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Lila Shapiro
Lila Shapiro is a staff reporter at The Huffington Post. She is the 2013 and 2014 recipient of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association's Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBT Journalist of the Year. She previously worked at Talking Points Memo, editing TPMCafe. She lives in New York City and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lilapearl.

Entries by Lila Shapiro

This Catholic High School Is Standing Up To The Church

(0) Comments | Posted August 28, 2015 | 1:09 PM

A Catholic high school in Portland, Oregon, made history this week by instituting a policy that forbids employment discrimination against gays and lesbians.

St. Mary’s Academy adopted the policy after its earlier decision to rescind a job offer...

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Conservative Christians Are Still Fighting Gay Marriage, But It's An Uphill Battle Against The Courts

(8) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 6:38 PM

For more than 20 years, conservative Christians have been building the case that laws protecting gay people and legalizing same-sex marriage place an unconstitutional burden on the rights of religious people who believe homosexuality is a sin. Over the last decade, as same-sex marriage first crept, then swept,...

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Stonewall Riot Veterans Address New Film's Controversial Trailer

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2015 | 12:14 PM

When blockbuster director Roland Emmerich decided to make a movie about the Stonewall riots -- the series of 1969 protests widely credited with starting the modern gay rights movement -- he may have thought that LGBT Americans would embrace the film. At first, they seemed to. Months before the trailer was even released, GLAAD acknowledged the film in an award to Emmerich for his work “in promoting equality.”

“Millions of moviegoers all across the world will see the harms of anti-LGBT discrimination and learn about the historic riots that forever changed equality in America,” GLAAD’s CEO told Variety.

Then, last week, the trailer was released.

Since then, more than 22,000 people have signed a petition vowing not to see Emmerich's film -- not because they object to LGBT rights, but because they believe the movie is going to present a version of history that focuses on white cisgender men to the exclusion of everyone else. The petition's creator is Pat Cordova-Goff, an 18-year-old college student who identifies as a transwomyn of color.

The "Stonewall" trailer (tagline: "Where pride began") focuses on a fictional blond man from Kansas, played by the English actor Jeremy Irvine, who moves to New York City and discovers the Stonewall Inn. Soon after, the man is throwing bricks through windows and climbing on cop cars.

Emmerich, who is openly gay and best known for apocalyptic blockbusters like "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," has described the film as “a labor of love.” But critics say they believe Emmerich's movie, which comes out Sept. 25, is going to whitewash history and erase the contributions of the transgender activists, drag queens and people of color who were there at the beginning of the riots.

"To all considering watching the newest whitewashed version of queer history,” Cordova-Goff's petition says, “it is time that black and brown transwomyn and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation.”

A full copy of the film is not yet available, and Emmerich’s publicist declined The Huffington Post’s request for an interview. Emmerich wrote on Facebook last week that once the film is released, “audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there,” including the people of color, the trans activists and the drag queens.

Some high-profile gay activists -- mainly white men -- have voiced support for Emmerich and the film. The playwright Larry Kramer, who has taken plenty of friendly fire from the LGBT community over the decades for his depictions of gay history, urged Emmerich not to “listen to the crazies.”

“For some reason there is a group of 'activists' that insists on maintaining their prime importance and participation during this riot,” Kramer wrote in a Facebook comment beneath Emmerich’s post. “Unfortunately there seems [to be] no one left alive to say 'it wasn't that way at all,' or 'who are or where the fuck were you.'"

Miss Major, a 73-year-old trans activist who participated in the riots, didn’t even make it through the full two minutes and 20 seconds of the trailer before she turned it off. “It was too much to watch,” she told HuffPost. “It’s just, ugh, they’re whitewashing it again. They’re burying us in the ground so when they step off of us, there’s no proof that we were even there.”

Many say that Emmerich’s decision to cast a handsome white man in the film's lead role is part of a long history of the mainstream gay rights movement ignoring trans issues and the concerns of people of color in favor of causes like marriage equality and the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell."

“So now they can get married, now they’re as good as straight people,” said Miss Major. “Progress for us has been minimal.”

When she thinks back on the riots, she said, she remembers her black and brown trans friends in the streets. “The only white faces were across the street screaming.”

The historian Martin Duberman, author of a history of Stonewall, says that trans women and drag queens were instrumental in the riots, but so were the many white gay men who frequented the bar, including himself. “Stonewall was my own bar of choice," he said, "which means I was there at least a couple of nights a week, because it was the one place in New York that you could dance slow. So I’m familiar with the customers, and a lot of the claims on all sides are suspect.”

