I will not be seeing Stonewall or, as I like to call it, “Director Roland Emmerich Presents ‘Diary of a Mad White Twink.'” Wait, let me back up.
In case you haven’t heard, the “rich white men” are making a film about the Stonewall uprising and true to the rich white men form, they’ve made some *ahem* edits to the 1969 historical event, sparked by two trans women, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, that gave birth to the modern LGBTQ rights movement we see today.
While in New York City for a gig, I went to the gentrified remains of the place and was lucky enough to be stopped on my way in by an elder. This person began telling me about Christopher Street and Stonewall Inn, as it was around the time of the uprising. After establishing I was, indeed a “fish”, this person went on to tell me in 1969, the toilet situation there wasn’t conducive to my needs. “You couldn’t sit on them seats honey unless you wanted a pee bath.” As if I would ever place my tush on a public toilet – girl, bye! However, I digress.
Apparently, the beer at Stonewall was basically water, anyone too femme was sent to the back, and police raids happened consistently. According to my research, this was likely because Stonewall Inn had no liquor license – also as we black women know all too well, the police love a good reason to harass systematically oppressed persons. The night of the Stonewall uprising was essentially the night the patrons realized they were sick and tired of being sick and tired.
The question is, why have rich white men decided the lead character in a film about this historic event, Danny, threw the first brick in the clash that led to the freedoms so many queer people enjoy today? The answer is simple: laziness.
Imagine the precarious situation in which film director Emmerich and writer Jon Robin Baitz found themselves: they are telling the story of people who, despite being terrorized and abused because of who they are and how they love, start a movement to overcome systematic oppression. But there’s all these pesky misconceptions about the heroes of the movement who happen to be Trans women, people of color and poor people.
The heroes of the movement just happen to be people society has essentially decided deserve maltreatment. It’s easier to just make the heroes white men because then you never have to ask the audience, or yourself, to see how little has changed for queer and trans people of color. You never have to ask how little has changed for queer people who are poor or uneducated. You never have to ask why you aren’t doing more to address the needs of those in the LGBTQ community who don’t look like sweet white Danny who was just minding his own business in his trying-too-hard tee shirt, being thin and cisgender when the world came along and picked on him. Why do all this work using truth telling to debunk harmful stereotypes of Trans women and people of color when you can just change the story?
My answer is because it is lazy to do so. The debunking of harmful stereotypes is quite frankly; the only reason progress is the means in the fight for survival. If we have learned nothing from the win for marriage equality, it is that only when appealing to hearts, minds and consciences that we move forward in the struggle for human dignity and survival. Re-writing history to make people more comfortable and never challenging viewers to be socially responsible is at best a missed opportunity and at worst cruel.
So, I’m not seeing Stonewall. I’m kidding. I’m obviously seeing Stonewall. Why? Well, because I’m a queer woman of color who supports the queer community, even when the queer community doesn’t support queer women of color. In the words people like Marsha P. Johnson, Tata Sanchez, Amber Monroe, Yazmin Vash Payn, India Clarke, Mercedes Williamson, Papi Edwards, Taja DeJesus, Ma Hall, Penny Proud, London Kiki Chanel, Ty Underwood, should have been able to live long enough to say: “You’re welcome”.