history

The Stonewall Riot Was Not, In Fact, the Gay Community’s Uprising

fred-mcdarrah-stonewall-shot

So says gay author (and grandson of the World War II Army General) Lucian King Truscott IV, who was there that night and, among other things, lays claim to setting up this photo the late Fred McDarrah shot that night at the Stonewall Inn.

A prominent Stonewall myth holds that the riots were an uprising by the gay community against decades of oppression. This would be true if the “gay community” consisted of Stonewall patrons. The bar’s regulars, though, were mostly teenagers from Queens, Long Island and New Jersey, with a few young drag queens and homeless youths who squatted in abandoned tenements on the Lower East Side.

“I was there on the Saturday and Sunday nights when the Village’s established gay community, having heard about the incidents of Friday night, rushed back from vacation rentals on Fire Island and elsewhere. Although several older activists participated in the riots, most stood on the edges and watched.”

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18 Comments

  • dgz

    well, the liberty bell has no actual historical significance, either, but i’m not arguing it isn’t an important symbol.

  • john

    so is he saying that we got help from non-gay people? the riot happened right? it sparked a massive uprising of other gay people in other cities, like Los Angeles which at the time had signs in restaurants that said NO GAYS ALLOWED, to start standing up to the police because of what had happened in New York city…no? so who’s “community” do we owe thanks to for getting us to fight back against police brutality and oppression?

  • Miss Honey

    No, I think he’s saying that Bridge&Tunnel homos aren’t part of the “gay community” — he’s criticizing the elitist gay establishment types by using an equally elitist argument, which is a bit pathetic.

  • M Shane

    I agree with the above, I would guess that if there were kids , they might have been hustlers. In any case, the spirit of the event and what it brought about ids what counts.

    I find attemopts like thse to discount something that is by and lage symbolic so incredibly lame. How can anyone be so stupid?

  • hardmannyc

    Aaargh. This is a complete misreading of Truscott’s op-ed. He’s saying that what we conventionally think of as the “gay community” — relatively well-off white men and lesbians — were not so involved. Rather, it was more marginal populations.

  • Brian Miller

    Stonewall wasn’t the first mass LGBT rights demonstration. That would be Kameny’s rally for gay rights in Philadelphia’s Independence Square. Philadelphia, at the time, was the most gay-friendly city in the country.

    The Stonewall riot thing was more romantic to the early socialist “gay revolutionaries,” so the larger and more significant Kameny Philly rally (which was peaceful and diverse) got pushed to the margins even though it was bolder, more principled and more significant.

  • mb00

    @Brian Miller: You are correct in that this was a rally and not a riot. The Kameny rally happened on April 17, 1965.

    The first-and-very under credited gay riots was the Campton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco and it took place in August 1965. Four years before the more popular Stonewall Riots. There a great documentary on this riot titled “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Campton’s Cafeteria”. It is highly educating and extremely fun to watch. And yet again, this riot also involved the drag and transgendered community, whom I believe we, the gay community, own allot of the freedoms that we enjoy now. I’ve always said that we have it bad enough being gay, but transgenders have it worse when it comes to public opinion and have to fight even harder for their freedoms.
    As always my hats off to them.

  • galefan2004

    @mb00: Probably doesn’t help that gay.inc is willing to throw them under the bus if it advances gay rights faster.

  • danny

    Also, don’t forget the Black Cat bar riots in Los Angeles in 1967….largely erased from queer history by New York-centric queens.

  • BitchFace

    He is making the elitist argument. It’s actually well documented that it was the youth, the drag queens, the butch lesbians, and the hustlers who instigated and started the riots. Martin Duberman and many others admit to hearing a fracas.. and passing it by. They had opted instead of causing a stir… sticking with the quiet and polite(ineffective) politics of the Mattachine society.

    http://outhistory.org/wiki/Martin_Sherman:_%22A_Hot_Night_in_June%2C%22_November_1994

  • poof

    @EVERYONE

    No! The first riot happened in 1231 at the alehouse (appropriately named the Bottom is Up) owned by sir Franky McDanky!

  • mb00

    @galefan2004: You got that right. Shit, they’ll throw you & me under that bus too if it meant gay.inc would further rights for their privileged only.

  • Qjersey

    While there were many riots, rallies, and demonstrations beforehand…Stonewall was the tipping point that mobilized people in way that hadn’t happened before.

  • galefan2004

    @mb00: They already throw people in small town America under the buss every day. They really don’t care about their rights. They spend more time and energy focusing on the rights of their upper Manhattan (and other metropolitan) friends.

  • mb00

    @galefan2004: oh yeah, small town Gay-Americans doesn’t matter as far as they’re concerned. If it isn’t N.Y. or CA,then what’s the point right? But they’ll gladly take your money and then turn around real quick and shut the door in your face.

  • M Shane

    The absolutely putrid assumption that goes with this article is the assinine myth that the middle class phony mainstream gays are the out front gay population. Anyone who was around the beginnings of the gay movement knows that the kind of assimilationist asses who consist of the ‘gay community’ not and were never the people who opened the closet.

  • EveryoneKnewHimAsNancy

    Not to change the subject, but…is that young man third over from the right possibly a young David (New York Doll/Buster Poindexter) Johanson?

  • FakeName

    Late to the party, oh well.

    The first documented LGBT demonstration was in May 1959 in Los Angeles. The LAPD rousted the trannies and hustlers who hung out at Cooper’s Donuts and arrested three people. Other patrons starting pelting the cops with donuts and coffee cups. The police called for backup and started arresting more people, but the original three arrested people got away.

    There were some two dozen actions of varying natures prior to Stonewall. Several of them are mentioned above but the details are wrong.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pre-Stonewall_LGBT_actions_in_the_United_States

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