Duberman has not watched the "Stonewall" trailer, but after hearing a description of it, he said, “Any movie [about Stonewall] that features a gay white man as the hero is historically inaccurate, and to say as much is not to be crazy.” But Duberman also disputed the idea that any one person or group can claim leadership or ownership of those wild days and nights after a police raid of the bar set the riots in motion.

“So many things are happening simultaneously that it's absurd to say one particular incident, person or gesture started the whole conflagration,” he said. “Lots of people were doing lots of different things, and they all came together in an explosion. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the best way to describe the Stonewall riots.”

Today, there aren't many living Stonewall veterans of any race or gender, but trans women of color who participated in the riots are far scarcer than white gay men who were there. That may be part of the reason why critics of Emmerich’s trailer have been so passionate.

“I think that's why this is so traumatizing for people who have an idea that what [Emmerich’s] telling is not what went on,” Miss Major said. “To at least acknowledge the people who were there who didn’t live to make it to today. I would love it if there were 10 of us and we could all get together, but we’re so scattered and so protective of ourselves and so many of us are dead.”

In his Facebook post, Emmerich tried to reassure critics that the film would in fact acknowledge the drag queens and trans protesters who are no longer alive:

I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film -- which is truly a labor of love for me -- finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there -- including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro -- and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day.

But Emmerich's comment did little to placate those who say any film about Stonewall ought to put trans activists and drag queens front and center.

“We’ve been erased from so many events,” said Reina Gossett, a black trans woman who is co-directing her own movie about Stonewall, "Happy Birthday Marsha!" Gossett's film tells the story of the trans artist and activist Marsha Johnson, and her life in the hours before the riots began. Johnson is sometimes credited with having actually thrown the first brick that night. (Miss Major consulted on the film.)

“Marsha and many other people were really pushed out of the lesbian and gay movement in order to secure narrow demands,” said Sasha Wortzel, Gossett’s collaborator on the movie.

Another petition, this one with more than 21,000 signatures, urges the owners of Manhattan's Landmark Theatres to "commit to screening an alternate film that's more historically accurate" if they also screen "Stonewall." The petition's author suggests the 1990 documentary "Paris is Burning."

This week, after months of fundraising for their film, Wortzel and Gossett have found themselves unexpectedly in the spotlight, and donations for their project have ballooned.

“I think people are saying, enough is enough," said Gossett. "No story about us without...

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How A New England Beach Town Changed The Course Of Gay History

(1) Comments | Posted August 3, 2015 | 10:06 AM

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. -- A caravan of SUVs was snaking through the sand dunes that stretch for miles along the coast of Provincetown at the northern tip of Cape Cod. In one of the vehicles, James Husson-Cote, a local tour guide, pointed to a dip in the sand where...

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A Golden Girl’s Legacy Brings Hope To LGBT Youth

(2) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 4:28 PM

NEW YORK -- Despite a slew of recent gay rights victories, advocates estimate that hundreds of thousands of LGBT teens around the country are still rejected by their families. A lot of these kids end up homeless in New York City, which has only about 100 beds dedicated to LGBT...

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The Global Backlash To America's Gay Rights Triumph

(7) Comments | Posted July 17, 2015 | 2:46 PM

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church of Uganda called last month's Supreme Court’s decision on marriage an "immoral virus." The president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, called American leaders "perverted Satan-worshipers." Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, reportedly promised to defend his country from "dirty things."

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Same-Sex Couples Still Not Allowed To Wed In More Than 20 Counties

(6) Comments | Posted July 9, 2015 | 11:42 AM

A rebellion is brewing in the South.

In Alabama, Texas, Kentucky and Nebraska, a handful of judges and county clerks are bucking the Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the U.S. just two weeks ago. In at least 20 counties in these states, same-sex couples seeking marriage...

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Conservatives Explain Why They Lost On Marriage

(1601) Comments | Posted June 30, 2015 | 11:03 AM

You could imagine Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell turning in his grave when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on Friday.

It was a stunning, stinging loss for the religious right, a group whose power little more than a decade ago seemed ascendant. When George W. Bush was elected...

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Russell Moore Still Thinks The Religious Right Will Win The Fight Over Gay Marriage

(1619) Comments | Posted June 20, 2015 | 9:51 AM

Russell Moore still thinks the religious right will win the battle against same-sex marriage. Oh, not at the Supreme Court later this month -- like nearly everyone else, Moore is almost positive the right will lose there. But the long game... that, he says, could be a different story.


