The Stonewall Myth

The upcoming premiere of the movie “Stonewall” (directed by Roland Emmerich and written by Jon Robin Baitz) has provoked calls for a boycott by the predicable crowd, since the central character is a gay white cis male.

As the negative comments to the trailer show, the myth of Stonewall is alive and thriving—that the bar was frequented by people of color and drag queens who started and led the subsequent riots. Alas, actual Stonewall veterans and real historians note that the Stonewall was, in fact, a mostly young white male kind of place. Photos reveal a clientele that, if not quite preppie was certainly more middle-class than lumpenproletariat, although local drag queens joined the riot once it got underway.

Back in 1999 IGF posted Stonewall Revisited by historian Eric Marcus, who noted, “The story of what really happened at Stonewall has yet to be distorted and embellished beyond the point of recognition, but it’s well on its way.” And in 2002, we ran The Myth of the Transsexual Stonewall by Dale Carpenter, who wrote: “It is wrong to characterize the Stonewall Inn as having been a sanctuary for genderqueers (unless that term encompasses non-transgendered gay men).”

Eric Marcus wrote:

The Stonewall Inn attracted an eclectic crowd, from teenage college students like Morty Manford to conservatively dressed young men who stopped in with their dates after the theater or opera. “It was a different mind-set then,” recalled Dawn Hampton. “On weekends, men dressed up. A lot of them were dating and they would dress in coat and tie.” …

The Stonewall Inn was not a generally welcoming place for drag queens, although as Martin Duberman notes, “…a few favored full-time transvestites, like Tiffany, Spanola Jerry, a hairdresser from Sheepshead Bay, and Tammy Novak… were allowed to enter Stonewall in drag…”

These posts sought to put historical fact above politically correct and fashionable narrative, to little success. And thus the calls to boycott the Stonewall movie for failing to show the fabled bar as it was not, but (for many) ought to have been.

When the legend becomes fact, print (or film) the legend?

More. Writing at, Stonewall veteran Mark Segal, now the publisher of Philadelphia Gay New, shares his views (and why he opposed the boycott). He writes:

Once Stonewall was raided and the crowd became angry and it looked as though something might happen, only drag queens, homeless kids, people like me who thought they had no future, and a few activists stuck around.

Who am I to argue with an eye witness? But I’ll just note that then-kids like Segal himself and other Stonewall veterans/instigators, such as Morty Manford and Marty Robinson, may have felt marginalized and that they had nothing to lose, but were in fact from white working- or middle-class families, college-educated if not actually still students. And, in the case of these three, also Jewish. So no, not all street people and drag queens of color.

26 Comments for “The Stonewall Myth”

  1. posted by Phillip Crawford Jr. on

    I recently published “The Mafia and the Gays” concerning the historical ties between organized crime and gay bars, and my research also shows that the Stonewall largely was patronized by gay white so-called cis males. For example, author Angelo d’Arcangelo a/k/a Josef Bush writes in his 1968 “The Homosexual Handbook” that “The Stone Wall is rather reserved . . . and has a sort of Sunset Strip or Cherry Grove flavor,” and in contrast the Bon Soir on West 8th Street is “much like what you see uptown and with a strong Spanierican flavor.”

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Of course the mafia ran most of the gay bars at the time. It was illegal to serve alcohol to known homosexuals in NYC at the time so the only way to keep such a bar open was to regularly pay off the police (who harassed patrons anyway, especially in 1969 during the World’s Fair when there was a mandate from the mayor to “clean up” the city. Also what with “so-called cis- males”. WTF? It’s a term. Use it or not but that slap against trans people did not go unnoticed and colored the rest of what you wrote for me.

      • posted by Phillip Crawford Jr. on

        It was not “illegal to serve alcohol to known homosexuals in NYC at the time”; in fact, that prohibition was eliminated in 1967. Indeed, many gay bars continued to be mobbed-up well into the mid-1980s. Indeed, many straight bar and clubs have been owned by the Mafia during this same period. There was no mandate to clean up gay bars in 1969 for a World’s Fair. The last World’s Fair in New York was 1964-1965. The NYPD raid against the Stonewall in 1969 was to search for Wall Street bonds stolen by some mobsters. No offense meant by the use of the “‘so-called’ cis males”; it just wasn’t a term I was terribly familiar. I thought “cis males” was a term of art, and accordingly prefaced it with “so-called.”

