Also, the fact that people are whipping pennies at people suggests to me that there are more Philadelphians in this crowd. Welcome to You're Wrong about the show. Oh, my God, I have nothing. I thought something would come to me, but it's just not there, huh? Oh, I know. I remember. OK, welcome to You're Wrong about the show where we celebrate pride without corporate sponsorship.
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I am Michael Hobbs. I'm a reporter for the Huffington Post.
I'm Sarah Marshall. I'm working on a book about the satanic panic.
And if you want to support the show, we're on Patreon at Patrón Dotcom. You're wrong about.
And if you prefer to send us good vibes, we accept those also. Yes. And today we're talking about Stonewall, which were both pretty anxious about so anxious.
Oh, my God. Oh, tell me about your anxiety.
Well, this I mean, this is a part of my own history in this weird, inchoate sense. It's a history that people feel a huge sense of ownership over.
And there's a way in which everything in gay history, all of the debates in the gay rights movement for 50 years have been shoved into this one event in June of 1969.
And so a lot of the debates over Stonewall are much larger debates about the direction of the gay rights movement, the legacy of the gay rights movement.
I might have gone a little bit overboard for this episode. I read two books. I interviewed for historians.
I talked to someone who was there. I really, really, really tried to get this one right.
You put more effort into doing an episode of the show than some people do when they write entire books. You've read the I read two books. Books I know I have one of them are on sociology.
I also know because the history is so contested that like there will be many people who will listen to this episode and there is a detail of the night of Stonewall that is really important to them.
And I'm not going to include it just because, like, there's so many details, there's so many sources. The details of the event change so much over time. I am more nervous for this episode that, like, I'm really going to hurt somebody's feelings and like not include something that makes people's hearts full.
And I'm worried about that.
You know what? We're all going to be OK. I think this really speaks to the problem with creating works of history and American culture, which is that we really are enamored of the idea of like one person is going to do the complete story, the complete version, and individuals can't do that work, which is why we have to work collaboratively.
And once again, I've lived this all back to socialism.
So this is one people into something that that is bigger than all of us.
I mean, one of the historians that I interviewed, Eric Gonzaga, said something really interesting that basically one of the reasons why Stonewall gets so contested is because it's the only event that straight people kind of recognized for decades. Right. It was the only piece of gay history that anybody showed any interest in. And so there's always been this movement to sort of anything you wanted to see in the gay rights movement. You would put it into Stonewall because otherwise nobody would notice it.
Nobody would talk about it, because people in dominant American culture like to finish early when it comes to the history of any populations.
But themselves are like gay history, stonewall civil rights, Rosa Parks, and we're done.
It's one of those things that, like any marginalized population, is going to have trouble telling its own history because it is like you're fighting for recognition from the dominant culture. And then, of course, there's going to be infighting within your own coalition of like, well, what do we want the dominant culture to know about us? What do we want to have recognized?
Right. And we know that we only have one shot because they're lazy. So, like, how do we make it count?
Yeah, like, one of the things that the other historians said, too, was that, like, Stonewall has become almost just like credential. Right. That you're like I was there at Stonewall.
It's like how the number of people who almost got on the Titanic was mathematically impossible.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because we cast Stone Wall as sort of like the Big Bang before there was nothing. And afterwards there was the gay rights movement.
It's almost like things aren't important unless they happen at Stonewall and if they happen at Stonewall, they were important when like some of the historians I talked to were like, dude, some people had food poisoning that weekend and they weren't there.
And also there were people that did stuff and things that happened at Stonewall that kind of weren't all that important in the long run or sort of threads that never really got pulled.
And that's fine, too. There's the Stonewall event and then there's the gay rights movement and they overlap. But they're also distinct things. And like we're kind of finally at the point of history where we can say, that's OK. Another thing Gonzaga said was that it was a turning point in the gay rights movement, but it was a turning point. Right. Like we can't talk about it as like these perfect little milestones every couple of years. It's like there were lots of turning points.
