Whitewashing Stonewall?

trans_stonewallIn assessing President Obama’s now-famous references to Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, the Rev. David Weekly, one of the few out trans UMC clergy persons, asked on his blog why once again the transgender community was not included in his remarks. After all, Vice President Biden declared transgender rights to be the civil rights issue of our time when meeting with transgender activists at the White House in November 2012 as part of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Then again, the non-LGBT media tend to ignore the event to honor those who have died as the result of transphobia, the majority of which are transwomen of color.

While some may say that by referencing Stonewall, Obama gave a nod to the trans community, over at the Transadvocate Cristan Williams points to a history that seems to whitewash the transwomen of color who were present. In particular, she cites NPR’s coverage of the history behind Stonewall, where the final reporting leaves out any reference to Sylvia Rivera and others in the trans community who were present that evening.

Furthermore, while the Stonewall riots may have become the lightening rod that ignited the gay rights movement, two earlier incidents, the riots at Cooper’s Donuts in Los Angeles (1958/59) and at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria (1966) in San Francisco, marked important occasions when the transgender community fought back against those who would seek to demonize their basic dignity as human beings.

Becky Garrison is a satirist/storyteller whose most recent book is Roger Williams’s Little Book of Virtues (Wipf & Stock, March 2020). Also, she edited Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge and Resilience (Transgress Press, 2015). Her six books include 2006’s Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (PW, starred review).