        • posted by Jorge on

          So much of LGBT language is normalized by dictatorial flatulence.

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    I agree with Larry Kramer:

    “Don’t listen to the crazies. For some reason there is a group of ‘activists’ that insists on maintaining their prime importance and participation during this riot. Unfortunately there seems no one left alive to say ‘it wasn’t that way at all,’ or ‘who are or where the fuck were you.’ As with so much history there is no way to ‘prove’ a lot of stuff, which allows artists such as yourself (and me I might add) to take essences and attempt to find and convey meaning and truth. I sincerely hope this boycott your film shit peters out. We are not dealing with another ‘Cruising’ here. Keeping your film from being seen is only hurting ourselves. Good luck and thank you for your passion.” – Larry Kramer, responding to the Facebook page of Stonewall director Roland Emmerich.

    I wasn’t at Stonewall, or anywhere near. I was in the Army, a long distance away physically and psychologically from the event, but the historians who have written about it have drawn a emerging picture of the “riot” and the subsequent days of protest which contradicts both the “myth” that transgendered people were in the vanguard of the gay/lesbian rights movement, responsible not only for the Stonewall “riot” but the protests afterward, and the “myth” that the Stonewall clientele was “mostly young white male kind of place”, “preppie” and respectable.

    The Stonewall itself appears to have been disreputable, even by gay bar standards of the time, a haven for cross-dressers (not necessarily transgendered), male prostitutes and underage street kids. The clientele obviously included others, and on many/most nights young white males were no doubt in the majority, young males doing most of the drinking in our society and the New York gay scene at the time most likely as segregated as the rest of the urban north at the time. The folks who lived in New York and frequented the bars at the time could speak to those questions, but the gay bars I visited in other areas of the country during the late 1960’s were certainly both dominated by young white males.

    The first-hand accounts suggest that the cross-dressers played a significant role in sparking and sustaining resistance to the raid that night, but it is hard to tell what is what from unmediated first hand accounts, because the teller is always the hero of the teller’s own story, and the participants in the Stonewall “riot” are no exception. While the role of the cross-dressers may have been pivotal that night, the histories of the next few days, during which the gay community protested in the Village, suggest that the GLF and other gay rights organizations were the driving force behind the strength and longevity of the protests that became the “Stonewall uprising”, and provided the impetus that led to a new, and different form of activism.

    Stonewall has become an iconic event in LGBT history, now considered a turning point, whatever it may have been at the time. It has become a symbol of the LGBT rights movement, and as symbol, has a life of its own that transcends the reality of what actually happened. The movie’s official trailer suggests that Stonewall is “Where Pride Began”, which is both accurate (in symbol) and inaccurate (in reality). Because Stonewall is now more symbol than historical reality, it is not surprising that LGBT folk of all stripes are identifying with the symbol and claiming a role in the event itself.

    Having said all that, I think Larry Kramer nailed it. Calls for a boycott are absurd.

    • posted by Aubrey Haltom on

      David Carter has a lot of info that would contradict any claim that ‘transvestites’, cross-dressers, etc… were involved – as catalyst or rioter.

      “My research for this history demonstrates that if we wish to name the group most responsible for the success of the riots, it is the young, homeless homosexuals, and, contrary to the usual characterizations of those on the rebellion’s front lines, most were Caucasian; few were Latino; almost none were transvestites or transsexuals; most were effeminate; and a fair number came from middle-class families.”

      “The question of who gets credit for starting the riots is one that deserves consideration. The question, however, contains a premise: that an individual or group of individuals can be singled out as the prime mover in a complex process that many persons collectively created. . . [T]here was a continuum of resistance ranging from silent persons who ignored the police orders to move to those who threw objects at the police. . . . [T]here was throughout the evening both a gradual buildup of anger and, correspondingly, a gradual escalation in the release of that anger. In the course of that buildup there were numerous turning points, some more critical than others.”

