It’s Not All About The Gay

February 2, 2007 ·

Yesterday both Box Turtle Bulletin and my friend Steph posted this video:

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/NgJyyszPwuM” width=”425″ height=”350″/]

They both labeled it as “Gay.” But two prominent scenes in the movie are of the Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria riots. To label either as “gay history” misses the bigger picture.
sylviarivera.jpg

The Stonewall Inn was raided because its clientèle was mostly Hispanic and African American, and most were gender variant. After the riots started, police targeted effeminate men. Stonewall was as much about gender variance (anyone who doesn’t fit into societal gender norms) as it was being gay. What history of Stonewall is complete without names such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson?

The Compton Cafeteria riots happened because the police attempted to arrest transwomen simply for being “cross dressed” in public. They were at the cafeteria because it was the only place they could go. Gays and lesbians shunned them because it was illegal to cross dress. Their crime was their gender variance, not their sexual preference. queen.jpg

I’m not posting this to aggravate or stir up drama. I simply want to proclaim to my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters that we have a rightful place in this community. We’ve earned that place in history, using our presentation… our bodies, as our protest. This isn’t “Gay History.” This is our history, as much as it is yours. This is glbT history.

Remember this when you are asked to support a hate crimes or employment non-discrimination legislation that doesn’t include transgender people. Remember this when you give money to organizations that support non-inclusive legislation. Remember this when people like Chris Crain claim that we are “transjacking” legislation. We may not contribute cash to the fight, but our capital is in the sacrifice of our own flesh.

Most of all remember that we, are you.

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  1. I are so correct and I am sorry to have omitted half of the LGBT’s, particularly the T’s. I’ve made a correction to my post based on your comments.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. I are so correct and I am sorry to have omitted half of the LGBT’s, particularly the T’s. I’ve made a correction to my post based on your comments.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

  3. You raise very important points. Thank you.

    I skimmed the Chris Crain article. He used to pen similar editorials when he was an editor for The Washington Blade. Several years ago, he penned an editorial in that publication encouraging the exclusion of transpeople from anti-discrimination law. I’m glad that he is no longer an editor for the Blade.

    The link between transphobic oppression and heterosexist oppression is pretty darned clear to me: people get upset with queer people of all stripes because we violate gender norms. In our own individual ways, we simply do not fit people’s preconceived notions of what women and men should be like. Loving someone of the same sex or gender violates those norms just as a person born male expressing herself as a woman violates those norms. There’s also a strong link with sexist oppression, too. Sexism thrives upon the notion that women and men must fulfill certain roles and behavior patterns based upon preconceived notions of female and male. All of these things—homophobia, transphobia and sexism—are tightly intertwined.

    Plus, almost anyone who has spent a little time in lesbian, gay and bi circles can attest to the high levels of gender variance that occurs there. When folks like Chris Crain speak in favor of leaving transpeople behind, I have to wonder where he truly draws the line in excluding others. Does he exclude feminine gay men? Butch lesbians? Queer men and women who perform drag? Those folks are all vulnerable to froms of discrimination based upon gender expression. In many ways, this resembles the kind of discrimination that transpeople experience.

    Plus, intersecting forms of oppression and privilege interweave with and compound the overall effects of any kind of prejudice. As you stated, racism may very well have played a role in garnering police attention at Stonewall. Transpeople of color tend to experience levels of violence that exceeds that of white transpeople. Being a poor, white, gay man or being a middleclass, Latino, straight transwoman—or any other combination—form very different experiences. In real life, you can’t easily separate the effects of these characteristics.

    So, the idea of saying, “OK, you’ve got transpeople over here and the rest of queer people over there” is pretty short sighted. Forgetting about the ways in which transpeople and people of color have always been a part of queer struggle is just as short sighted… and simply inaccurate.

  4. You raise very important points. Thank you.

    I skimmed the Chris Crain article. He used to pen similar editorials when he was an editor for The Washington Blade. Several years ago, he penned an editorial in that publication encouraging the exclusion of transpeople from anti-discrimination law. I’m glad that he is no longer an editor for the Blade.

    The link between transphobic oppression and heterosexist oppression is pretty darned clear to me: people get upset with queer people of all stripes because we violate gender norms. In our own individual ways, we simply do not fit people’s preconceived notions of what women and men should be like. Loving someone of the same sex or gender violates those norms just as a person born male expressing herself as a woman violates those norms. There’s also a strong link with sexist oppression, too. Sexism thrives upon the notion that women and men must fulfill certain roles and behavior patterns based upon preconceived notions of female and male. All of these things—homophobia, transphobia and sexism—are tightly intertwined.

    Plus, almost anyone who has spent a little time in lesbian, gay and bi circles can attest to the high levels of gender variance that occurs there. When folks like Chris Crain speak in favor of leaving transpeople behind, I have to wonder where he truly draws the line in excluding others. Does he exclude feminine gay men? Butch lesbians? Queer men and women who perform drag? Those folks are all vulnerable to froms of discrimination based upon gender expression. In many ways, this resembles the kind of discrimination that transpeople experience.

    Plus, intersecting forms of oppression and privilege interweave with and compound the overall effects of any kind of prejudice. As you stated, racism may very well have played a role in garnering police attention at Stonewall. Transpeople of color tend to experience levels of violence that exceeds that of white transpeople. Being a poor, white, gay man or being a middleclass, Latino, straight transwoman—or any other combination—form very different experiences. In real life, you can’t easily separate the effects of these characteristics.

    So, the idea of saying, “OK, you’ve got transpeople over here and the rest of queer people over there” is pretty short sighted. Forgetting about the ways in which transpeople and people of color have always been a part of queer struggle is just as short sighted… and simply inaccurate.