Fight the Stonewall Lie

James Kirchick takes on the myth makers, including the Human Rights Campaign, writing:

Contemporaneous press accounts and the most credible scholarship both confirm that the crowd which partook in the Stonewall uprising was primarily not trans, female, and of color, but gay, male, and white. …

Put aside the question of whether the people described as “draq queens” 50 years ago would today identify as transgender (some might, many would still identify as drag queens, that is, gay men impersonating women)—by most accounts they were relatively few in number.

And yet, as Kirchick notes, we have the big lie perpetually repeated:

“Harassed by local police simply for congregating, Stonewall’s LGBTQ patrons—most of whom were trans women of color—decided to take a stand and fight back against the brutal intimidation they regularly faced at the hands of police,” asserts an article on the website of HRC.

He concludes:

What might have been a laudable effort to highlight the role of transgender people alongside gay people in a major historical event has been corrupted by an effort to expunge gay people, and gay men in particular, from that story. After the AIDS epidemic nearly destroyed a generation of gay men, the stealing of Stonewall amounts to a second erasure.

3 Comments for “Fight the Stonewall Lie”

  1. posted by Jorge on


    I could take Sylvia Rivera at her word and come away from all this hoopla concluding it was the token black drag queen who started Stonewall.

    But recent studies have shown people have distorted memories of 9/11. It’s jarring when I have an example I can easily relate to.

    “Witness Julian Castro’s expressed commitment at last month’s Democratic presidential debate to providing federally funded abortions for a “trans female.” Despite being an anatomical impossibility, it was one of the night’s most raucous applause lines.”

    Oh, brother. A transgender biological female–in other words a female who trans genders. You should know by now people of color are a little behind the times when it comes to social conventions that sound stupid.

    • posted by Rob McGee on

      It’s always seemed self-evident to me that mainstream newspapers in 1969 would’ve been likely to INFLATE the number of transwomen/drag-queens who took part in the unrest near the Stonewall Inn, because it makes for juicier copy.

      Sensationalism sells papers. A photo of ONE man in a dress was worth a thousand words about young political activists protesting something or other while dressed in ordinary, boring street clothes.

      (Photos from rallies a few months after Stonewall clearly show a LOT of 20-something white guys in jeans and T-shirts.)

  2. posted by Mike King & David "TJ" Bauler on

    The gay and bisexual men at the gay bar were not — by in large — involved with the gay rights movement that existed.

    Remember that a gay rights movement existed in post-war America. But, in the 1940s, 1950s and the 1960s, very few people publicly supported anything related to gay rights. Straight people — across ethnic, economic and political backgrounds needed to be educated. Gay people — across similar backgrounds — needed to feel like laws and attitudes could get better.

    The Stonewall riots marked the first time that the — mostly — apolitical patrons got political. I think that is the real story behind the history. “It Gets Better” is a more modern day slogan, but it was something that the patrons started to believe.

    Some of those patrons where blue collar, some where white collar, some where black, some where white, some were draq queens, some were radicals, some were part of the political establishment (or wanted to be).

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