Stonewall (2015)

During its initial release and promotion, I wrote about Roland Emmerich’s 2015 film Stonewall and about how the film was essentially not representative of what happened during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. I wasn’t the only one to critique the film before even seeing it – the hashtag #NotMyStonewall brought up a variety of criticisms for the film and of the decision to center a cis, white gay man rather than the real life people who were present.

And for over a year, I forgot about the film. It didn’t seem to really do that well, getting only 10% from Rotten Tomatoes, and despite being friends with a large amount of LGBTQ+ folks, I honestly don’t really know anyone who actually went to see it. But a few weeks ago, I was staying at a place that didn’t have internet and because the one video rental place in town was having a special deal of renting five videos for the price of three, I decided to finally see what Stonewall (2015) was all about.

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Major!

By complete chance, I saw the documentary Major! recently and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the past few months. A small part of my experience was also learning that a local nonprofit movie theater does a queer movie series and being surrounded in large part by other LGBT and queer folks. But being able to learn about and celebrate Miss Major was really the best part.

The documentary is in large part about Miss Major Griffin Gracy and her story as a black trans woman, veteran of the Stonewall Riots, a survivor of Attica State Prison, former sex worker, and community leader/activist. Her work at the Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), for example, has supported trans women who are currently in jail and prison or who are formerly incarcerated. There are interviews from Miss Major herself and the community around her about her life and work and there’s so much love and support in this film.

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Teaching LGBT History.

Recently, I read about how some school districts around the US  were going to be teaching about LGBT history to students. This is, of course, a cause for celebration because it allows for LGBT students to learn about their community’s history in school. For one of the first times (at least in my experience), young people might be learning about the Stonewall Inn and Compton’s Cafeteria Riots and about people like Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera, and Marsha P Johnson.

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Police at Pride.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about police presence at Pride celebrations – after the mass shooting in Orlando and a potential attack in LA stopped, many people are on edge about potentially being attacked or killed because of their sexual orientation and/or gender. And it’s hard not to be a little terrified after everything: in addition to the Pulse shooting, queer/LGBTQ people are generally most at risk for hate crime related violence and that trend is unfortunately going up.

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The way we learn history.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way we learn and understand history – in part because of my own love for the Broadway hit musical Hamilton. That musical has taken the life of the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, turned it into a popular hip hop musical, and made learning about the founding fathers of the United States a little less boring. (Unless you’re a part of the founding fathers fandom, which is in fact an actual thing on the internet and includes romantic shipping of historical figures.) But at the same time, the show hasn’t told the full story and has spun some of the facts into a more dramatic retelling.

Hamilton has skyrocketed into mainstream popularity, received awards and praise, and has gained a sizeable and dedicated following. People show up in droves to watch the live #Ham4Ham mini shows during the ticket lottery in New York City and a book was created to show behind the scenes of both the show and creation. But not everyone has been praising the production and that’s a good thing.

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Happy Birthday, Marsha!

Happy Birthday Marsha!Happy Birthday, Marsha! is an upcoming short film about the legendary trans activist Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson and the days before the 1969 Stonewall Inn Riots. Honestly, I’m so excited for this film because unlike other films about the same time period and riot, it’s centering the people who were front and center at the time.

Right now, the film is in post production but still needs some funding to help finish up! The people behind the film are Sasha Wortzel and Reina Gossett, two filmmakers who have worked on other projects and with organizations. The two and Luisa Colon, another producer, were interviewed last June about the film and talked about how much they’ve learned from trans legends like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.

An Inclusive LGBT+ Community.

Bisexuality and Trans Identities

There seems to be this weird trend in some LGBT+ circles where instead of being an inclusive community of all identities under the LGBT+ umbrella, many will focus solely on the L and G parts (or will throw trans issues under the bus to get some equality). At one point during coming out day, someone actually tweeted that coming out as trans on National Coming Out Day was appropriating gay and lesbian culture.

There’s also a lot of bisexual hate in the LGBT+ community, including some that said bisexual people in “heterosexual” relationships shouldn’t attend Pride with their partners, as if bi people aren’t a part of the community unless we are fully gay or something.

All of that is totally alienating and erasing the fact that it was bi trans women of color (like Sylvia Rivera) who were on the front lines of the Stonewall Riots – the event that led to modern day Pride. Plus there’s the fact that we are a part of the LGBT+ community. The LGBT+ community should be for all of those who aren’t heterosexual and/or cisgender (because remember, sexual orientation =/= gender so it’s possible to be trans and straight or cis and gay or trans and bisexual and still be a part of the LGBT+ community).

I can already hear the “not all ______!!” but that’s not what I’m trying to really get at. The point is that there’s enough of a push back from some parts of the community where there are others like me that don’t always feel safe in the community that’s supposed to be our home as well.

Intersectionality

During Pride Month this year, I wrote about how Pride should be proclaiming that black lives matter and got a comment that Pride month was for the LGBT+ community and if what I was saying were to be true, then Black History Month should have rainbow flags everywhere as well. (I think the comment ended with something like “this isn’t about you”, which is weird because I’m white and have made that pretty clear…)

But the thing is that intersectionality is a lived reality for so many– being a part of the LGBT+ community isn’t strictly a white person thing. There are black people who identify as LGBT+ in some way, there are other people of color that identify this way. There are gay black people, bisexual native people, trans Asian people, and all the possible variations that come with race, gender, and sexual orientation.