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'Oranges, Baby Powder, Handcuffs And Duct Tape': Inside The Trial That May End The Gay 'Cure'

(55) Comments | Posted June 12, 2015 | 8:36 AM

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- For years, Benjamin Unger had lived uneasily with the knowledge that he liked other guys, but in 2007, at 19 years old, the expectations of adulthood were looming. For religious Orthodox Jews in Unger’s community, this meant two things: marriage to a woman, and having...

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Lawyer In 'Gay Cure' Trial Says Satan Is Behind Gay Rights Movement

(435) Comments | Posted June 8, 2015 | 3:59 PM

JERSEY CITY -- In a first-of-its-kind legal challenge to gay conversion therapy, the lawyer defending this controversial practice has taken pains to assert that his clients do not judge people for being gay, but simply offer their services to those gay people who wish to change their sexual orientation.


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Vocal Conversion Therapy Critic Weighs In On Gay 'Cure' Trial

(72) Comments | Posted June 1, 2015 | 5:40 PM

This week, the so-called gay cure goes to trial in New Jersey.

The practice has been widely condemned in recent years by the medical and mental health communities, and it's been banned in a number of states. Nevertheless, practitioners of conversion therapy, as the practice is sometimes called, continue...

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Science Magazine Officially Retracts That Discredited Gay Marriage Study

(99) Comments | Posted May 28, 2015 | 5:05 PM

Science magazine officially retracted a major study on same-sex marriage and public opinion on Thursday without the consent of the lead author, UCLA graduate student Michael J. LaCour.

The events leading to the retraction became public on May 19, when the article’s second author, Columbia University political science...

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Groundbreaking Study On Gay Marriage Views May Have Been Faked (UPDATE)

(791) Comments | Posted May 20, 2015 | 5:13 PM

A seemingly groundbreaking and widely publicized study reported in Science magazine this past December may be a fake.

The study appeared to show that openly gay activists in California had persuaded conservative voters to change their minds in a lasting way by engaging the voters in “heartfelt, reciprocal and vulnerable...

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This Bill Could End 'Gay Conversion Therapy' In The U.S.

(84) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 2:50 PM

It’s been almost exactly 10 years since Mathew Shurka walked into a therapist’s office in Los Angeles and was told that he could become straight. His father, who accompanied him, worried that Mathew's sexuality would prevent him from being happy and successful. At the end of the meeting, Mathew's father...

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This Gay Cop's Life Could Change If Conservative Texan Politicians Get Their Way

(141) Comments | Posted May 14, 2015 | 5:16 PM

Joe, a sheriff's deputy in a medium-sized city in Texas, says he tries not to define himself as "the gay cop." He has a good reason for that -- in Texas, it's perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay.

Most weeks, he doesn't mind keeping his personal life...

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These Absurd Lawsuits Show Why The Anti-Gay Movement Is Failing

(435) Comments | Posted May 9, 2015 | 10:19 AM

Last October, Kansas couple Philip and Sandra Unruh accused gay couples of trying to literally steal their marriage. In a motion to intervene in an unfolding case challenging their state’s ban on same-sex marriage, they referred to their marriage as property, and argued that if the state changes...

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How The Global LGBT Movement Can Keep Up Its Stunning Momentum

(56) Comments | Posted May 7, 2015 | 7:51 AM

In cooperation with our longstanding partner Crowdrise, The Huffington Post is celebrating its 10 year anniversary by focusing on the promise of the next 10 years. We're highlighting causes that are near and dear to our ethos -- causes where we believe meaningful progress can be made in...

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From 'Cradle To Grave,' Here's Why Marriage Equality Is About Way More Than Just Marriage

(25) Comments | Posted April 28, 2015 | 3:15 PM

In 2013, Kelly Noe and her wife, Kelly McCracken, were expecting a baby when they joined the lawsuits against Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage. David Michener, meanwhile, had recently lost his husband and the father of his three children. The two families were in very different places -- one buoyed...

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Meet The People Trying To Seize The 'Last, Best Opportunity' To Stop Gay Marriage

(502) Comments | Posted April 27, 2015 | 3:55 PM

WASHINGTON -- When asked why they’d come to the National Mall on a recent overcast Saturday, four days before the Supreme Court would hold its latest hearing on same-sex marriage, nearly all of the dozens of people I talked to opened with the same statement, pretty much word for word:...

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