Dis-membering Stonewall: an excerpt from the forthcoming "Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City"

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Dis-membering Stonewall: an excerpt from the forthcoming "Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City"

her wig and laughingly tossed it to the other cop. In spotting us, the cop who caught the wig threw it at us yelling, “You nigger fags get away!”

The wig missed and landed about a foot away from us, but the cop’s words hit, striking fear. And with just the three of us traveling together—the boys were high school football linebackers and me, a middle schooler—and being the youngest and only girl with them, I felt vulnerable after having lost Nate, Sr. and the group. Witnessing the beat-down and disrobing of the drag queen made me want to cry, but I fought back the tears and ran, following the boys down the block.

When we came home the night of June 28th, we still had no idea of Birdie’s fate. Throughout that day and the night before we had witnessed so many Birdies beaten badly. We stopped by the Andersons to convey our concerns and that we had looked for Birdie. Cissy told us that he was safely home, having sustained a number of blunt trauma injuries—a black eye, assorted bruises, broken ribs, a sprained ankle, and a busted lip. None of us know how Nate, Sr. found Birdie in the riot, but he did—we assumed parental instinct trumped the seemingly impossible.

When I look back at the first night of the Stonewall Inn riots, I could have never imagined its future importance. The first night played out no differently from previous riots with Black Americans and white policemen. And so too, it being underreported. But I was there.

 

ON THE FIRST NIGHT OF the Stonewall Inn riots, African Americans and Latinos were the largest percentage of the protes­tors because we heavily frequented the bar. For Black and Latino homeless youth and young adults, who slept in nearby Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn was their stable domicile. The Stonewall Inn being raided was nothing new. In the 1960s gay bars in the Village were routinely raided, but, “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.” 2

Although, today, African American and Latino trans communi­ties are relegated to the margins of Greenwich Village, if not expulsed from it, these communities, nonetheless, force their way into being a visible and powerful presence in our lives, leaving indelible imprints while confronted with not only transphobia but also “trans-amne­sia.” The inspiration and source of an LGBTQ movement post-Stone­wall is an appropriation of a Black, brown, trans and queer libera­tion narrative and struggle. The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969 in Greenwich Village started on the backs of working class African American and Latino queers who patronized that bar. Those brown and Black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but have been bleached from its written history. Many LGBTQ Blacks and Latinos argue that one of the reasons for the gulf between whites and themselves is about how the dominant queer community rewrote and continues to control the narrative of Stonewall.

  1. The UNESCO Slave Route Project, “Lest We Forget: the Triumph Over Slavery,” that marked the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution proclaiming 2004 “The International Year to Commemorate the Struggle Against Slavery and Its Abolition.”
  2. T-Vox contributors, “The Stonewall Riots,” T-Vox, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., http://www.t-vox.org/index.php?title=Stonewall_riots (accessed December 3, 2011).

 

This post is excerpted with permission from the newly released Love, Christopher Street: Reflections of New York City