The GSA Network's boycott of the upcoming movie Stonewall is an admirable youth-led call to action to those of us concerned about the whitewashing of our history that the trailer below shows. Young, poor, transgender women of color were the leaders of Stonewall, not white men. Yes, there were gay white men at the Stonewall Inn that night in June 1969, but they were not at the vanguard like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
As the director of a LGBTQ history education organization, I speak on the importance of our heritage every day. History in general is taught from the perspective of the most privileged, which doesn't include LGBTQ people. If we want to learn about our queeroes, we need to seek it out ourselves. If you rely on the mainstream's representation of us, you will barely scratch the surface of the incredible wealth and diversity of our centuries of our stories.
Queer people rarely learn our histories at school or from our families of origin, but we can't rely on the mass media to teach it to us, either. We as a community need to teach it to each other so our youth know they're not the first ones to feel this way. So we can know we belong in every field from tech to sports, because we have always been trailblazers in them. So we honor the stories of the past and put our present into context. So we don't burn out as activists, because we can see the progress we've made in the big picture. So those of us who are isolated can find a sense of community by learning about historical figures like them.
Historical fiction doesn't have to copy every detail from reality, but what Ronald Emmerich has done goes beyond creative license. It robs the LGBTQ community of our history. It is denying huge parts of our community seeing themselves represented on screen as they should. Just as TV shows have turned us into stereotypes and sidekicks, the projected image harms us all.
Whether you support the GSA Network boycott or not, I encourage you to make a donation in the amount of the cost of a movie ticket to an organization that honors and serves transgender women of color today. Surely, you can afford the amount of the average movie ticket in North America to offset the amount that Hollywood will make off of this film. Whether you donate the amount of your own ticket if you go see it or you make a donation instead of spending it on a ticket, #DonateATicket.
I recommend one of these organizations as examples:
- Sylvia Rivera Project
- Trans Women of Color Collective
- Transgender Archives at University of Victoria
- Happy Birthday, Marsha!
There is power in educating ourselves. If you don't know about Stonewall (or if you only know about Stonewall), go learn about the other centuries of our heritage. Here is a list of online LGBTQ history resources from Tumblrs to wikis. Quist's own free mobile app is another great starting point. Enjoy learning our true history.