LGBT History: No Faggots, No Trannies, No Perverts Allowed

Chris's picture

People Stonewall Inn like Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps will never succeed in silencing the voices of queers. They're too recognizably vile, and create an instant, impassioned response against them, to ever act as anything other than very good rallying points for people who believe in social justice and sexual equality. The worst enemies of sexual minorities come from within the LGBT communities themselves. They're the people whose vision of LGBT activism involves making the homos just like the heteros, and want that so badly that they strive not to broaden our culture's vision of sexuality, but instead work to narrow the community's vision of itself. Look, for example, at this quote from Joseph Sabrow's editorial in Metroline, a New England gay and lesbian publication, that Autumn Sandeen spotted:

As we enter the Pride month I for one hope the community takes a moment to reflect back on all the effort put forth by gay men and women in the past to secure the freedom and acceptance we currently enjoy today. Fighting during a period in time where it was hazardous to one's physical health to be on the forefront. Stonewall was not simply an activist protest where they went home afterwards and partied. They were beaten and dragged away to jail by the police. It was a time when fag bashing was an accepted method of controlling homos and keeping them out of the neighborhood. There were no drag queens there at all. It was gay human beings simply standing up for being who they were. Making a stand even though they fully knew the dangers of doing so. That's true courage no different than that on a battlefield. (Emphasis by Sandeen)

Let's take a moment to think about that last letter in the famous string of letters that decorates the letterhead of every gay rights lobbying organization in America: L-G-B-T. Not all those letters are equal, and in many ways have become less so over the years. The B is kind of put up with, like the red-headed stepchild who's good for a laugh. The T is always barely hanging on by its fingernails, as was demonstrated by the recent debate over ENDA when the Human Rights Campaign and Barney Frank decided that transfolk and other gender nonconformists could be written out of employment protections in the name of the "greater good."

Sabrow's comment is only one line in a long essay that's concentrating on other things, but it's important because it's such a blatant lie, and it's a lie that a lot of professional gay activists would like to believe. As gay rights have become more acceptable to Americans at large, the image of gays has also become whiter, richer, less kinky, and just generally less queer.

Sylvia Rivera in front of the Stonewall Inn in 2002 One of the people who was at Stonewall in 1969 was the late Sylvia Rivera. As a politically radical Puerto Rican drag queen, Sylvia Rivera would certainly be nowhere to be found in the version of Stonewall championed by Sabrow, Andrew Sullivan, and the HRC. But she was there nevertheless. In a 1998 interview with Leslie Feinberg, she described the experience:

In 1969, the night of the Stonewall riot, was a very hot, muggy night. We were in the Stonewall [bar] and the lights came on. We all stopped dancing. The police came in.

They had gotten their payoff earlier in the week. But Inspector Pine came in-him and his morals squad-to spend more of the government's money.

We were led out of the bar and they cattled us all up against the police vans. The cops pushed us up against the grates and the fences. People started throwing pennies, nickels, and quarters at the cops.

And then the bottles started. And then we finally had the morals squad barricaded in the Stonewall building, because they were actually afraid of us at that time. They didn't know we were going to react that way.

We were not taking any more of this shit. We had done so much for other movements. It was time.

It was street gay people from the Village out front-homeless people who lived in the park in Sheridan Square outside the bar-and then drag queens behind them and everybody behind us. The Stonewall Inn telephone lines were cut and they were left in the dark.

One Village Voice reporter was in the bar at that time. And according to the archives of the Village Voice, he was handed a gun from Inspector Pine and told, "We got to fight our way out of there."

This was after one Molotov cocktail was thrown and we were ramming the door of the Stonewall bar with an uprooted parking meter. So they were ready to come out shooting that night.

Finally the Tactical Police Force showed up after 45 minutes. A lot of people forget that for 45 minutes we had them trapped in there.

All of us were working for so many movements at that time. Everyone was involved with the women's movement, the peace movement, the civil-rights movement. We were all radicals. I believe that's what brought it around.

You get tired of being just pushed around.

The comments on Autumn's post are very insightful and definitely worth reading. I may be a cissexual, mostly-het (about a Kinsey 1 or 1.5) white boy, but I can remember something that Sabrow and the national gay leadership have forgotten: without the perverts, without the drag queens, without the leather daddies and dykes, without the transsexuals of every variety, without the dirty, disreputable people, there would be a lot of gay folk politely huddling in their closets. The LG is nothing without the BT.