Trans Stonewall and Gay Pride

10449892_314053928759062_7800733826222886110_n The phrasing* is outdated now but facts remain facts. Without trans, gay, bi, drag and lesbian – butch and femme – people protesting at Stonewall North America would be very different and more oppressive toward LGBT folks. It wasn’t the first such riot in America, that seems to be from Los Angeles in 1959 where “Gay and transgender people staged a small riot … in response to police harassment” – Wiki. Another riot happened in 1966:

San Francisco, drag queens, hustlers, and transvestites were sitting in Compton’s Cafeteria when the police arrived to arrest men dressed as women. A riot ensued, with the patrons of the cafeteria slinging cups, plates, and saucers, and breaking the plexi glass windows in the front of the restaurant, and returning several days later to smash the windows again after they were replaced. Professor Susan Stryker classifies the Compton’s Cafeteria riot as an “act of anti-transgender discrimination, rather than an act of discrimination against sexual orientation” and connects the uprising to the issues of gender, race, and class that were being downplayed by homophile organizations. It marked the beginning of transgender activism in San Francisco. – Comptons Cafeteria Riot

Stonewall wasn’t the first LGBT riot, it was part of the ongoing shift toward changing attitudes in North America, but it has become the most famous marking point of the US LGBT rights movement, so it’s what people discuss the most. Unfortunately since the riots attempts were made, and are still made, to write out drag, bi and trans folks from Stonewall. It’s erasure of everything other than ‘gay’, showing yet more attempts to sideline ‘inconvenient’ bi/butch/drag/trans people. It’s deeply unpleasant:

A strange new myth has arisen about the origins of the gay movement. This myth, fervently endorsed by some trans activists, holds that the gay and lesbian movement was, essentially and pivotally, the work of their group, the transgender people. The transgender folk were in the vanguard, gay men and lesbians followed meekly after. This bizarre claim in the opposite of the truth. Let us then be honest. If we are to speak of a “transgender” contribution we must restrict ourselves to drag queens. They were the only transgender folks around in those days. None of them in fact made a major contribution to the movement. – Wayne Dynes

Actual eyewitnesses debunk this notion:

The Transgender people played a significant role in the Stonewall riots, and this is a fact because I was inside the Stonewall Inn when the raid occurred 44 years ago, as well as a participant and an eye witness to the event and riots. Edmund White, in his book, “City Boys” says it best in one statement: “And it was not the white boys in crew-necks from the Hamptons who started the riots, but the Drag Queens, Transgenders, Peurto Ricans, and Blacks (The A-Trainers) who were the catalysts behind the riots.” – Scott G Brown, in his own words via Facebook

Roy McCarthy was there too:

So I go running down, following him…. By the time we got down there, the paddy wagon had just pulled up. The queens were just starting to come out and someone had just thrown a high heel. There may have been coins or whatever, but I was there within a couple minutes after the festivities started. I did see high heels flying! The queens — the transgenders or the crossdressers — were yelling something from across the street by the paddy wagon; they were yelling at the cops. We were cheering on the transgenders — the crossdressers — it just sort of snowballed from there.

Other eyewitnesses state that the origin of the riot at Stonewall points to a trans man throwing the first punch after a cop had hit him unjustly, K. Stormé DeLarverie. Trans and drag folks stood side by side, throwing heels and coins, the riot then started in full swing and lasted three days. I’m not going to cover all of Stonewall, I don’t know it well enough, Wikipedia has a lot of information and other sources cover it far better than I ever could, but I have a point. Don’t ever let anyone say that trans people weren’t at Stonewall, don’t them ever say trans people weren’t important, that trans people didn’t participate in the Stonewall riot. Thanks to a trans man fighting abuse, transgender folks started Stonewall. * NB: A lot of the phrasing in quotes here is outdated, a lot of descriptions are outdated too, times change, language use changes.

Profile photo of Marcy Cook

Female geek, author and blogger. Non-cis, non-straight, non-single, non-asshat.

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