Ever since Roland Emmerich’s trailer for his fictionalized re-telling of the Stonewall riots has been released there has been many arguments of white-washing, acts of vandalism and the passing around of folklore as history that is not true. Much of this centers around trans-activists Sylvia Riveria and Marsha Johnson and their involvement in the actual raid and riots itself.
So far we have heard: Marsha was in the bar to celebrate her birthday, Marsha was outside the bar and ripped up a parking meter and used it as a battering ram and Marsha threw the first brick. Whe have heard: Sylvia was inside the bar (even though she was 17 and had no ID), Sylvia was outside throwing pennies, Sylvia threw the first heel, and so on.
My late uncle Bob Kohler was a Stonewall veteran; he could never actually place either Sylvia or Marsha at the bar. And in light of the recent developments I went to a source that many trans activists cannot dispute Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Miss Major is a community leader for transgender rights, with a particular focus on women of color and serves as the Executive Director for the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project and was actually in the Stonewall Inn meeting with a girlfriend when the bar was raided. In her past interviews I noticed that while mentioning that Sylvia and Marsha were both important figures in LGBT history (which they are) that she never really placed them at the bar itself.
So I asked Miss Majors straight out. Were either Sylvia Rivera or Marsha Johnson at the the Stonewall Inn when it was raided or when the riot started?
Her answer was no.
Now the Stonewall Inn is not and was not a large bar. And Miss Major has placed Sylvia at a rally afterwards but cannot place her or Marsha at the bar that night or the melee directly afterwards. There is no doubt that both Sylvia and Marsha were involved in the three days of rioting afterwards but no witness has ever been found that place them at the Stonewall Inn at the time of the raid or immediately following the riots. Even Marsha P. Johnson had said herself many times that she was the one who told Sylvia about the raid after it started and things were well underway. The only person that ever claimed that Sylvia was in the bar was Sylvia herself. And that was 15 years after the fact and and at a time when she was trying to raise awareness for her group S.T.A.R (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). Anyone who is alive today who actually knew Sylvia could tell you that while she had good intentions she was a bit…….”emotional.”
Now both Sylvia and Marsha did a lot for trans street kids and all street kids in general L, G, B, and T and they deserve respect and credit in our history for that. But the rumors, and folklore must stop. No individual, no certain group of people started the Stonewall Riots. It was ALL of us who did. Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, Straight, Black, White, Hispanic and so on. Everyone took part and honestly those who do try to claim credit or a certain individual and group are just as bad as Roland Emmerich.
Our history is not well documented and very fragile. Lets try to keep it truthful and keep personal agendas out of it.
A week ahead of the Stonewall Riots’ 48th. anniversary, Google has announced a $1 million donation to the LGBT Community Center of New York to digitize the story of the Stonewall Riots.
Google made the announcement over the weekend, noting that Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, is widely recognized as the birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement. In 1969, the bar was at the center of riots between bar-goers and police who tried to take them to jail. The riots lasted several days.
“The Stonewall Riots were important to the ongoing road to civil rights for LGBT communities around the world — and their message is as resonant and necessary today as it was back then,” wrote William Floyd, Google’s head of external affairs for New York and California, in a blog post Sunday.
The grant will help fund the Center’s project to record stories from the riots, which will be available in a park across the street from Stonewall as well as online.
“These are the stories of transgender women of color who fought back; of queer youth, many of whom were homeless, who bravely refused to be silenced; of the poorest of the LGBTQ community,” Floyd wrote.
The only problem is that much of the history has been forgotten and distorted over the almost 50 years since the riots began.
Hundreds of people took part in the three nights of the Stonewall riots. Black, White, Latino, Youth, Adults, Gay, Lesbian Bi, and even Straight people. Drag Queens. and cross-dressers also took part. (There were very few transgender individuals in 1969 even in such liberal bastions as Greenwich Village) Also its has always been a point of contention that Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson was there that night at the beginning of the riot. Many Stonewall veterans say no. Marsha Johnson herself is quoted as saying that they were not there at the beginning and that she was uptown getting Rivera who was sleeping on a park bench and that they later joined the melee. Many verified Stonewall veterans have stated that Rivera and Johnson were not there from the beginning. The only person who ever said they were there was Rivera herself. And many trans activists who believe and repeat the story not because its the truth but to further their cause. (To be honest many believe it to be the truth because it has been repeated so much) But with that being said we cannot discount Rivera and Johnson who are two very important people in LGBT history and their real contributions. Their participation in the three nights of rioting should not be overlooked. But it shouldn’t be embellished either.
Crissle West — writer, comedian, and co-host of The Read podcast — popped by Comedy Central’s Drunk History this week to dutifully drain a few glasses of boozer and retell the story of the Stonewall Riots, and Marsha. P. Johnson’s involvement in it and got it all wrong, basically just telling the same tired trans-activists narrative lie of that fateful evening on June 28, 1969.
West’s version of the same old lies and rewriting of history by trans-activists with an agenda to steal Stonewall from the gay men and lesbians and put trans-people as the stars of this historical event when in actuality they were only a small part of the supporting cast.
FACT: Marsha Johnson was homeless because she had mental health problems. She suffered psychotic breaks and a multiple personality disorder. And while loved by many was actually banned from many of the gay bars in the Village.
FACT: She was not a customer at the Stonewall. She wasn’t inside the Stonewall. Neither was Sylvia Rivera. The only person who ever said Sylvia Rivera was inside the bar was Rivera herself and not one confirmed patron ever saw her of Johnson in the bar.
FACT: Johnson did not “spark” the riots. She did not throw a shot glass inside the Stonewall. No one did. And she did not give a speech. In her own words she was not near the bar when the riot started. There was no one person who “sparked” the riot, although the closest candidate would be a lesbian who resisted being hustled into a police car. A lesbian. Not a crossdresser. Not a transgender.
FACT: The Stonewall riots were 3 nights, not 2.
FACT: Gay youth did not have access to bars and dance clubs as the video claims. In fact, there was a group of homeless white and Latino gay kids living on the street near the Stonewall and they – not transsexuals or transgenders – were the ones who fought most fiercely.
FACT: The rioters were overwhelmingly gay male. They were largely white (reflecting the makeup of NYC in 1969), but there was substantial Latino and African American participation. There were only a tiny number of crossdressers at Stonewall, in the range of 2-4, and Johnson was the only transgender present. This is out of a cumulative 3-night crowd of 2000. There were far more heterosexual rioters at Stonewall than crossdressers or transgenders.