Thursday, July 04, 2019

Stonewall evaluated

Now that the euphoria, justified as it was, is over, it is appropriate to ask what we have learned about those events at the end of June fifty years ago. We have been treated to a number of seemingly authoritative accounts. Yet they are by and large troubled by three problems. 
The first is wannabeism, in that some who claimed to have been there were not, or at any rate played a lesser role than they maintained. Despite her attestations to the contrary, the activist Sylvia Rivera was not there at all. Marsha P. Johnson may have been there, but her recollections are clouded by her illusion that the events took place in August. 
A second problem stems from the belief that the main agency was performed by "transpeople." That concept did not exist at the time. Instead there were drag queens, but many participants simply experimented with dress variation as was common at the time. The photographs of Fred McDarrah show a range of participants, with no one group in the majority. 
Finally, the riot was not primarily conducted by People of Color. There were contingents from all of the city's major ethnic groups. 
In short the temptation to read history backwards is constantly present, and will not soon disappear.

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