Anyone with more than the slightest acquaintance with gay/queer history in the United States in the last fifty years knows about the Stonewall “riots” (I would call them response to police terrorism, myself) of 1969. Anyone who pays attention knows that the leaders of the disturbances were mostly cross-dressing people of color, including Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie and Miss Major Griffen-Gracy.
Stonewall’s story has been repeatedly whitewashed in the intervening 45 years, and activists have repeatedly been forced to step up and remind whatever segment of the mainstream is providing this misinformation that this story is not a story of white men.
Now, Hollywood is getting into the act, with Stonewall, scheduled to release in September, starring a bunch of cis white men. Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, among others), who has been honored by GLAAD for fighting media defamation of LGBT people (!), is covering himself with the opposite of glory (I don’t know about you, but I think of the opposite of glory as being brown and stinky and unwelcome in polite company).
Mey at Autostraddle previewed the film and says it is ” a false, whitewashed and ciswashed version, a version that the establishment could find respectable enough to be a mainstream story.” Mey also interviewed Miss Major Griffen-Gracy, a Black activist trans woman who participated in the Stonewall Riots:
My first thought is: how dare they attempt to do this again? A few years ago they did another Stonewall movie, and I swear if I saw a black person, it had to be a shadow running against the face of somebody who was white!
It’s absolutely absurd — you know, young people today aren’t stupid. They can read the history, they know that this is not the way it happened. These people can’t let it go! Everybody can’t be white! This is a country of different colors and people and thoughts and attitudes and feelings, and they try to make all of those the same for some reason.
It’s just aggravating. And hurtful! For all the girls who are no longer here who can’t say anything, this movie just acts like they didn’t exist.
And these were wonderful, marvelous, smart, intelligent girls. Yeah, we couldn’t get jobs making sixty thousand dollars a year, oh well. But we lived our true selves. We enjoyed our lives. We did what we had to do to survive. And we did! And now they’re acting like, “we’re so grateful that you did this and we’re going to take it from here because you stupid bitches don’t know how to do this.” Yeah, okay. Because I’m not white, I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale, and my parents don’t have money. What does any of that have to do with the facts? Nothing.
Read the rest of Miss Major’s interview, which provides a lot of honest, honestly colored history and context for Stonewall. I wish I believed Roland Emmerich was ashamed of himself.