For a lot of the population, the word Stonewall probably doesn’t mean much, but that is all about to change with the upcoming movie “Stonewall”. Unfortunately, their recollection of the historical riots will not be accurate and credit will not be given to whom it is due. That’s right; Hollywood is bringing us yet another whitewashed1 version of true events.
First things first, what is Stonewall? It refers to the Stonewall riots that were a series of spontaneous and violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community, against the police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, at the stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The LGBT community had been enduring police harassment and decided that night that it stopped now, they were fighting back. These riots are widely considered to be the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQIA2 rights in the USA.
The movie tells the story of Danny, a white cis3 gay kid moving to New York to follow his dreams. In the process of doing this, he also ends up instigating the Stonewall riots by throwing the first brick… Hold up one minute, what? Who is Danny? Good question! Yes, credit for the instigation of Stonewall is given to this fictional cis white gay man when in fact Stonewall and the subsequent LGBTQIA right movement partly begun because of trans activists of color, such as Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Marsha P. Johnson, and Sylvia Rivera, to name a few.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, often referred to as Miss Major, is a trans woman activist and a leader within the community when it comes to transgendered rights. She focuses particularly on women of color. Miss Major was a leader in the Stonewall riot, and when she was taken into custody, she was struck on the head by a police officer. She also reported that a corrections officer broke her jaw while she was in prison.
Marsha P. Johnson was an African American drag queen and gay liberation activist. She co-founded the Street transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with Sylvia Rivera. Marsha P. Johnson has been credited several times with throwing the famous first brick that started the stonewall riots.
Sylvia Rivera was a 17-year-old Puerto Rican drag queen on the night of the Stonewall riot. She’s reportedly one of the first bystanders to throw a bottle, a big deal given the power dynamics of the situation with the police.
While the Stonewall movie will shine a light on an important LGBTQIA historical event, and educate some of the general public on their fight, the true heroes behind the riots will not be named. Hopefully, this short article will encourage you to research the Stonewall riots and learn more about its true heroes.
1whitewashed: Here meaning that people of color, who actually participated in the events, have been erased and replaced by white characters.
2LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual
3cis: Here meaning male assigned male at birth
Written by: Amélie McFadyen
Chief Executive Officer of HPV Globala Action