  3. posted by Phillip Crawford Jr. on

    Here is Bush’s account in his 1968 “The Homosexual Handbook” on his visit to the Stonewall:

    I wanted to know if we could go there because I’d heard that it was not only a Dancing Bar, but a Dancing Bar with go-go boys. In cages, I hoped. “Oh, you don’t want to go there.” “Why not?” “That’s so tired. What do you want to watch a couple of bleached-out skinny faggots wiggling their much-used asses up on a bar for?” I assured him that I did anyway, and that it was like “Old Faithful.” If you haven’t seen it you might as well; especially if you’re in the neighborhood.

    * * *

    This is a young bar. The patrons are primarily youthful and primarily good-looking. That’s the premium. A haven of and for narcissists. Sex is in the air but it remains there while people preen and rubberneck about to see who is or might be watching their contortions. Median age I’d reckon to be about twenty-two.

    * * *

    On the way out of the place I happened to notice that the light shows and projections were suddenly turned on and two boys at opposite ends of the bar were flouncing about to assorted rhythms. They wore little flesh-colored bathing trunks and seemed to be quite devoid of unwanted body hair. The lad to my left was much too languid to be anything more than a travesty of the tired stripper, but the right-hand boy was really working out with verve and energy. He was not without looks, but wore one of those unlived-in faces far too weary of it all for his age or even his environment. Should we ever meet, I’ll thank him for being just the hard little number he is.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      As a historian, you must be aware of the danger of relying on a single, highly subjective source.

  4. posted by Jorge on

    Yeah, I think that “myth” is pretty much sold at this point.

    But I did have one burning question that Tom mostly answers: where did the rioters come from?

    The Stonewall itself appears to have been disreputable, even by gay bar standards of the time, a haven for cross-dressers (not necessarily transgendered), male prostitutes and underage street kids.

    The first-hand accounts suggest that the cross-dressers played a significant role in sparking and sustaining resistance to the raid that night, but it is hard to tell what is what from unmediated first hand accounts, because the teller is always the hero of the teller’s own story, and the participants in the Stonewall “riot” are no exception…

    It seems to me that open attacks on people are rare, and when they happen it’s often to the mild-mannered and unassuming. It’s the “disreputable people” who fight back–that’s why they’re always attacked covertly. It is easy to imagine a situation–it happens quite often–when street bystanders would intervene when they witness an open attack on people they identify with for one reason or another. We had a situation in which a lot of intelligence spread quickly, too. Riots don’t just happen. Prostitutes and street kids and underage kids tend to know at least one important thing about local politics (it’s part of survival).

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Edmund White made some interesting observations in a contemporary account (a letter he wrote to friends shortly after the event) about the nature of the crowd that resisted that night:

      The cops raided the , that mighty Bastille which you know has remained impregnable for three years, so brazen and so conspicuous that one could only surmise that the Mafia was paying off the pigs handsomely. Apparently, however, a new public official, Sergeant Smith, has taken over the Village, and he’s a peculiarly diligent lawman. In any event, a mammorth paddy wagon, as big as a school bus, pulled up to the Wall and about ten cops raided the joint. The kids were all shooed into the street; soon other gay kids and straight spectators swelled the ranks to, I’d say, about a thousand people. Christopher Street was completely blocked off and the crowds swarmed from the Voice office down to the Civil War hospital.

      As the Mafia owners were dragged out one by one and shoved into the wagon, the crowd would let out Bronx cheers and jeers and clapping. Someone shouted “Gay Power,” others took up the cry–and then it dissolved into giggles. A few more gay prisoners–bartenders, hatcheck boys–a few more cheers, someone starts singing “We Shall Overcome”–and then they started camping on it. A drag queen is shoved into the wagon; she hits the cop over the head with her purse. The cop clubs her. Angry stirring in the crow. The cops, used to the cringing and disorganization of the gay crowds, snort off. But the crowd doesn’t disperse. Everyone is restless, angry and high-spirited. No one has a slogan, no one even has an attitude, but something’s brewing.

      Some adorable butch hustler boy pulls up a parking meter, mind you, out of the pavement, and uses it as a battering ram (a few cops are still inside the Wall, locked in). The boys begin to pound at the heavy wooden double doors and windows; glass shatters all over the street. Cries of “Liberate the Bar.” Bottles (from hostile straights?) rain down from the apartment windows. Cries of “We’re the Pink Panthers.” A mad Negro queen whirls like a dervish with a twisted piece of metal in her hand and breaks the remaining windows. The door begins to give. The cop turns a hose on the crowd (they’re still within the Wall). But they can’t aim it properly, and the crowd sticks. Finally the door is broken down and the kids, as though working to a prior plan, systematically dump refuse from the waste cans into the Wall, squirting it with lighter fluid, and ignite it. Huge flashes of flame and billows of smoke.