Any movement for social rights is going to have a lot of milestones. A lot of things that are overlooked and we're now finally looking back, kind of circling back to these things and finding not only the interesting elements of Stonewall that we haven't looked at before, but also events that aren't in the history books. Right. There's a lot of stuff that happened in early gay rights movement that have never gotten any attention. And so it's now sort of letting stonewall the stonewall, but also adding other events to the narrative of Stonewall to take away from this big bang, nothing and then everything style narrative.
Yeah, that's a really long preamble. I'm really sorry.
No, don't apologize. This entire episode is going to be about me feeling weird about doing it. It's a good look. I know it's fine.
I think that this is important, though, because we're looking at the story of an event, but we're also looking at the story of how do communities get to tell their own histories and what kind of history will be listened to. Yeah, yeah. OK, where do we begin?
So I think the best way to do this is just to walk through the event and then we can get into all of the Hobbesian nightmarish I feel weird about it stuff afterwards, all of the like layer tiramisu, debunking that is going to come after like immediately after.
I mean, one of the one of the revelations of this is that people have been fighting about Stonewall and the legacy of Stonewall since literally the day after it happened.
Sounds about right.
So like me feeling weird about Stonewall is like a Stonewall tradition.
Yeah. You're linking hands with a vast community of ancestors and family who also feel weird. Yes.
So do you want to tell me your description of the night? What what do you know about what actually happened on June 27th, 1969?
I mean, my sense and I feel like the sort of sidebar and straight history textbooks version that I know is that the police raided the Stonewall Inn, which was in Greenwich Village. And in the same way that I was taught in the 7th grade that Rosa Parks didn't move to the back of the bus that day because she just didn't feel like it, which is absolutely not true. I have what I feel is probably an erroneous sense that, like, this was the night that people fought back against the cops and someone threw a brick and a riot and a mass protest ensued.
And like you said, that this is my vague knowledge of it, is that it was this big bang moment where suddenly resistance like appeared and and the way that we seem to like doing, we as mainstream straight Americans have told the story where like gay rights just happened because one day it was it was too much and they happened and no one consciously thought about it or had a plan or had been doing anything before. Yes. My guess is that what I know is untrue along those lines.
That was actually a pretty good overview, Sarah.
I mean, it's it's like there's there's this thing where it's like nothing, nothing, nothing. Stonewall, stonewall, stonewall.
And then we fast forward and then it's like and then there was pride, right. As if like there was this big riot.
And then the mayor of New York was all of a sudden like, we should have a pride parade, OK, like the end of newsis when like all the newsis and the other kid workers show up in protest and Pulitzer is like, well, there's a lot of kids yelling, I have to just give them what they want, which gave all of us very inaccurate ideas about how protesting works.
Yes, the actual event itself is extremely important. But then also, of course, like all the tedious stuff that they did afterwards, like printing out leaflets, getting donations, all that stuff is also extremely important.
Labor is erased from these histories. I feel like always.
Yeah, totally. Yeah. But I think we should start with the actual bar and just sort of what was going on in New York in 1969.
So I know you researched this for the Kitty Genovese episode. So you know about the context of the raids and about the lack of liquor licenses. So do you want to walk us through that a little bit?
Yeah. I mean, my my understanding from that is that essentially, if you ran a queer establishment, then you were vulnerable to police shakedowns at any given moment, you know, and then essentially people could not meet each other or spend time with each other in public or, you know, really in private to a great extent, without the sense of of, you know, any second now the cops are going to come. Yeah.
And also, I mean, it also there's all these different layers of shittiness going on that in New York, the state liquor control board wouldn't give liquor licenses to gay establishments because they just figured gayness is illegal because sodomy is illegal.
So if you're catering to a gay clientele, you shouldn't be allowed to have a liquor license, you know, like aiding and abetting a crime.
You're guilty of conspiracy. Exactly.
And so the only people that would create bars and sort of fill this market niche were the mafia who were running illegal bars anyway, good ol mafia.
