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So Drag Queens Starting Stonewall Was A Myth All Along
Brought up by another poster. They seem to be correct. Someone should contact RuPaul.
The recent death of Sylvia Rivera, an activist drag queen who threw quarters at the police during the Stonewall riot, has prompted much guilt-laden commentary about how the gay civil rights movement has pushed aside "the people who started it all." The commentary is dubious as a matter of history and wrong about the policy conclusions it draws from that history.
Here is the standard story: "On the night of June 28, 1969, the New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that included a mix of drag queens and lesbians. Led by the drag queens, the patrons fought back, igniting the gay civil rights movement. Yet the new movement soon became overly image-conscious and pushed these brave heroes to the back of the bus. It's high time we repay our debt by fully including transgender issues in gay causes, including proposed legislation."
This fictionalized account of Stonewall and its aftermath has been repeated so many times by gay and transgender activists it now goes almost unquestioned. Typical of the genre is a recent Village Voice column by Riki Wilchins, executive director of GenderPAC. Wilchins describes the Stonewall Inn in 1969 as a "sanctuary" for "genderqueers," who were "unwelcome at the city's tonier gay bars."
Wilchins asserts Rivera "helped [give] birth" to the gay movement at Stonewall. Similarly, in his book The Gay Metropolis, Charles Kaiser says Stonewall was "sparked by drag queens." Despite these contributions, transgender causes are now excluded from the movement because, as Wilchins puts it, gay organizations are "determined to project an image of normalcy."
This is politics-by-guilt-trip, and it has been undeniably effective in redirecting many gay groups' priorities toward transgender issues. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has even withdrawn its support of the only federal legislation that would prohibit anti-gay employment discrimination because the bill does not include "gender identity" within its protections.
The standard tale is error piled on error. First, it exaggerates the undeniable importance of Stonewall as a catalytic event. As the careful work of numerous historians has demonstrated, there was an active gay civil rights effort underway long before Stonewall. Gay activists had organized the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles in 1950, and in other cities later; had supported an openly gay candidate for public office; had fought the closing of gay bars; had founded a national magazine, The Advocate; had marched in front of the White House for equal rights; and had picketed businesses that discriminated against gays.
Outside of New York, according to Stephen Murray in his book American Gay, gay activists initially paid little attention to Stonewall. Only through the annual pride parade commemorations that began a year later and spread significantly in the mid-1970s did Stonewall take on the singular importance in gay history it now enjoys. At the time it happened, however, the event simply did not carry the incredible motivating force we now attach to it.
Second, the centrality of transgenders to Stonewall is probably exaggerated. Eyewitness accounts of what happened that night vary, as they usually do, and we have no videotape of the event and very few pictures.
But one thing is clear. It is wrong to characterize the Stonewall Inn as having been a sanctuary for genderqueers (unless that term encompasses non-transgendered gay men). Murray writes that "men familiar with the milieu then insist that the Stonewall clientele was middle-class white men and that very few drag queens or dykes or nonwhites were ever allowed admittance."
But don't take Murray's word for it, consider what Sylvia Rivera herself told the historian Eric Marcus for his book, Making History: "The Stonewall wasn't a bar for drag queens. Everybody keeps saying it was. ... If you were a drag queen, you could get into the Stonewall if they knew you. And only a certain number of drag queens were allowed into the Stonewall at that time." The night of the Stonewall riot was the first time Rivera had ever even been to the bar.
If Rivera is right, it seems likely the Stonewall patrons who rebelled that June night in 1969 included many (perhaps mostly) middle-class, non-transgendered, gay white males. It's possible that the few drag queens present provided all (or most of) the rebellion while the others cowered. But there is no reason to make that assumption unless we indulge stereotypes about the timidity of gay men. So a description of the riot as an uprising of drag queens may be more politically correct, but as history it seems partial.
This point does not deny that drag queens participated in the riot. They did. It only makes the point that their centrality to the event likely has been exaggerated, probably for ideological reasons.
Finally, these historical disputes have no bearing - either way - on whether "gender identity" ought to be included in gay civil rights legislation. Even if Stonewall was the single casus belli of the gay struggle, and even if transgenders were the only people there kicking shins and uprooting parking meters, so what? And even if no drag queens were present that night, what difference would it make now?
If we learned the Stonewall police had busted up a meeting of gay white racists, instead of drag queens, we wouldn't say that should make us more attentive to the concerns of racists. These matters rise or fall on their own merits, not on the relative role groups played in distant and disputed events.
And speaking of the merits, drafting legislation is an immensely complicated task that involves putting together a coalition of supporters. Gay civil rights legislation would be stalled or effectively killed in many places if transgenders were included. The choice is often between a more inclusive bill that goes nowhere and a less inclusive bill that actually becomes law. It is not "transphobic" to make this point; it is pragmatic.
These are hard realities that some people do not want to hear. We should not feel guilty because we want to make progress, least of all because someone is telling us fairy tales about our past.
- NY Times:
"The Real Mob at Stonewall"
I WAS perhaps the unlikeliest person in the world to cover the Stonewall riots for The Village Voice. It was June 27, 1969. I had graduated from West Point only three weeks earlier and was spending my summer leave in New York before reporting for duty at Fort Benning, in Georgia. After a late dinner in Chinatown, I was about to enter the Lion’s Head, a writers’ hangout on Christopher Street near the Voice’s offices, when I blundered straight into the first moments of the police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar a couple of doors down the street. Even a newly minted second lieutenant of infantry could see that it was a story.
Across the street from the Stonewall, a crowd of maybe 100 was watching the police march out a dozen or so bar patrons and employees into a paddy wagon. The young arrestees paused at the back of the waiting paddy wagon and struck vampy poses, smiling and waving to the crowd.
This was not the way gays were supposed to behave when they were arrested, and the officers started shoving them with their nightsticks. People in the crowd yelled at the police to stop. The officers responded by telling them to get off the street. Someone started throwing pocket change at the officers, and others began rocking the paddy wagon. Then, from the back of the crowd, beer cans and bottles flew through the air. In a hail of coins and street debris, the paddy wagon drove away with two patrol cars, and the remaining officers retreated inside the Stonewall, locking the doors behind them.
