, and is not, an invitation to walk around in a public space with a BDSM harness on and your dick out. It's a situation of "appropriate time and place" and a pride parade, where children and minors are supposed to feel safe and supported, is not the time or the place for that. The discussion and education of history and health is welcomed and encouraged, but the practice of such should remain what it is, a private, adults only event where all parties are consenting. Children can not consent to seeing sexual content, so exposing it to them at a place where they're supposed to feel most safe is a violation of their trust, comfort, and boundaries.

It's a delicate balance of ensuring that they are safe, and not exposed to mature content and themes, but at the same time making sure that they know it's okay to discuss subjects like that and seek guidance without feeling ashamed.

Ending this, I'd like to reiterate that I in no way think that anyone should feel ashamed of sex, the consenting relationships they have, or any kinks they enjoy. However, I care more about the comfort of children than the visibility of people having sex, and that's just how it is for me.


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