And so one of the things that I think is so interesting is a lot of the anger at. Stonewall, one of the reasons why the riot exploded that night, wasn't just anger at the cops, it obviously was anger at the cops, too, but it was also anger at like, why do we have to drink in these establishments that hate us?
Why do we have to eat at places that show active contempt for us? When ten of us go to a restaurant, they ask us to leave because they don't want to lose their liquor license.
Yeah, we're not doing anything particularly controversial. We just want to hang out, do what everybody else is doing. But they're turning us into criminals.
Yeah. And then if you got treated as a criminal, then like it's very hard not to see yourself the way the world sees you. Yeah. Yeah, I know. And I learned when I was doing my Kitty Genovese research that there was a slip in in New York City in the mid 60s where men from the Mattachine Society would go and say, hello, we're gay service drinks. Yeah. And that this was this radical act at the time.
Yeah. It's just it's awful and amazing.
It's it's totally unfathomable to us.
I mean, this is a theme that runs throughout the story of the there's so many things that are considered so radical at the time that to us are just like what?
And it's the magazine society essentially like the first or one of the first gay rights organizations in the United States.
I believe it's the first I think it was founded in either depending on what you read, either 1950 or 1951. And there's also the lesbian counterpart is called the Daughters of Bilitis or the Daughters of Bilitis. I've heard it both ways.
And that's founded in 1955.
So very early on, although the gay rights movement is sort of I mean, that's almost an oxymoron at this time because it's so small.
They do a couple of protests, but it appears the protests are getting maybe 15, 55 people around that like it's very small protests.
And the whole debate at the time is about the respectability that the Madison Society and the daughters of Bilitis both insist on. Everybody in the protests has to dress nicely. So the men are wearing suits and hats. The women are wearing dresses and heels.
Their whole thing is trying to dispel the notion that, like we're weirdos or we're sex workers, they're trying to just get, hey, some of us are respectable into the public realm. And that at the time is actually really radical.
That feels to me like a beaten wife, like cooking a really nice dinner for her abusive husband and being like, can you just be nice to me? Like, please just stop beating me for a night. Like, look at all this nice stuff I can do for you. Yeah. And of course the answer was no. So people had to do other stuff.
It's also I mean, to me, reading back through all these old documents, what's so interesting is that gayness structurally makes it very difficult to build a movement because it's a trait that crosses racial boundaries, religious boundaries, wealth, boundaries.
And so you've got a political movement made up of people that are like literally homeless 15 year olds and like corporate hedge fund managers. And there's this one little thing that's linking them together. But other than that, they have nothing in common. And so a coalition like that is just always going to have more infighting, more debates about tactics and strategy than a group that is more homogenous in the things that it's asking for.
It's like this logical paradox where, like society is so cruel to you that you cannot imagine announcing yourself as yourself.
Yeah, it's so hard for me to imagine coming out at this time. And you have to come out to demand rights. Yes, but the world has to be less horrible to you before you can come out for your rights to, you know, I guess that, like, you have to make yourself vulnerable in a way that your life might depend on avoiding in order to try and make the world less awful.
Oh, totally. And one of things I didn't know until I started researching this was that in the Mattachine Society, in their meetings, nobody used their real names. Oh, my gosh.
Even within the activists, you didn't want your real life and your gay activism intersecting at all. And it was a huge deal when this activist, Craig Rodwell, who we will meet later, used his real name at the meetings of the Machine Society. It was like, holy shit, what is this guy doing?
Yeah, like if you're living your life in such secrecy that even the people that you were organizing with have to be in the dark about who you are. It's rough.
Oh, yeah. I mean, another source of gay anger, especially in the 60s, as there start to be more gay establishments, is that because they're all run by the Mafia? Most of them are kind of shitholes. So one of the things that people say about the stonewall is that because it's kind of in a gray legal zone anyway, there's no reason to have any, like, sanitation standards or like fire exits.
So the Stonewall didn't have any running water. What? Yeah, it had like a bucket behind the bar that, like, they would wash the glasses in this, like, bucket of water.