Soon enough, loose cobblestones from a nearby repaving site rained down on the bar’s windows. An uprooted parking meter was used to ram the club’s doors. Someone lighted a wad of newspaper and threw it through the bar’s broken window, starting a small fire. The policemen inside the Stonewall put it out with a fire hose, which they then turned on the crowd.
Instead of dispersing, the people in the street cavorted sarcastically in the spray, teasing the officers with suggestive come-ons. A few moments later, patrol cars came screaming down Christopher Street from Sixth Avenue. And at approximately 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, the gay men decided they weren’t going to take it anymore. The clash outside the Stonewall went on for 48 more hours and become famous as the riots that started the gay-rights movement.
Amazingly, there was no TV coverage and only a few paragraphs in the city’s daily papers. Myths and controversies have arisen in the vacuum left by the mainstream news media.
One involves the argument about who is, and isn’t, a “veteran” of Stonewall. A handful can prove they were there by pointing to themselves in the famous photograph, taken by Fred McDarrah, that was on the cover of the following week’s Voice, accompanying my article and another by a colleague, Howard Smith.
For the record, I orchestrated that image. Fred was famously parsimonious as a photographer, in the habit of taking only a few photos for a story. Outside the Stonewall that night, he took a look at the scene and asked me to get a bunch of rioters together. I rounded them up and posed them on a stoop, and Fred got his shot.
A prominent Stonewall myth holds that the riots were an uprising by the gay community against decades of oppression. This would be true if the “gay community” consisted of Stonewall patrons. The bar’s regulars, though, were mostly teenagers from Queens, Long Island and New Jersey, with a few young drag queens and homeless youths who squatted in abandoned tenements on the Lower East Side.
I was there on the Saturday and Sunday nights when the Village’s established gay community, having heard about the incidents of Friday night, rushed back from vacation rentals on Fire Island and elsewhere. Although several older activists participated in the riots, most stood on the edges and watched.
Many told me they were put off by the way the younger gays were taunting the police — forming chorus lines and singing, “We are the Stonewall girls, we wear our hair in curls!” Many of the older gay men lived largely closeted lives, had careers to protect and years of experience with discrimination. They believed the younger generation’s behavior would lead to even more oppression.
In part, at least, they were correct. It would take several more years before major New York political figures came out in favor of employment anti-discrimination laws, and much longer before other gay rights would be realized.
Another myth is that the police raid on the Stonewall was part of a broader crackdown on gay bars in the summer of 1969, a mayoral election year. In fact, the Stonewall operation was the work of a Police Department deputy inspector, Seymour Pine, and officers from the morals unit, and they carried it out without the knowledge of the officers of the local police precinct, whom they suspected of taking payoffs from the Stonewall and other Mafia-run gay bars in the Village.
Deputy Inspector Pine had two stated reasons for the raid: the Stonewall was selling liquor without a license, which it was, and it was being used by a Mafia blackmail ring that was setting up gay patrons who worked on Wall Street, which also seems likely.
The owner of the Stonewall, Tony Lauria, was reputed to be a front man for Matty Ianniello (known as “Matty the Horse”), a capo in the Genovese crime family who oversaw a string of clubs in the city. New York’s gay-bar scene at the time was a corrupt system apparently designed to benefit mobster owners, who served watered-down drinks at inflated prices, often made with ill-gotten liquor from truck hijackings.
It worked like this: citing disorderly behavior laws, the State Liquor Authority ruled that bars catering to openly homosexual patrons were not entitled to liquor licenses. Gay bars were thus made effectively illegal, which left them to the mob, which happily ran clubs without liquor licenses and paid the police to look the other way. Several more years would pass before the first clubs with openly gay owners would be licensed — places like the Ballroom on West Broadway and Reno Sweeney on West 13th Street — and the mob lost its stranglehold, an early legacy of Stonewall.
On Sunday, the third night of the riots, I ran into Allen Ginsberg on the street and accompanied him into the reopened Stonewall, where he talked and danced with some of the young revelers. Afterward, as the last of the riot police packed up to go home, I walked with him toward his home in the East Village. He said everything seemed different after the riots — how grim, even sad, gay bars were compared to the “beautiful” scene at the Stonewall that night.
As I turned south on Lafayette Street, he waved and cried out, “Defend the fairies!” His jolly farewell was obviously meant in jest, because after Stonewall, they didn’t need defending any more.
- I had a gay friend who helped man one of the anti-aircraft guns that brought down two of the police helicopters. Another friend had a flame thrower holding off the right-flank of the National Guard, until one of the heels broke off his newest Manolo Blahnik platforms. He then limped back into the Stonewall Inn where he set up a first aid station, tearing his gown into strips for bandages and treating wounds with Stoli while singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," tears streaking his makeup. It was a shining hour for drag queens and an important part of gay history.
- Wasn't it revealed later that Sylvia Rivera hadn't even left home yet when Stonewall occurred?
- The Sylvia was a leading character in Martin Duberman's Stonewall but was nowhere to be found in David Carter's Stonewall. Whether or not she was even at the Stonewall remains a matter of discussion.
- The very purpose of a drag queen is to upstage the gay white males who get all the work done.
The lesbians complain and then fix anything that breaks.
- That Sylvia is our Jesus. A myth that lives to this days. If we gays weren't so damn horny there'd be a fancy book about Sylvia that would put the bible to shame for sure.
- How many of the Stonewall patrons were still reeling from Judy's funeral? For me, that has always been an important part of the myth.
- It's part of the myth, not part of the reality.
- [quote]The night of the Stonewall riot was the first time Rivera had ever even been to the bar.
She was not at the bar that night. Her family filed a report when she/he ran away to NY and she did not even enter the city for the first time until August of that year.
Facts are facts.
- We do have a persistent troll on DL who insist that no Drag Queens were present and no drag queens were admitted to Stonewall since it was a 'Man's Bar'.
