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Est. April 5, 2002
June 13, 2019 - Issue 793

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The Bleaching of Stonewall

"The Stonewall turbulence started on the backs of
working-class African American and Latinx queers
who patronized the bar. Those brown and black LGBTQ
people are not only absent from the photos of that night,
but they have been bleached from its written history."

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that took place from June 27 to 29, 1969, in the Greenwich Village section of NYC. The event is well-known because it galvanized LGBTQ+ activist organizations and movements here and abroad.

When I look back at the first night of the Stonewall Inn riots, I could have never imagined its future importance. I couldn’t have imagined the whitewashing of the event either. As with all iconic narratives, though, apocryphal tales abound, along with questions about the truth.

According to many LGBTQ blacks and Latinx, one of the reasons for the gulf between them and whites, and what prevented a united front against homo/transphobia in local and national politics from forming, is how the dominant white queer community rewrote and continues to control the narrative of Stonewall. Like with Pride events, for example.

The Stonewall turbulence started on the backs of working-class African American and Latinx queers who patronized the bar. Those brown and black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but they have been bleached from its written history.

The first night of the riots played out no differently from previous riots with black Americans and white law enforcement officers. And so it was under reported.

But I was there!

Friday, June 27, was the last day of school that year. My middle school cronies and I looked forward to a summer reprieve from rioting against Italian, Irish, and Jewish public school kids for being bussed into their neighborhoods.

However, the summer months in Brooklyn’s African American enclaves only escalated rioting between the NYPD and us. During this tumultuous decade of black rage and white police raids, knee-jerk responses to slights quickly set the stage for a conflagration, creating both instantaneous and momentary fighting alliances in these Black communities across gangs, class, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientations—against police brutality.

That night of June 27 started no differently than any other hot and humid summer Friday evening in my neighborhood. Past midnight, folks with no AC or working fans in their homes were hanging out. The news came from one of our neighbors that “pigs”—a term we called white police officers in the 1960s—“across the bridge in Greenwich Village are beating up on black [F-word]s—right now!”

African American and Latinx patrons frequented the Stonewall Inn heavily and thus comprised the largest percentage of protesters on the first night of the riots. For homeless youth and young adults who slept in nearby Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn was a stable domicile. And its being raided was nothing new.

In the 1960s, gay bars in the Village were routinely raided. As one commenter on T-VOX, an LGBTQ+ support forum, noted, “Race is said to have been another factor. The decision by the police to raid the bar in the manner they did may have been influenced by the fact that most of the ‘homosexuals’ they would encounter were of color, and therefore even more objectionable.”

In the ’60s, riots between white police officers and black citizens took place in our neighborhoods, just as they still do today: Ferguson, 2014 (Michael Brown); Baltimore, 2015 (Freddie Gray); Louisiana, 2016 (Alton Sterling); Minnesota, 2016 (Philando Castile), to name a few. On the first night of Stonewall, many of us who went to the Village did so to retrieve our loved ones and leave. It takes white privilege to fight the police, expect to walk away alive, and create a hagiographical narrative of white heroism.

For example, Roland Emmerich’s long-awaited 2015 film “Stonewall” spurred both shock and disappointment in moviegoers, historians, and LGBT activists, including myself. The film failed to depict an accurate story, and in its place presented a revisionist history. Emmerich apparently felt a more captivating narrative should center around a blond, blue-eyed, “straight-acting” Midwestern protagonist, likely in order to appeal to mainstream audiences.

I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I made it also for straight people,” Emmerich told Buzzfeed. “As a director, you have to put yourself in your movies, and I’m white and gay.”

In doing so, Emmerich’s doppelganger, Danny, reinscribes the trope of the white savior and action hero. Danny throws the first brick, setting off the riots while shouting “GAY POWER!”. Even though in real life, the shakers, movers, and brick throwers were poor and working-class black and Latinx LGBTQs. I was disturbed by Emmerich’s “Stonewall”—not only because of its whitewashing, but also because of the enduring nature of this revisionist history.

Still today, trans communities of color are relegated to the margins of Greenwich Village. Nonetheless, many force their way in to become a visible and influential presence in our lives, leaving indelible imprints despite being confronted with trans-phobia and “trans-amnesia.”

The white-dominant control of the Stonewall narrative, meanwhile, must relinquish its hold to give way to a broader truth. Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN). She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist. Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and Canada. Also she writes a  column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev. Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK. She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment. Monroe’s  coming out story is  profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the history of women in America. Her website is  Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC. 
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is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
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