      Now the cops in the paddy wagon return, and two fire engines pull up. Clubs fly. The crowd retreats.

      Another participant, Raymond Castro (one of the five arrested that night) was interviewed years later and confirmed that the “riot” was born of the interplay between the police, the bar patrons and the crowd that gathered:

      Castro, who now lives in Madeira Beach, Fla., outside St. Petersburg, is far removed from Stonewall. But his name surfaced in newly released NYPD police reports documenting arrests during the riots. The reports had previously redacted names of some arrested on the first night, but were obtained in May under the Freedom of Information Law by OutHistory.Org, a Web site run by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York.

      Another name that appears in police reports for the first time is that of Marilyn Fowler, confirming earlier accounts that a woman was one of the main instigators of initial resistance to police.

      “There are many witnesses to the Stonewall riots who say a woman, a lesbian presumably, played an important role in intensifying the resistance when they tried to arrest her and put her in the wagon,” said Jonathan Ned Katz, the Web site’s director, who recently obtained the documents. “It’s a very important name to be discovered.”

      And for Castro, the name refutes other long-held beliefs that the Stonewall demonstrators were all white gay men.

      “It wasn’t just gays,” said Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico and left in 1945. “It wasn’t just white gays.”

      “You had straight people sympathetic to gays. People of the arts. You had people who had had enough (of the police). You had Latinos, you had blacks, you had whites, Chinese, you had everything. It was a melting pot. Young, old. Fems, butches.”

      Castro recalled being arrested with a woman on June 28 but didn’t remember her name. He was arrested on a harassment charge, according to the police report, that was later dismissed.

      “Defendants … did shove and kick the officer …” reads the report, one of nine NYPD documents Katz posted on the Web site.

      It was hot and humid the night police officers raided the inn for selling liquor without a license. Police estimated 200 patrons were thrown out of Stonewall, according to a June 29, 1969, New York Times article.

      After the raid, the crowd outside the Stonewall swelled to about 400, according to the Times account, citing police estimates.

      Police were “attempting to leave premises with prisoners” when “they were confronted by a large crowd who attempted to stop them from removing prisoners. The crowd became disorderly,” read a copy of the NYPD complaint.

      Four police officers were injured, including one with a broken wrist, according to the Times, which described the scene as a “rampage” by hundreds of young men. Thirteen people were arrested that first night on charges including harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest, the story says.

      As the raid moved outside, with people hurling coins, stones, garbage and insults at the police, Castro was somehow pushed back inside the bar, where police held him and others. After a while, two police officers escorted him out of the bar in handcuffs, he said, before he pushed back as he was escorted into the wagon.

      The two accounts, taken from materials, are among many accounts, contemporary and subsequent, of the events at Stonewall and during the course of the next few days. Historians will sort it out in time.

      I would suggest, though, that the actual facts of that night (who was present, who did what and why, and so on) are no more relevant to Stonewall as the symbol of the beginning of the gay rights movement than the “historical Jesus” is relevant to the understanding of “Jesus as Christ” that developed during the first century or so of Christian history.

      In each case, the mundane facts of who, what, where, when and why have long since been superseded by what has grown up around the facts, and symbol has supplanted reality. And it is the symbol (not the reality, whatever that may be) that has the power and makes the difference.

      I don’t know what to say about the squabbling over the “who, what, where, when and why” of Stonewall, particularly the “who” part. It seems to me, from what I’ve read, that people of various types, both gay and straight, were involved in the “riot” in one way or another, and to one extent or another.

      But I do know that it is a natural human instinct to identify with a symbol, with an iconic event, and to shape, intentionally or otherwise, the symbol or event to make it relevant to oneself.

      I compared the reality and symbol of Stonewall to reality and symbol of Jesus for a reason, and the reason was not to offend Christians, who believe that Jesus was G-d incarnate. The reason was to draw your attention to the way in which Jesus has been used as symbol of the various expressions of Christianity over the years, as each age created Jesus in its own image, deploying the Christological symbols of Jesus to explain the age. Jasilov Pelikan wrote a splendid book about this aspect of Christian history, Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, in 1999.