- Thank god! Now I have historical justification for my irrational hatred of drag queens!
- No drag queens spotted.
- R10 It had nothing to do with Stonewall being a 'man's bar, it had to do with the fact they had no license and a lot of illegal activity.
Stonewall did not want to attract attention, thus they discriminated. Drag queens attract attention.
Glamour drag as we know it now was illegal then. A man in women's clothing could not walk the streets without fear of arrest.
- Stonewall is used as a propaganda tool. It deserves to be historically accurate.
- It was illegal because of hate and discrimination. They weren't doing anything wrong.
- a dyje trew de frist punch
- This is a stupid thread.
Op, r12, are you seriously trying to imply there were no drag queens there? If so, just go fuck yourself.
The drag queens had been and were all being rounded up byt the cops. That's why you don't see them in images like r12. Because they were the ones being beaten to holy hell and up and shoved into police vans.
- [quote]The very purpose of a drag queen is to upstage the gay white males who get all the work done.
What the fuck is this racists comment? What does that even mean?
- THis is indeed a stupid thread
- [quote]The drag queens had been and were all being rounded up byt the cops.
- The article DOES say that Drag Queens were there. Just that their role has been exagerated.
- Yes, there the second night, but not at the bar the first night.
- [quote]This point does not deny that drag queens participated in the riot. They did. It only makes the point that their centrality to the event likely has been exaggerated, probably for ideological reasons.
The OP needs to take the shit out of his mouth and put it back on the ground where he found it. Not only is the story unacceptably obsessed with an aspect of the Stonewall story that needs no such care (No one bases her or his feelings about Stonewall on the number of drag queens involved - only that they were represented and that itself is important), it misses the importance of the event, which exceeds the paltry way impact is considered in the story.
And the OP needs to consider the motives behind bothering with this thread. Why, shit eater?
- R23 needs to consider why facts make him call OP a shit eater.
Why the hate?
Why the anger?
I think OP is probably tired of the drag myth that we owe our world to them.
- [quote]Yes, there the second night, but not at the bar the first night.
Bullshit! The article itself states that some Drag Queens were admitted to Stonewall and the author says it *IS* possible that the drag queens started it, but that there's no reason to make that assumption.
If it was a fact that there were no drag queens at the bar that first night, you can be sure the author would say so.
- R25 as has been stated by the 3 living eyewitnesses on the police record (not the fake ones) Stonewall did not allow drag queens as they did not want the attention that comes with them. They were an unlicensed bar. Even Attention whore Sylvia Rivera says in one of her many contradictory interviews that they were not allowed.
While some author of some article can say anything, it is not the case.
The Advocate did a forensic history on the 25th anniversary, hiring a respected writer to learn the truth from those who were on the police list of 300 in the bar.
They chose not to print it because they had already shot drag queens for the cover of the magazine.
Several years back we had a real survivor one who was on the police list talk to us on DL and he stated that in fact NO ONE dressed in drag was at the bar the first night.
He stated that there may have been someone who later became a drag queen, or was a drag queen in spirit but not in drag.
- Bullshit again r26, I recall that thread and the person said no such thing.
Here is a living eyewitness account describing the beginning of the riot.
[quote]One drag queen, as we put her in the car, opened the door on the other side and jumped out, at which time we had to chase that person. And he was caught, put back into the car. He made another attempt to get out the same door — the other door. And at that point we had to handcuff the — the person. From this point on, things really began to get crazy.
That's from Seymour Pine, the Policeman who led the raid. He has no agenda.
Was it an army of drag queens fighting while everyone else cowered? Unlikely. Were there thousands of Joan Crawford imitators overturning cars and smashing windows? Of course not. But this stubborn notion that there were absolutely no Drag Queens at the Stonewall Inn is crap.
- R27 a little knowledge... yws he and the Post used the term drag queen AS AN INSULT and later apologized.
- A drag queen did not start Stonewall. That is a lie. Case closed.
- There are some people who seem to want to wipe out any truly "gay" element to the Stonewall uprising. Almost like it's shameful to admit that there might have been a drag queen there.
It's the same thing with linking Judy Garland's death to the riots. I read the Stonewall book where the author clears it up but it was done so in such a nasty, dismissive way of Garland's relationship to gay men that I couldn't even bother reading the rest of it.
- The riot was started by a butch lesbian.
- r30, facts are facts. You want to put drag queens there to further your own agenda. Perhaps you should stop lying.
- When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, girls.
- R31, wasn't it a woman nicknamed Stormy? Don't remember her last name but I remember her at Henrietta's in the late 90s. She allegedly threw the first punch.
- According to the police report it was a woman in 'conservative masculine dress' who first threw coins, not rocks at the officers. The initial protest began as a protest against payola scams run by the cops.
There were no drag queens in the bar, they were not allowed. Men in paisley shirts were referred to as drag queens at the time.
In fact to call someone a drag queen was an insult, shade as it were, implying they were feminine.
When the Post called them drag queens the Mattachine society filed court papers to demand a retraction. At the time the gay men were FURIOUS to be called drag queens by the paper.
Sylvia Rivera began the myth of the drag queens, 'starting it all' and those who did not bother with forensic research continued with the tall tale.
There was an earlier protest in San Francisco by in fact drag queens, genderfuck drag at the time. So there were active drag queens, just not at Stonewall.
- Again with the Bullshit r28. That was Seymour Pine being interviewed in 2009!!
- [quote]There were no drag queens in the bar, they were not allowed. Men in paisley shirts were referred to as drag queens at the time.
That's correct. At that time, straight people referred to men in paisley shirts as drag queens.
- [quote]Why the hate?
Why the anger?
People like to buy the fantasy.
- Mean-spirited, priorities-fucked quibblers. What's this about, really? Strange bedfellows, the imperative of historicity, maintaining divisiveness among gay people, arguing about semantics, arguing about semantics of the past versus those of the present, just being bitches?
The fact that Rosa Parks went to that bus after being vetted and prepped to do exactly what she did has not altered the impact and "truth" of what happened.