No, they would just sort of rinse the glass and dry it off and then give it to the next person.
So like you're getting beaten by the police or you're getting food poisoning.
Yeah, I don't think it's the stonewall when they when this slop bucket would get so dirty that they had to replace it. They would just put it out in the. Toilets because they didn't have a drain, they don't have any system of drainage, and then the toilets would overflow and so the bathroom would have like an inch of water throughout. That's so gross. Yes.
And, you know, I've been to the Stonewall Inn and it is Hellebores year today. Oh, yeah. There should really be some sort of middle ground.
You know, there's also this thing, this weird, ridiculous legal fiction where because it's illegal to have a gay bar and they don't have a liquor license, the Stonewall had to run on this fiction that it was a members only club that was like a fortified door with like a little slit in it.
And when you came up, there was a doorman that would ask you, you know, who are you kind of basically to make sure you weren't an undercover cop. So he would ask you to describe the inside of the bar. Wow. They would always hire gay people as bouncers because oftentimes when the cops came, they would arrest the people working there.
So the owners of the bar would never actually be there.
And they would hire gay employees to make sure that they would have some like patsies, that they could just let them get arrested and then replace them with another bouncer or another bartender the next week. Wow.
Yeah. And it's funny because I think my overly simplistic, just assumed version of all of us was like the Stonewall Inn was a perfectly nice gay bar and everyone was having a nice time. And then the police showed up and it's like, no, everything was terrible and different ways.
A lot of the people that worked at the bars would also when the raids started, they would jump to the other side of the bar and pretend to be patrons so that the cops wouldn't be able to arrest them for being responsible for the bar. And some of them would like steal money because they just kept money in a cigar box because they didn't want to pay for cash register. So at times, like the drag queens that worked there would just steal the cigar box full of money like all the cops.
Got it. I'm so sorry. And then make up like 15 bucks. So there's also a lot of creativity within and also, from all accounts, don't all was super fun, like it sounds like an actual blast.
So it was a dive bar and it was pretty awesome. I mean, one of the other debates that is still going on now is basically like what kind of clientele did the Stonewall serve? Like who was there that night?
And based on both of the books that I read, you know, there's various academic articles. The dude that I spoke to who was there, it sounds like it was mostly cis white dudes.
But what's really interesting about it is one of the main reasons why those were the people in the bar is because the bouncer was also doing door checks for people of color, people who were gender nonconforming, younger people for people they just didn't want in there because they didn't have the right look.
There's debate on how much this took place. One of the historians I talked to says that everyone he talked to that went to the Stonewall was like people of color ran the jukebox.
There were some queens who knew the managers of the bar and were able to get in. And then there were also men that got in at the door and then they would go to the bathroom and then they would like put on a wig, put on makeup, sort of become gender nonconforming once they got into the bar.
So we also have that thing that happens and any marginalized community where there is the self policing.
Oh, totally. Yeah. People talked about how the stonewall was less shitty on that score than other bars around, like some of the other bars were just like full on like whites only types of policies.
But this one was more inclusive, but it still wasn't completely inclusive. And so that was also a disincentive for people of color, poor people, to even go to Greenwich Village at all because they knew that most of the bars down there wouldn't let them in.
So they just did other stuff.
And so, I mean, this was another thing that I learned researching this was the extent to which these divisions within the gay community and the exclusion in the gay community that we still have now was also there from day one. Yeah.
And that we always see in these movements where, you know, there's factions at war within between. We need to curry favor with the dominant culture, like don't make us look bad. And then the people who are able to think this way or are forced to think this way because passing is never going to be an option of just like, no, fuck you. Like, I'm not going to try to blend in or try to behave the way that I'm being asked to behave.
Yeah, that just seems eternal. Yeah.
This is a quote from Sylvia Rivera, who becomes important later. She is what we would now consider a trans woman. But that word transgender wasn't actually coined, I believe, until the early 90s. And so a lot of the trans women at the time would have called themselves queens or transvestites. Those were like the terms that people used to identify themselves.