      I think that is what is going on with Stonewall. Stonewall has become the symbol of “Where Pride Began”, and it is natural for each subset of the “LGBT community” to identify with the events at Stonewall, and to both see themselves in the events and to shape their understanding of the events to make Stonewall as symbol relevant to their particular part of the struggle for “equal means equal”.

      The Stonewall raid itself seems to have been nothing much, a raid on a rather tawdry mob-owned gay bar, common enough in the 1960’s.

      What happened after is what began the “myth” of Stonewall, created Stonewall as symbol. The “Stonewall uprising” changed the dynamics of the gay rights movement, as the protests that occurred that night and in days subsequent took on a life of their own. That’s what is important.

      • posted by Jorge on

        I would suggest, though, that the actual facts of that night (who was present, who did what and why, and so on) are no more relevant to Stonewall as the symbol of the beginning of the gay rights movement than the “historical Jesus” is relevant to the understanding of “Jesus as Christ” that developed during the first century or so of Christian history.

        On matters of religion and “doctrinal” truth, I prefer to think that God changed time-history when we weren’t looking. People can’t take all the credit. But I find the idea that the Stonewall riots should be thought of as something with unique meaning to all people across all times to be a little unsettling.

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        But I find the idea that the Stonewall riots should be thought of as something with unique meaning to all people across all times to be a little unsettling.

        Again (as clearly stated in my comment) I have no intention of offending Christians, and I am not suggesting that “the Stonewall riots should be thought of as something with unique meaning to all people across all times”. I think that is an astonishing claim for Christians to make about their own symbol/story, and absurd for anyone to claim about Stonewall. I certainly don’t.

        I am simply pointing out that (1) historical facts become largely irrelevant when an event becomes a powerful symbol, a story with a meaning, power and life of its own that supplants and overshadows whatever the historical facts might be, and (2) it is a natural human tendency for people/cultures shaped, moved and influenced by the symbol/story to write themselves into the story, shaping the story to give meaning to their own lives.

        I think that is clearly what has happened with Stonewall. The raid itself didn’t amount to much, and the “riots” were a blip on the radar screen by any reasonable standard. The event was largely ignored outside New York, and it wasn’t until some years later that Stonewall began to take on its meaning as symbol/story in the LGBT community at large. It is a stretch, in my opinion, even to suggest that Stonewall was “where pride began”, because the fight for better treatment of gays and lesbians was alive and well, and continued more or less uninterrupted, in other areas of the country, unaffected for the most part, by the events that took place around Stonewall.

        But all that is irrelevant, because Stonewall did take on a life of its own as symbol/story over the course of the years, and has become the time and place “where pride began” in the popular imagination. We now talk about the struggle for LGBT equality in terms of “pre-Stonewall” and “post-Stonewall”, as if the Stonewall “riots” were a clear, bright-line turning point in LGBT history. I would quietly suggest that is a historical rewrite, a rewrite that is nonetheless accurate because Stonewell did become that turning point in the minds of gays and lesbians as time went on.

        Looking at the event itself, the role of the various players in the “riots” is complicated. New Yorkers may have been treated to breathless accounts of “Queen Power” by the local press (see the article posted by Houndentenor), but the events that took place on Christopher Street during the night of the “riot” and subsequent days of the “uprising” seem to have been much more complicated than that cartoonish account.

        Whatever the actual who, what, where, when and why of the events surrounding Stonewall might have been, we have seen continued retelling and recasting of the Stonewall story/symbol as the LGBT movement evolved over time, and we have seen different takes on the story/symbol as each constituency of the adopted it as its own. The fight over the Stonewall movie is really a fight over legitimacy of the Stonewall story/symbol to differing and competing constituencies with the LGBT movement.

        Stonewall is really two historical stories that need to be uncovered, digested and told. The first story is an account of the actual events. The second story is an account of how the story took on a life of its own as symbol, recast as needed to fit the needs of the times. The two stories are related, but distinct, and it is in the second story that Stonewall takes on its historical significance as a culture-shaping event. The first story has been largely rendered irrelevant by the second.

