Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stonewall: getting it right

It pleases me when I read an article about the Stonewall riots that gets it right, i.e., that trans-people and drag queens were at the forefront of that skirmish.

Michael DeJong got it right in his piece that appeared on The Huffington Post yesterday. You can read it here.


  1. What I find interesting and disturbing is that transgender women like Sylvia Rivera took leading roles in the Stonewall Rebellion and in the early days of the Gay Rights movement, yet within a few years they were pushed aside and completely forgotten for close to three decades.

    According to several people, it was Sylvia who, in essence, started the resistance at Stonewall when she tossed one of her high-heeled red pumps at the cops who tried to take it over.

    She also led the fight to have an equal-rights law that included transgenders in New York City and State in 1971. The City didn't pass an equal-rights law for gays and lesbians until 1986; a law to protect transgenders wasn't enacted until 2002--a few weeks after Sylvia's death. During that time, 74 other municipalities in the US--including such bastions of liberalness as Rochester and Buffalo, NY as well as places where one might expect it, like San Francsisco and New Orleans--passed laws to protect transgenders from discrimination.

    Anyway, Sylvia and other transgender activists were pushed aside as affluent gay white men took over the LGBT rights movement. I think a lot of it had to do with socio-economics: on the whole, trans people are much poorer than gay men. In fact, the largest-growing segment of the homeless population is transgendered teenagers, and Sylvia herself was homeless for much of her life.

    I guess it's just a reflection of the biases one finds in this society. Given a choice between a man who looks like he came off the pages of GQ and someone who's been sleeping in a part and putting together outfits from whatever she finds in a used-clothes drop, guess who most people would choose.

    I met Sylvia as I was about to embark upon my transition and attended her wake and funeral. "I guess they put me on the shelf for a while and now they've brought me back," she once mused.

  2. That was a well-written and researched article, above the typical Wikipedia article.

    It was awe-inspiring the other day to march by the Stonewall Inn, to imagine that tiny bar lead to such a civil rights movement.
    Here is my picture of the Stonewall Inn as I marched by…