The "fact" that some people exaggerated their roles on the night (never mind that activity continued and grew) doesn't matter.
The "fact" that at the precise time of Stonewall its impact across the country was slight doesn't affect the FACT of the symbolic gravity of Stonewall on the gay rights movement.
Nor do these things alter the FACT that Stonewall represented and still represents a point of unification across LGBT people and their supporters. How about remembering and applying that?
And from the transcripts of "Remembering Stonewall":
[quote] My name is Rudy and the night of the Stonewall I was 18 and to tell you the truth, that night I was doing more running than fighting. I remember looking back from 10th Street, and there on Waverly Street there was a police, I believe on his . . . a cop and he is on his stomach in his tactical uniform and his helmet and everything else, with a drag queen straddling him. She was beating the hell out of him with her shoe. Whether it was a high heel or not, I don't know. But she was beating the hell out of him. It was hysterical.
What? You knew Rudy and he was a liar?
- What the hell is with you fools suddenly trying to erase Drag Queens at Stonewall?
No one called Gay guys Drag Queens back then... revisionist shit...
Pitiful... Probably HomoCons who voted for Romney because we need to "be accepted"...
- Man, if I were there this would a been a whole different story
- [quote]Glamour drag as we know it now was illegal then
Not even close to being true.
- Actually drag was illegal into the 70s in some places. I know an elderly man who owned a gay bar in the 70s. When the bar advertised a drag contest, he got a call from the sheriff that the bar would be raided and men dressed as females would be arrested if they had any drag shows.
Since he didn't want to let down the queens who had invested in outfits, etc., the contest was quietly held at a large private home in the next town.
- I think the story lies somewhere in the middle---that there were some drag queens there but their presence and influence is exaggerated.
I think in general, though I like and enjoy drag queens as entertainment ,and have no problem with them living their lives how they choose, for the tiny percentage they are of the overall community they get too much attention and skew the views of the public. They are so big and over the top they wind up falsely representing the vast majority. I know that growing up and being confused about my sexuality, seeing their images representing the word "gay" as a whole made me feel very uncomfortable because I did not identify with them whatsoever and it made it more difficult for me to understand who I was, and I think this was not an uncommon experience.
- R44, it is regrettable that, when young, you projected drag queens as somehow representing the world of gay culture at large and it made you uncomfortable. But isn't that rather like pretending the lions weren't roaring in the circus because all you could think of was the clowns?
The pretense of reasonableness offered by this poster shows some of the lack of perspective still active in the gay community (LGBT community). A group of entertainers and exhibitionists with diverse motivations (leaving out transgendered people who also perform) somehow is seen as being representative of gay people in general. Claims that they taint our reputations, threaten our standing in the world at large, affect our progress towards equal rights, and shame us with straight people are made, without any basis except anecdote and personal bias.
My own considerable trove of anecdotal experience calls out every point made against drag queens or other gay people who are "so big" and "over the top" as nothing but evidence of personal issues for which therapy is needed, or worse. My own mother, a conservative Catholic uneasy with my being gay, never saw drag queens as indicative of anything except fun - I learned she often went to enjoy drag shows as a young woman, and the experience actually helped her to overcome her innate prejudice when her son came out as gay.
- Rudy like so many could be real, could have seen a woman, could be fiction.
Stonewall like Woodstock had millions 'who were there' make up stories after the fact.
I believe those on the list of 300 (3 surviving, two of whom I have spoken with when they were alive) who were really in the bar that night.
- You didn't have to be at the Stonewall Inn itself to have taken part in the Riots. When the police raided the bar, people from the neighborhood gathered around, to see what was going on (and perhaps participate). Others ran to nearby payphones and called their friends, who rushed down to take part in the action (thanks to NYC's all-night subway system).
- R47 correct.
But it took 24 hours for the protest to gain traction.
As some have said, there were no drag queens at Stonewall (the bar itself) so they could not have 'started it all'.
However it is possible that someone came the second night who later became a drag queen, though likely would not have been dressed as such that night.
Had there been a drag queen in full drag it would have been shocking and oddity at the time and there are few photos, but you know he/she would have been front and center for the camera.
- Wow. The DL website is totally fucked up today!
That's what you get for inserting censorious anti-"eff-emm-in-ate" code, you tool!
- [quote]As some have said, there were no drag queens at Stonewall (the bar itself) so they could not have 'started it all'.
Except that the Police Officer who led the raid states other wise (see r27)
Even the author of this article (with the premise that the role of drag queens has been exaggerated) states that Stonewall admitted SOME drag queens. Why is it so important, in the face of overwhelming evidence that they were there (I'm not saying they started it or that they led the fight or that they were there by the 1000s) to insist that they were completely absent from the bar?
- R50 yet again.
BOTH the policeman and the Post used the term 'drag queens' as a way to insult the men who were there.
To call someone a 'drag queen' at that time was to say they were a fem, the lowest of the low, the same as calling gay men girls, or ladies. Cops used it as an insult.
- [quote]Even the author of this article (with the premise that the role of drag queens has been exaggerated) states that Stonewall admitted SOME drag queens. Why is it so important, in the face of [bold]overwhelming evidence that they were there[/bold] (I'm not saying they started it or that they led the fight or that they were there by the 1000s) to insist that they were completely absent from the bar?
One of Fred McDarrah's iconic photos from that night (see R1):
- [quote]Actually drag was illegal into the 70s in some places.
Especially in the South, there used to be local ordinances stipulating that queens had to wear three items of men's clothing (a rule they would satisfy by, say, wearing three pairs of tighty whities under their drag).
- R53 excellent.
You can see 3 men gathered from the street for the photo who would have been called drag queens, one who actually was a drag queen.
Proving there was a bit of drag on the street (was the photo from Saturday or Sunday.
I don't know who the dragger was (I doubt it was just an ugly woman) but it would be interesting to find out if he/she was arrested during the riot.
- More Stonewall photos, from author David Carter's web page.
- ]quote]To call someone a 'drag queen' at that time was to say they were a fem, the lowest of the low, the same as calling gay men girls, or ladies. Cops used it as an insult.
