The Truth About the Stonewall Riots

    June 28, 1969: History was made. August 4, 2015: History was whitewashed and rewritten.

    The year is 1969, and the uproar of the Civil Rights Movement is beginning to die down, but the protests and want for change of the ’70s is on the horizon. African Americans have just gotten a taste of equality, but change isn’t stopping there. On June 28, 1969, the first breakthrough in the fight for LBGTQA* rights occurred; this was the beginning of the Stonewall Riots.

    Now, if you haven’t heard of this historical event, I wouldn’t be surprised. As a 15-year-old girl in America, I’ve had my fair amount of history courses, but in none of them have I ever heard anything about the fight for gay rights. As I was researching for this article, I called my grandmother — a lover of history and a professional person alive in 1969 — hoping that she would have some insight on the topic. Unfortunately, being alive in 1969 wasn’t even a guarantee of being aware of the riots, as she had no idea what I was talking about.

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    Marsha P. Johnson/ Photo via IndianaTransgenderNetwork.com
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    Photo via CBSnews.com/ Photo credit: Leonard Fink

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    With absolutely no background knowledge, I took to the Internet to learn about what happened on that day and what followed. One of the first things I saw was a trailer for the upcoming Stonewall movie.

    Watching it gave me chills for all the wrong reasons. The cruelty the fictional characters had to go through in the three-minute trailer is more than I ever hope to go through in my lifetime. However, the main character is another issue entirely. A white, gay, cisgender male plays the hero in the movie. You can see him in the trailer throwing the infamous brick that broke through the glass window and put pressure on the glass ceiling. This character is nowhere near an accurate portrayal of the person who started the riot and has allowed us to come as far as we have. The individual who threw the first brick was Marsha P. Johnson.

    Johnson was a drag queen, a trans activist, and a woman of color. She is the polar opposite of the hero that the movie has concocted. This movie is just another example of whitewashing and, shocker, misogyny in American culture. The creators of this movie replaced a WOC trans activist with a white gay male. Different gender, different race, different story.

    The phrase “based upon a true story” has taken a new form in this movie adaptation of a historical event. The time, the place, and the events following are the only things to stay the same. Granted, the events following were extremely important to the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, but by having a white male be the one to spark the fire just shows young people that the only way to make a difference is to be white and male. It might not seem like a big deal, but just let me remind you that my grandmother, who was alive when this happened, wasn’t even aware that it had happened. This movie is the only major coverage that this event is getting — and 46 years too late I might add. So, when you show the main “hero” so inaccurately, that’s what the young viewers of all other races, gender identities, and sexualities are going to believe happened.

    Do not forget Marsha P. Johnson or her friends that were there that night in the Stonewall Inn (Johnson was arrested along with two other drag queens and a lesbian in attendance at the bar). Their story must be told, or it will be whitewashed and forgotten like so many women and people of color before them. Say their names and educate the people around you about what really happened that night. By signing this petition, you are proving to the public that whitewashing and hiding queer history is not okay with you, and it shouldn’t be okay with them. either. Join the 23,978 other signers in the fight.

    To all of the people of color and to LGBTQA* community members that don’t fit the mold this movie is creating: You can make great change happen; you hold the power. Your voice is just as loud and powerful as anyone else’s, and you have the right to validation and acceptance. Don’t settle, make your own rules, and fight for those that have come before you and those who will come after you. You are strong.

    Dreaming of life beyond cornfields and cow poop, fifteen-year-old Illinoian Claire Farnsworth tries to make the most out of her final four years in the midwest. When she’s not reading anything and everything, trying to be half as funny as Mindy Kaling, or volunteering, she’s probably daydreaming about Niall Horan in math class. With music taste ranging from One Direction and 5SOS to Birdy to Fall Out Boy, she’s always looking for new tunes.

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