By proclaiming that black lives matter during Pride, we are saying that the black lives in the LGBT+ community matter. That we as a community care for the lives lost to police brutality. It is a proclamation that allows for an inclusive community where we care about more than a single issue because no one lives a single issue life.

And all of that is just the tip of the iceberg because we should be working on making the LGBT+ community inclusive and accessible for all people who identify as something under the LGBT+ umbrella. (Straight and cis allies – this isn’t for you.)

I want a community where we come together and not only celebrate our differences but work together to destroy the status quo that holds us all captive. I want a community where we don’t erase our history and some members.

#NotMyStonewall

StonewallfilmAt first, I was so excited to hear that a movie was being made about the Stonewall riots that happened in June of 1969. I mean, here’s an event that had a huge influence in the LGBTQ+ history within the US and started what we now celebrate as Pride. And many of those involved were trans women of color –  including Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

But more information started to come out about the film, including the trailer and a short description from IMDB, which says that the movie is about:

A young man’s political awakening and coming of age during the days and weeks leading up to the Stonewall Riots.

And now? I’m not so excited about the movie because it is yet again whitewashing and ciswashing history and centers a white cis gay man instead of any one of the actual major players who were trans people of color. I get that the film isn’t a documentary and hot damn Hollywood is great at making fiction out of history but to continue the erasure and rewriting of history? No thanks.

One of the great things about the release of the trailer has been the critiques of the erasure and white washing. Many have taken to social media and proclaimed that this movie is #NotMyStonewall and Miss Major herself has spoken about her anger over the inaccurate portrayal of the event.

Janet Mock also talked about the movie in her segment SoPOPular! on MSNBC and brought up so many amazing points, including the hope that the director, producers, and others involved in the movie will own up to their mistakes and address the issues they created by centering a white man in their film. Monica Roberts also wrote about the whitewashing of the events and called out the fact that Sylvia and Marsha are just minor characters:

Seriously?  The mother of the trans rights movement, who jumped off Stonewall and along with Marsha played a major role in fighting for the recognition of gender variant people as the nascent movement was forming in the wake of the Stonewall rebellion is a minor character?

That’s some bull feces.

Personally, instead of spending money on the upcoming Stonewall film, I’ll be donating to the film Happy Birthday Marsha!, a film centered on some of the actual major players of the Stonewall Riots like Rivera, Johnson, and Miss Major. Apparently I’m not the only one to do something like this – there have been many others that have similarly acted in backlash to the upcoming Stonewall film.

#Pride should be proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter.

We are reaching the end of Pride month within the United States (and in some other countries as well), with this weekend being the last Pride weekend of 2015. Celebrations in New York City and Seattle have been going on all weekend long but it’s so important to remember in the midst of celebrating this past week’s SCOTUS marriage decision, that there is still a huge pile of stuff to fight for.

Additionally: There was a #BlackOutPride action that disrupted the Chicago Pride Parade today, calling for the end of the constant erasure within the queer community. A few weeks ago, a similar action was done at the Boston Pride Parade, in which activists stopped the parade for 11 minutes in protest.

I’ve been writing SO much about the issue of erasure and single issue focus over the past few weeks but the fact of the matter is that this is such an important thing for the LGBTQ+ community to be addressing. And to be honest, the reason I keep writing and keep addressing all of these things over and over again is because I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important or to forget the most marginalized.

Looking at incidents like Jennicet Gutiérrez getting booed and jeered by fellow queer people or marriage seemingly being the most mainstream queer issue is incredibly upsetting because rather than fight for all, it seems to be the case that the most privileged in the queer community (white, middle/upper class, cis, etc) are just fighting for themselves and the issues that pertain to them. (Of course this doesn’t mean that every single fairly privileged person is terrible and focuses on narrow issues. But that’s another point for another day.)

Pride was started by queer people of color and it’s roots come from a police riot that condemned the legislation and oppression of the entire queer community. Flash forward 45 years since the first march and 46 years since the Stonewall Inn Riots, it seems like Pride has moved away from it’s revolutionary roots and from focusing on intersectionality issues.

Of course, this is all based on my own experiences but I do think it’s important that we as a community step up to the challenges that still face many within our chosen family. We should be spending less time on respectability politics (because that will not save us) and more time on liberation for us all. We (this time we meaning white people) should be loudly proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter because we have helped create and benefited from a society that devalues black life.

We (again, meaning white people) should be supporting black people (and especially black women) in the fight for liberation. We need to use our privilege and our position within society to fight for liberation for all – for people of color, for the working class, for immigrants, for mothers and fathers and families who bury their loved ones too soon, for those with different abilities.

And all of this ties back to Pride because the queer community needs to stop throwing the more marginalized people under the bus as a way to assimilate into the larger mainstream society. We need to work for all, not just some. We need to remember that some of the most influential work has been done by trans women of color and we need to not forget and erase the work done by people of color in our own queer history.