This week’s hotly debated scandal on the message boards is the debut, at long last, of the eagerly awaited LGBT themed saga film, Stonewall. First, let’s catch everyone up with a little help of some Carla edited Wikipedia…
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community and their allies in protest of a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
LGBT Americans in the 1950s and 1960s faced an anti-gay legal system. Very few establishments welcomed openly gay or transgender people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars. The Stonewall Inn catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be popular among the most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, masculine presenting lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Violent and harassing police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn. They attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for LGBT Americans to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.
Within a few years, gay rights organizations born from that movement, were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Today, June is known as LGBT Awareness or “Pride” Month and events are held annually throughout the world as close to the end of June as possible to mark the Stonewall riots.
A pretty amazing story right? The American Revolution revisited starring homeless youth and drag queens instead of Paul Reveres. The birth of an international movement. Power to the people in living, righteous color. Sounds like a great idea for a movie to me. I am just surprised it took this long. So why the question?
Let’s take a look at the character who throws the first brick, incites the riots and is generally the hero of the Stonewall riots in the MOVIE version.
Now, let’s take a look at the ACTUAL hero…
Marsha Johnson was one of the city’s best known drag queens. In the early 1970s, Johnson and close friend Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR); together they were a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. In the 1980s Johnson continued her street activism as a respected organizer and marshall with ACT UP. With Rivera, Johnson was a “mother” of STAR House, getting together food and clothing to help support the young drag queens, trans women and other street kids living on the Christopher Street docks or in their house on the Lower East Side of New York.
In July 1992, Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers shortly after the 1992 Pride March. Police ruled the death a suicide. Johnson’s friends and supporters said she was not suicidal, and a people’s postering campaign later declared that Johnson had earlier been harassed near the spot where her body was found. Initial attempts to get the police to investigate the cause of death were unsuccessful. After lobbying by activists, in November 2012 the New York police department re-opened the case as a possible homicide.
Marsha also threw the first brick at Stonewall.
I, for one, think she deserves to be remembered.