  5. posted by Mike in Houston on

    A contemporary news account would seem to buttress the “myth” that this post presumably wants to debunk:

    Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad

    The New York Daily News, July 6, 1969

    She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

    Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

    “We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

  6. posted by Mike in Houston on

    And another fuller account:

    This club was more than a dance bar, more than just a gay gathering place. It catered largely to a group of people who are not welcome in, or cannot afford, other places of homosexual social gathering.

    The “drags” and the “queens”, two groups which would find a chilly reception or a barred door at most of the other gay bars and clubs, formed the “regulars” at the Stonewall. To a large extent, the club was for them…. Apart from the Goldbug and the One Two Three, “drags” and “queens” had no place but the Stonewall….

    Another group was even more dependent on the Stonewall: the very young homosexuals and those with no other homes. You’ve got to be 18 to buy a drink in a bar, and gay life revolved around bars. Where do you go if you are 17 or 16 and gay? The “legitimate” bars won’t let you in the place, and gay restaurants and the streets aren’t very sociable.

    Read the story and follow the links to historian David Carter’s site — where (if you want) you can download a word document that compiles contemporary accounts & documents of what actually happened.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      David Carter’s compilation is indeed fascinating. It doesn’t have the descriptive power of the accounts from which the compilation is drawn, but it is valuable as a resource because Carter lines up snippets from various accounts into a timeline.

      • posted by Aubrey Haltom on

        Carter wrote a book (“Stonewall”) which is an excellent resource for visiting what was happening up-to and including the riots.

        Carter notes that alcohol was still not allowed to be served to gays (@ 2 weeks prior to Stonewall, a couple of Mattachine Society members had just conducted a ‘civil disobedience action’ by going into a ‘hetero’ Village bar and asking for alcohol. And informing the bartender they were gay. They were denied service. Then escorted out.)

        It was a mayoral election year. Police raided several gay bars during June 1969. The Village locals were getting frustrated. Angry.

        Carter – who relies on not only interviews but also written reports from the days of the riots and immediately following – pulls together a fascinating and frightening reminder of what lgbt people had to deal with as late as 1969.

        Carter also notes that if there was a ‘single’ demographic that should be noted for the riots – it would be the homeless gay males, mostly white, effeminate.
        But Carter stresses that Stonewall wasn’t an event tied to a ‘singular’ demographic. Some transvestites were present. A drag queen or 2.

        A butch dyke was apparently the catalyst for the actual ‘rioting’ – as she fought against the police trying to push her into the paddy wagon.
        Reports from the Mattachine Society (which also reinforce Carter’s account) on the days of the riots note that Craig Rodwell (Harvey Milk’s former lover in ’61, ’62; and founder of Oscar Wilde bookstore in nyc) shouted “gay power” as the dyke was resisting.

        No brick was thrown. But the local, young, gay crowd started throwing bottles, rocks, whatever.

        I found Carter’s study to be enlightening and informative – because Stonewall didn’t happen in a vacuum. He helps contextualize what was happening at the time.

        And also notes that there is enough credit to go around to any demographic within our minority community…”

  7. posted by Tom Jefferson 3rd on

    This is the second film effort to capture the Stonewall Inn riots on celluloid.

    I believe that an Indie film wad released in 1996 called, Stonewall.

    This newer effort probably has more resources to work with – finisncial and historical.

    I think that you probably had white collar, white men at the bar, you probably had also folks that were not white, or white collar.

    Women went to Stonewall, as did guys who were very (cough, cough) “fabulous”

    It does sound like a fair number of people say the bar as a friendly “neighborhood bar”.

    Its physical location may have played a role in it not bring quite as segregated as other bars.

    I think the film boycott is silly, but I think its silly pretending that the only people at the bar (or involved in the riots) were white, masculine men who loved future President Reagan and had Swiss bank acounts.

    • posted by jason on

      I think its silly pretending that the only people at the bar (or involved in the riots) were white, masculine men who loved future President Reagan and had Swiss bank acounts.

      Nobody, but nobody, has said this. The post, and some of the more intelligent comments, show that the highly politically correct version has a lot of holes. That is what makes the boycott especially insidious.

      • posted by Tom Jefferson 3rd on

        I think it is curious how their is a desire – among some – to endorse an oversimplifed narrative about the demographics of the patrons and the motivation of the protestors.