YET AGAIN, r51, that quote was Seymour Pine talking to a gay group in 2009, not 1969. it was not an insult at this point. It was factual.
- Yet again, it was and old man using the language he had always used.
- Yet again r57, Seymour Pine has done this often enough to know exactly what a drag queen is. Nice that you keep changing your excuses though.
- To say that paisley was somehow verboten in 1969 is insane. My older brother went to a Catholic high school in the middle and late '60s and all the boys wore paisley shirts.
- A womon of butchness threw the first punch at the penised pigs.
- I don't understand why its so important to pin point who started it. The fact that it happened is important enough. Its like the legendary Shot Heard Round the World. No one knows who fired first at Lexington and Concord and its not important in light of what followed.
- I think it becomes important because drag queens claim to 'have started it all' and to have been the pioneers in fact the only ones on the forefront of liberation.
- The OP is the same nut who asked if Oprah "started this shit" about the "Ah-Ha Moment." Apparently a disorder of some sort.
As noted, drag queens WERE involved in the ensuing riots, and it is a false statement that general consensus has been that drag queens STARTED Stonewall.
A gas bag that keeps inflating itself on the DL lately.
- Many so-called drag queens of the Age of Stonewall would now be considered to be transgender or intersex. Two years before Stonewall, drag queens (now transgender women) fought the cops at San Francisco's Compton Cafeteria, an incident memorialized in the documentary "Screaming Queens."
- Sylvia Rivera, the Queen of Stonewall.
- The Sylvia was a BITCH with a capital B.
- This piffle needed to be bumped?
ONLY to further defend the drag queens against even more defamation.
I do hope the OP's abscess has killed her by now.
- I'll get shit for this, but does anyone else think that Stonewall sounds a bit...anticlimactic?
- r68 yeah, to me it sounds like meh. Gee we're so proud of ourselves fighting the cops, we sound like the Tea Party.
- We will be observing the 44th Anniversary of Stonewall within a couple of weeks. We should talk about it.
- And there's the other part of the legend that they were all mourning the death of Judy Garland. That doesn't come across in the photo.
- I wonder if any of the gays (and one drag queen) in R71's link are still alive.q
- Wow. I love the scary pushback against facts and their relevance here. It seems a LOT of very politically correct (yet damaged) gays NEED to believe all the urban legends surrounding Stonewall. They seem to rigorously believe every utterance of the late Sylvia Rivera, a man who was basically a homeless drag queen who lived and dined out on her rather fictional significance for decades, as she had nothing else to peddle.
Why isn't the truth more important to people? Why are they so threatened by it?
- Stonewall Lives!
- I'M REVOLTING!
- shouted the drag queen.
- [quote]It seems a LOT of very politically correct (yet damaged) gays NEED to believe all the urban legends surrounding Stonewall.
People on here don't want truth; they want MAGIC!!!
- [quote]The fact that Rosa Parks went to that bus after being vetted and prepped to do exactly what she did has not altered the impact and "truth" of what happened.
Sure it does. There's a significant difference between the myth of the dog-tired woman who just couldn't take it anymore and a premeditated press event.
The important facts may be that blacks were forced to go to the back of the bus and decided to engage in civil disobedience to end the practice, but the Rosa Parks story is an enduring myth.
- It's unlikely those pictures were taken the first night. Would a group of people have gathered to pose directly in front of the bar in the midst of the riot? The article says the police were barricaded inside and people were throwing rocks and parking meters through the windows.
In this pic it appears that the window is already boarded up with some kind of message written on the wood.
- The photo is authentic.
Drag queens did not start the riot. Gay street kids did. And it was probably a lesbian who threw the first...whatever. But the drag queens did not start the riot, that's false.
The picture was staged, but those were the folks involved.
The drag queen thing was debunked long ago, yet gay people still want to believe it.
- Who knows if they were there the first night? And the two in front probably qualify as drag queens at the time.
- I think R61 has it right.
But don't you think it's odd no one knows who the people in the pictures are? None pictured have ever been identified or come forth and told the story of that night. Find edlergays and talk to them, guys 80, 70! You might hear a different story than what you now read on Wikipedia.
I grew up in the Village, have heard variations of this story many times, My life has been pretty free, probably because of Stonewall. Yet every time I hear a Stonewall story, it differs from one previously heard. I'm jus' saying', as was told me.
The building on my corner has a Super … well a nifty old guy full-time and Super part-time, as he owns the building … and he has been around the Village forever. He told me the VILLAGE VOICE began in the late '50s, became viable, was on 7th Avenue & Christopher Street, where now is The Duplex. He said the Stonewall Inn was a restaurant down the street and a "polka palace" of old no one went to. Then eventually in the early '60s it quietly went gay, was NOT a drag queen hangout and NOT a place for scuzzy street people. It was just an off-the-radar gay bar, filled mostly with white men and "really, nobody went there." Sometimes there was dancing. The late '60s was a time of quiet hush-money, police raids, homosexual harassment, all that. In late June '69 there was the ruckus now called the Stonewall Riots, after a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn,"a Christopher Street hangout for homosexuals" often said to be run by the Mafia. The raid prompted not cowed obedience from the customers but uncharacteristic fury and outrage.
Just why is anybody's guess now. "They" fought back at "them." Having nothing whatsoever to do with any riots, at the end of 1969 the Stonewall closed. A few years after that the movement for gay rights became something to be reckoned with and the lore of the night grew.
The business space on Christopher Street was made smaller, changed hands many times, harbored many businesses and in 1990 a new bar called "Stonewall" opened there in the space toward 7th Avenue. This is the Stonewall we know today, the one written of and very centric to Gay Pride.
