The Beacon Bit: A Youth Perspective - The movie Stonewall

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By Phoenix Nesmith

 

So I finished watching Stonewall, you know, the one everyone boycotted because of its blatant erasure and whitewashing. Honestly, in some ways, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. But in others, it was much, much worse.
    Let me start off by saying that Stonewall is by no means an attempt at a historically accurate telling of the tale of the Stonewall Uprising. This movie is essentially a gay version of Titanic. It uses the events of Stonewall to create a cute story about this pretty little white cis gay boy named Danny who gets kicked out and has to move to New York City, where he’s all alone and scared, poor baby.
    But wait! There are OTHER GAYS and they know their way around the city! They take him in and show him the ropes, including pressuring him into doing sex work, which he is very clearly uncomfortable with and he does make it known to them that he is. The story is spun and the actual riots don’t start until literally over an hour and a half into the movie.
    This piece of trash is TWO HOURS LONG. TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE I WILL NEVER GET BACK.
    I’m not going to go into excruciating detail about the whole plot, because frankly I’m trying to forget it, but let’s just say that the start of the riot is not true to actual history at all.
    Brief history lesson: the Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in New York City in the 1960’s. At this time, there were bunches of anti-gay laws that made it completely legal for police to raid the bar whenever they wanted.
    Well, one night, there was a raid, and people got sick of it. One of the real heroes of Stonewall, the instigator that sent out the sparks that lit the fire, was a then-17 year old Puerto Rican trans woman named Sylvia Rivera. She, in the midst of chaos, threw an object (some say a shoe, others a brick, and still others a beer bottle) in the general direction of the cops, leading to the four-day-long uprising that launched gay liberation organizations across the country.
    Guess who is absolutely nowhere in the movie? That’s right, our girl Sylvia is not present anywhere in this nice little narrative. Instead, our precious, innocent little white cis gay boy Danny throws a brick into a window, throws his hands in the air, yells, “GAY POWER!!” and single-handedly starts the riots that changed the world forever.
    I don’t have to tell you that trans women don’t get a lot of media representation, nor do I have to point out that trans women of color get even less. But the worst part, THE VERY WORST PART, is that a line of text at the end of the movie declares it is dedicated to the “unsung heroes” of the Stonewall Riots. Oh yeah? “Unsung heroes” like the ones you completely forgot to mention despite the fact that they were crucial to the riots themselves and the movement that blossomed in their wake?
    The director of the movie claims that he didn’t just make it for queer folks. He wanted it to be for cis hets too, so obviously that means taking out those gaudy, unsettling trans ladies that ended up leaving lasting impacts on the world. I think it’s about time that we appreciate the efforts of all members of the LGBTQ community, not just those deemed desirable by a cisheteronormative society. l

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Marcia McCoy, Ph.D.