        Having not seen the film, I cannot say how accurate its narrative is.

        Having the central character be a white man is not – in itself – a historical problem.

        Clearly, white men patronized the bar and were involved in the protests.

        The potential problem is when the narrative does not find the time to show the involvement of (at least) one woman and one draq queen and lots of local youth and artists who were fed up with gay bashing and police brutality.

  8. posted by Lori Heine on

    I’m becoming very interested in that period of LGBT history. I don’t know too much about it. The first detailed account of Stonewall I ever read was in an Ethan Mordden novel, “How Long Has This Been Going On?”

    Excellent book. I love everything of Mordden’s. I’m not sure how accurate the novel is, though I would assume that, as he is a contemporary of that period, he would have done his homework.

    • posted by Aubrey Haltom on

      If you’re willing to do some reading – it’s a long work – I’ll repeat my reply to Tom. David Carter’s “Stonewall” is an excellent choice.
      It’s well-documented, providing context to the riots by placing them within their historical socio-political moment.
      And he’s even-handed. His “conclusions” are not stated until well towards the end of the book. And he is not trying to deny anyone’s inclusion. He just notes what was written, eyewitness accounts, etc..
      I’ve read a few Stonewall accounts. I’ve found Carter’s to be the most informative, and probably the most reliable.

      • posted by Lori Heine on

        Thanks. I will certainly read the book.

        In Chicago in the Forties, my grandfather had a tavern. As straight people are clueless about that sort of thing even today, I have to read between the lines of what I remember him telling me. But he said that his bartender was a lesbian, and that “her friends” used to frequent the tavern.

        Not sure to what extent, and back when he told me I was a kid deep in the closet, but Hmmmmm!

        I wish I’d asked more questions. So many of the people I’d like to ask questions have now passed on to that great tavern in the sky.

  9. posted by Dale of the Desert on

    My husband was inside the Stonewall Inn a few times. He assures me that the “resident clientele” there were not generally from the Upper East Side gay upper crust, although he wasn’t inside during the riot. In 1969 I was a young married professional in San Francisco, struggling with shame after marriage and three children had not rid me of being gay. The news story of the Stonewall riots struck me like a lightening bolt and jolted me into a sudden realization that maybe I didn’t need to be ashamed. It didn’t matter who the rioters were, and it doesn’t matter to me today whether the details have become imbued with myth; what was and still is real is the message of faith, hope, and love they gave me by standing their ground and pushing back. Whether they were wearing stiletto heels or wingtip oxfords wasn’t important. They inspired me to summon new courage and honesty and self respect to turn my life around and become who I was and not who I was expected to be.

  10. posted by Tom Jefferson 3rd on

    The implication when some people attack the “politically correct” historical version of events, is certainly to try and tie the rebellion to the modern day “gay right” versus the “gay left”.

    I suspect that the ethnic, economic and social demographics of Stonewall bar shifted (daily, monthly) for any number of reasons, which probably involved lots of un-political factors, i.e. convenience, price, locaction, reputation, etc.

    I say this because we seem to get a bit of variety in first hand accounts about the bar’s demographics.

    Public radio had a program a few years back where they interviewed some of the NY city police men involved in the raid/riot.

    Gay bars were often in a bit of legal limbo, even when it was no longer officially illegal to operate one.

    Example; In the 1980s, a businessman wanted to open a gay bar in Fargo, North Dakota.

    Public opposition was strong, and had the then city mayor not been supportive , the city would have found ways to harass the bar out of existence.

    I suspect in other cities and towns, a similar story played out, even through it was not illegal to run a gay bar.

    Organized crime liked nightclubs and bars because they could help laundry money or because it was often a cash only business.

    Now Id like to see a film before I form an opinion. Mind you, I do get easily annoyed at how Hollywood tends to “do” biopics and “based on real events”.


  11. posted by Mike n Houston on

    Let’s let someone who was there speak:

  12. posted by Stuart on

    I’ve always assumed that Stonewall was filled with lifelong, monogamous couples waiting for the chance to get married while their children played in the Playland. Alongside them were those studying for the ministry and those who were trying to find some way to serve their country in uniform. Weren’t the riots started when they weren’t allowed to adopt a highway?

    Gays were never, ever promiscuous or drug addicted, so stop saying that!

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