I have been told many times the death of Judy Garland, who'd died in London five days before and was waked in NYC at Frank Campbell, had nothing to do with Stonewall. Date coincidence. That homosexuals gathered in rage and sorrow about Judy and carried on in front of the Stonewall because of it is myth. That there was a raid and gays fought back is not a myth. The few older people in The Pines that remember and now aren't running around being all active say that most of the "information" about "the riots" is retroactive and wrong, written several years after '69 and told and retold and embroidered beyond belief. Police had raided the bar, customers wouldn’t budge and there was much yelling and things thrown. One or two people may have been in drag, coming along on the streets and checking out the action, but it was not an evening of drag queens rioting. It was lots of plain men fearful of being "discovered" and some not giving a shit. Look at the photos. Officers quickly lost control of the situation. It all attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. They say whatever their reasons, people fought back at the raid, all patience had run out. Bricks and bottles were thrown. The VILLAGE VOICE ran a photo the next issue, the “street kids” all unidentified to this day. These are the photos Lucian Truscott refers to in this thread, photos which he staged. I've heard the street kids that night weren't even in the bar as customers. There was a report Sylvia, a Village street queen/habitue was active that night, heading up something called S.T.A.R., Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and in the bar or soon in front of the bar, and did a lot of yelling “no.” Also there is a report Sylvia was nowhere to be seen and her myth became "fact" far later. However, in the aftermath of the melee, gays and lesbians left closets, never to return. This is not myth.
In the early 70's time passed, life happened. The decade witnessed marches on Washington for civil rights for blacks and protests against the war in Vietnam. Gay pride was born. Its time had arrived.
- Do you agree with Wikipedia's page on the Stonewall riots?
- "No Drag Queens at Stonewall You Say? We say take a flying fuck!"
Setting The Record Queer. Get Thee Behind Me Tricksters.
This article was published last year (2008) over at QWB after the editor of the Metroline made the statement that there were no drag queens at Stonewall. We again publish this essay in our series during this the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion for our many new readers. Knowing that the “smalls” will once again bring up this argument we must be ready to stop these revisionists from revising with their lies. Remember Stonewall was not a “call your legislator,” or a peaceful candle light vigil–It was a fight back, a rebellion, a “we won’t take this crap anymore.” We must recall and call upon that fighting spirit. When we have to fight back , let us not be afraid to do so, no matter who it is that needs a damn good slamming down. “When you are under attack, Stonewall Means Fight Back!! There is a wealth of information in the article. ENJOY and KEEP THE REBELLION ALIVE! —updated opening statement 2009.
2011 furbirdsqueerly publication in pages.
Trdennels asked us to re-publish this article in our pages section and we are very happy to do so. If there are any young folks reading our blog we say, its good to know our real queerstories and not be moving in the wrong direction pulled by gays and lesbians who should know better but do not.
Setting the Record Queer. Get Thee Behind Me Tricksters.
Where to begin when trying to knock tricksters off the pedestal that they sit up upon. Many of our readers and those in our e-mail circles know about the recent flap with the Metroline. Joe DaBrow the editor wrote in the Metroline’s so called PRIDE issue these words. “Stonewall was not simply an activist protest where they went home afterward and partied. They were beaten and dragged away to jail by the police. It was a time when fag bashing was an accepted method of controlling homos and keeping them out of the neighborhood. There were no drag queens there at all. It was gay human beings simply standing up for being who they were.”
In a recent Metroline article dated late June, Mr. DaBrow then tries to say that he meant he was talking about the first night of the Stonewall Rebellion. The first night of the fight back June 27, 1969. He even puts this qualifying statement in all capital letters. VERY FIRST NIGHT. Mr. DaBrow then backs up his statement by saying that he talked with the President and founding member of the Stonewall Vets who remains nameless. (Mr. Williamson Henderson was the president up until July 1st.) Mr DaBrow claims his source told him that there were no drag queens in Stonewall the first night. (Mr. DaBrow claims this but didn’t find in necessary to put it in quotes in the article.) Mr.DaBrow claims a lot of other things in his ramble as he attempts to smear the reputation of decent hard fighting queer people and to set himself and the bar rag Metroline as the oracle of all things LGBT. The Metroline’s recurring argument about whether drag queens and trans people were a part of the Stonewall rebellion or not really reflects a long standing phenomenon in “gay” history which is the discomfort of many gay men and lesbians with transgender, transvestites, drag queens, etc. So, this almost annual argument is a small reflection of the continuing desire for all trans people to be fully respected and recognized by many of us and the continuing desire by the homo-normative and somewhat straight laced gay men and lesbians to minimize or outright deny any presence of contributions by drag queens or other trans people to the early “gay” rights movement. And today claims are made by the Metroline that they respect and include Transpeople now, yet it has an unconvincing “ring” to it still.
One thing I do know is that the editor and the publisher of the Metroline sure have inflated heads over their influence within the LGBT community. I find it odd that I even care to write about anything that the Metroline has said as I don’t make it a habit to read it. Those days are long gone. No one I know reads it and in fact when I sent out an e-mail notice about what Mr. DaBrow had said 9 out of 10 people told me that they don’t even bother looking at it. My e-mail list consists of some very long time movers and shakers in the LGBT community. I would take to issue, much more of what was stated in the recent Metroline by Mr. DaBrow and Mr. Crowley but have decided why play into their yellow journalism and why give them any more fuel for their tired old fire. They really aren’t worth it regardless of what they may think. I will take up the issue of the nights of the Stonewall Rebellion and first will have to submit that our LGBT history books tell us otherwise than that which was stated in the Metroline. If what Mr. DaBrow and Mr. Crowley said is true we would then have to question some of our great historians such as Martin Duberman, Eric Marcus, Neil Miller and a host of others and say sorry you got it all wrong? So the history that we have been fed is a big bag of bull? I don’t think so. Raise your hand if you do. Mr. DaBrow never really comes out and tells us what the president and founding member says regarding drag queens at Stonewall but in his overbearing snug attitude says he “personally had a very nice and supportive talk with the President and Founder. Research? Check.” I do hope that Mr. DaBrow doesn’t want me or anyone else who does research to believe that one conversation with one person is research. Simply because Mr. Henderson was in the bar and arrested that night does not mean he knows everything that was happening. I sort of like what Craig Rodwell had to say, “A number of incidents were happening simultaneously. There was no one thing that happened or one person, there was just…a flash of group–of mass– anger.”
Knocking the Metroline Jokers off their perches.
Let’s read here an account from a person in the bar that night, this account is from Marty Manford who became a leader in the GAA.(now that white boy club is a whole other story) Another name that Mr. John Crowley names in his attempt to say I too know it all. These words of Mr. Manford were found in Making History, The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990 An Oral History, edited by Eric Marcus. Marty’s account goes like this. ” the Stonewall was my favorite place. It was a dive. It was shabby, and the glasses they served the watered-down drinks in weren’t particularly clean. the place attracted a very eclectic crowd. Patrons included every type of person: some transvestites, a lot of students, young people, older people, businessmen. It was an interesting place. The night of the raid some men in suits and ties entered the place and walked around a little bit. Suddenly the lights were turned up, and the doors were sealed, and all the patrons were held captive until the police decided what they were going to do. I was anxious, but I wasn’t afraid. It may have been ten or fifteen minutes later that we were all told to leave. We had to line up and our identification was check before we were freed. People who did not have identification or were under age and all of the transvestites were detained. Those who didn’t meet whatever standards the police had were incarcerated temporarily in the coatroom. The coat closet! After everybody that was going to be released were released the prisoners–transvestites and bar personnel, bartenders. and the bouncers were herded into a paddy wagon that was parked right on the sidewalk in front of the bar.” Mr. Manford goes on to tell of a large crowd gathering in the street in front of the Stonewall. The first night account of Mr. Marty Manford can be found on page 200 of Mr. Marcus book. (1) So Mr. Manford saw transvestites at the bar that night. I wonder who else Mr. Henderson didn’t see. Oh one interesting fact to add here is, according to an account in Martin Duberman’s book Stonewall there were close to 200 people in the Stonewall Inn that evening.
So let’s continue our quest of what happened at the Stonewall Rebellion. Our next stop is Rev. Magora Kennedy, an eyewitness of the first night. Rev. Kennedy is the Chaplin of the Stonewall Veterans Association and this modified account comes from her page on the site. The Rev. gives an account of the struggle and arrest of Williamson Henderson before the spark that ignited our fight back, when Henderson was struggling with the cops, nightsticked and stuck in the back of a police car. “My friends and I observed a couple of cops take Williamson Henderson, thought I didn’t know him or his name then, off to a black and dark green cop car and did a little billy-clubbing along the way.” Further down her page she states, “After awhile, as the excitement and the crowds continued to grow and get louder and feistier, I saw this big, good-looking black drag queen, with a fancy blue cocktail dress and some sparkly high heel shoes, yank loose a street parking meter, “with a little help from her friends”. “At this point with the turning of the tables, many of the cops were now barricaded inside The Stonewall Club and we were all on the outside! What a change of events that was. The ‘black ’n’ blue drag queen–without a green light–and her new-found, very Gay rebellious friends began to batter The Stonewall’s door with the uprooted parking meter and bang on the front door of the Stonewall but nobody in the ‘inn’ was answering. It wasn’t too long before the cops called for some heavy duty reinforcements.”(2) Gee now I don’t know the good Rev. but she looks like a nice decent person, one if I went to church would love to hear preach. She sure don’t look like a liar to me. And her words come right from the Stonewall Vets site so I don’t think that with their “We were there and WE know” attitude that they would allow anyone to tell a lie. So let’s hear it for the “BLUE AND BLACK DRAG QUEEN” who battered the door of Stonewall. A very brave person and not just a squiggling, struggler but a bamming, banging upfront, out front Black Drag Queen Revolutionary.
Our next stop is to visit the beautiful Queen Alison Allante, Stonewall Veteran, founder of the Imperial Queens and Kings of New York and movie star. Queen Alison stared in the movie Stonewall. I take this from her royal Highness’s page on the Stonewall Vets. site. In an interview Queen Alison, not only talks about June 27 at the Stonewall Inn but about the founding of the Imperial Queens and Kings. This interview is with “Transgender Tapestry.”
Transgender T: We understand that you were at the original Stonewall bar the night of the rebellion that sparked the gay/bi/les/tans movement.
Queen Alison: Yes, on June 27, 1969, that’s when the Stonewall rebellion started. It was a Friday evening. I was there as well as other members of the Imperial queens. I was one of the ones unfortunately that was apprehended at the scene. That was the main distinction. And I did fight back. I fought off three cops, as a matter of fact at the same time. The protests lasted for a week. I was there only the first night of the rebellion. I was in shock subsequent to that.
Queen Alison goes on to answer a question about what began the events of that evening. She also speaks of the Imperial Queens and Kings who forever changed the police department of the city of New York with the work that they did. The interview continues when Transgender has this to say.
Transgender T: So, you are saying that the Imperial Kings and Queens were already in existence at the time of the Stonewall Rebellion?
Queen Allyson: It was formed before the rebellion on Halloween 1968 at the Stonewall Inn. That was where a lot of people gathered, drag queens, transvestites, transsexuals. They came from Long Island and the outer boroughs of New York, from New Jersey and even Connecticut because it was a dance club. We went there for the dancing, for the music. It was a fun place. One day someone decided to form an organization, and that became the Imperial Queens and Kings. Since the Stonewall was the best place for people to get together because it was a central place to meet in Greenwich Village we held our meetings there.” To read all of Queen Alison’s interview check her out on the Stonewall Veterans Site.
Our next stop is with one of my all time favorites of the GLBT/Q movement. Our comrade, sister, trans warrior, Sylvia Rae Rivera. I have very cherished memories of Sylvia though I was never a friend I feel very close to her. Sylvia came in Hartford in response to the 1999 Metroline flap when once again the editor of the Metroline, an individual who worked for them and some other community members began their vicious attacks on the drag community, on the bi community and on one of our dear friends and comrades. What a wonderful time myself, Regina, Tim and the people that were with Sylvia had visiting both inside and outside of the conference. Sylvia has fought off many attacks over the years from within the Gay and Lesbian movement. And today I in her honor fight off this latest Metroline crap. In the telling of Sylvia’s story I will use 2 sources. One of course is Martin Duberman’s book Stonewall and the other is Making History The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990, An Oral History, compiled by Eric Marcus. Sylvia describes herself that night by saying. “I wasn’t in full drag that evening anyway. I was dressed very pleasantly. When I dress up, I always tried to pretend that I was a white woman. I always like to say that, but really I’m Puerto Rican and Venezuelan. That night I was wearing this fabulous woman’s suit I had made at home. It was light beige–very summery. Bell bottoms were in style then. I had my hair out. Lots of makeup and lots of hair. I was wearing boots. I don’t know why I was wearing boots.” According to Duberman, Sylvia had told him she wasn’t concerned after her boyfriend handed her ID over to her as the people who would be arrested were, those without ID, those wearing clothing not appropriate to their gender (3 pieces of clothing law), and employees of the bar. Sylvia was checked and told to get out and she joined others out in the street to begin fighting the good fight.(1) & (4) Sylvia when interviewed by Leslie Fienberg had this to say, “I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a revolutionist…I am glad I was in the Stonewall riot. I remember when someone threw a Molotov cocktail, I thought, “My god, the revolution is here. The revolution is finally here!” I always believed that we would have a fight back. I just knew that we would fight back. I just didn’t know it would be that night. I am proud of myself as being there that night. If I had lost that moment, I would have been kinda hurt because that’s when I saw the world change for me and my people.” That first night and the nights that followed when hundreds of people gathered in the streets all doing what they could do to shake off years of oppression I can’t understand how anyone could be so bold to say who was or who wasn’t out there.
Historian David Carter in his book, “Stonewall: The riots that sparked the Gay revolution,” had this to say. “When the raid the cops ordered people into different rooms, then lined them up demanding to see their ID. transsexual and transgender patrons were grouped together near the restrooms.” (5)
On the Stonewall Vets site I found some interesting facts about the arrests during the days of our rebellion. There were a total of 21 arrests made during the days of the rebellion. There were 13 arrests the first night (Friday June 27th) 6 arrests on the second night (Saturday June 28th), and 3 arrests on the third night (Sunday June 29th). There was no rebellion on Monday and Tuesday due to the rain. One the 4th night July 2nd and the 5th and final night July 3rd there were no arrests. In Mr. DaBrow’s article he claims that it was the 3rd night that a paddy wagon full of drag Queens was hauled off, according to some sources, including witness that were there.” All I can say with the 3 arrests that night,(right from the horses mouth, the Stonwall Vets) that damn paddy wagon must have been full.
It has always been interesting to me to read the accounts of how other gays and lesbians perceived the riots. Those who were the “we made it”, upper classes, (condemned the rebellion as “regrettable”, the closeted ( ? ), those in the Mattachine Society ( We Homosexuals plead with our people to please help maintain peaceful and quiet conduct on the streets of the Village-Mattachine”) (after talking to the mayor’s office and the police, the Mattachine joined in the efforts to stop the protests by talking to people who showed up outside the Stonewall in an attempt to discourage them from protesting and further), older guys who sipped their drinks at Julius (who some say held rioters for the police), the publisher of the Metroline, “It should be remembered that these people had been drinking all evening, they were not heroes. Many of their actions were most likely brought on by alcohol,” those who made it a habit of denouncing the queens, the street hustlers, people of color, and anyone else who they couldn’t fathom as another piece of meat or a part of gay society. I love to read about some of those who fill our history books, Dick Leitsch of the NY Mattachine, Randy Wicker, who pronounced the events of Stonewall “horrible” who stated, that “gays were just folk”–like straights except for their sexual orientation–and the sight (in his words) “of screaming queens forming chorus lines and kicking went against everything that I wanted people to think about homosexuals…that we were a bunch of drag queens in the Village acting tacky and cheap.”
I remember quite well the flak that I got from closted/mainstream gays back in my hometown when I began to grow my hair and talk leftist politics. No one not even in a dark place wanted to be seen associating with me. I believe that during that short period I stayed there that my politics of today, how I perceive the mainstream G & L movement and those in the upper classes, began to branch and take hold. I see this same attitude but with updated differences a foot in many of the mainstream single issue groups. I see it as many race to be that spoonful of sugar that will help the medicine of G & L go down a straight persons throat without a choke. I see it today when old time activists denounce leather people and drag queens when telling us they really have nothing to do with the movement. I see it today when people talk of “gay this” and “gay that”, either being too lazy to say Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or wishing to hark back to the old days when all of us were called gay and the movement was driven by the “respectables, the homo-normative, the we are the same as you crowd. I cherish all of my queer friends. I cherish my friends in the Trans community, I cherish thd multi-issue stand of queers and I cherish where I walk in the footsteps of people who fought the good fight and continue to fight it today.
1. Making History: the Struggle For Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights 1945-1990, An Oral History, Eric Marcus, Harper Collins 1992.
2. Rev. Magora Kennedy. Stonewall Veterans Web Site, Photo Album. (These are the Reverends words taken from her section of the site.
3. Queen Alison Allante, Stonewall Veterans Web Site, Photo Album, (This interview first appeared in Transgender Tapestry and can be found in the Photo Album section on the site under Queen Alison Allante.
4. Stonewall,Martin Duberman, Penguin Books, 1993.
5. Stonewall: The riots that sparked the Gay revolution, David Carter, St. Matin Press.
Other information was from Lavender and Red a series by Leslie Feinberg published on the Workers World Site. Lavender and Red is a weekly series that Leslie is writing concerning the struggle for GLBT rights. Check these out at www.workers,irg/2006/us/lavender-red-65.
Be sure to check out the Stonewall Veterans Site for some very interesting information.
To read the Metroline articles goggle in Metroline. It is the late June issue. The Metroline does not archive so do it soon.
- Drag queens rule
- That was a great article, R83.
- Sylvia Rivera always seemed less than trustworthy in her accounts. How did she have such a much more developed consciousness that fully erupted that night, already with the slogans and the rallying cries?
Do we believe her or her family who said she hadn't even run away from home yet?
- It was a group effort.