And so what she says in an interview later, she says, I am the straight persons stereotype of the gay community.
They don't want their children to be exposed to someone like me, even my own community. The gay community doesn't want to be bothered with people like me.
You get beaten up by your own and that hurts with a low trash of life.
So this sucks like this is already this double victimization.
So this is a excerpt from Martin Duberman Stonewall, which is a book that's published in 1993, The Queens considered Stonewall and Washington Square the most congenial downtown bars if. They pass muster at the Stonewall door, they could buy or cajole drinks, exchange cosmetics and perfumes, admire or deplore somebody's latest wig, make fun of six foot transsexual Lenn, size 12 women shoes move constantly in and out of the ladies room and dance in a feverish sweat till closing time at 4:00 a.m..
The favorite part sounds nice. So there are people in the bar that are various categories of queens that the term queen meant people that we would consider now to be trans women, people that were living as women and people that dressed up as women for the night for fun and men who acted extremely effeminately.
There's also something called Scare Queens.
One of the historians I interviewed said he talked to a lot of folks that would have identified this way back then.
They would say, like we would put on just enough makeup to freak people out and then go to the museum like it's not clear if those people are necessarily identifying as trans or just like trying to fuck with their parents generation and, like, freak people out.
Right. So it's difficult reading these old accounts, because when they say queens, they could mean any one of those categories or all three.
Are there any lesbians that stonewall like that night or in general? Seems like very few. Everyone's really straight.
CIS women will get in with their gay male friend or like there are some sort of drag king lesbians that do get in because they know the owner, it seems like. But most of the sources say that it's like 95, 98 percent men.
Isn't it amazing how much our concept of what gender can be and how it can be described changes every 45 minutes?
Yeah, it's I mean, all this stuff is fascinating. We were at a time when the best words that we had for gender nonconformity were based not on how you felt, but on what you were wearing. Yeah. Yeah.
So now we get to June 27th, which is really June 28 because it's after midnight. So it's Saturday morning, Friday night of 1969. So the cop that carries out the raid is named Seymour Payne. He's a former World War Two soldier that was actually at the Battle of the Bulge, which is nuts.
What's different about the raid, the night of Stonewall, and one of the reasons why it becomes a riot when raids before hadn't is typically bar raids were really carried out to get a handout.
They weren't really done to shut down the bars.
What Pyne says is they had a monthly quota of arrests to fill and gay people were really easy because gay people didn't put up a fight.
And so you could get like three or four arrests.
So it's just like easy pickings for money and quotas. Yes.
And typically they did it also at like nine, eight, nine, 10 p.m. at night, early before people were too drunk, before the bar was too crowded. They would go in, they'd give them tickets. They ticket some people, they let other people go.
They would check everybody's ID and just sort of leave before the bar really started making any real money and the bar would just continue operating that night.
So it had achieved this kind of etiquette. Yeah, it's like Tulo, just so you know, you're living under a reign of terror. Well, by yeah.
And they've gone back and looked at the books and it turns out the Stonewall was paying inflation adjusted ten thousand dollars a month to the local precinct for sort of this deal. It's about once a month. You come, you arrest a couple of people. We have a red light that flashes on the dance floor to tell people to calm down.
So you're paying protection so that you got shaken down nicely. Yeah. And so they don't actually shut you down. Right. And then they come in and then they maybe they'll put a padlock on the door for the night, but then the next day you can just open as normal. So it's not really it's like it just the cost of doing business.
Basically, this is why there needs to be a gay rights godfather to I know I've talked about this before, but like, if anyone out there is listening, you know, free idea. Yeah.
It also seems that the Stonewall was running a black male ring out of the second floor.
It's a two story building and it seems like they would have prostitutes on the second floor. And then when Wall Street guys or rich guys would go up there and use prostitutes, they would steal their wallets, check their IDs, and then if they seemed wealthy, they would then start threatening them with blackmail and then get income streams that way.
So they're running a gay sex work and extortion ring. Yes.
Like it's literally run by a guy named Fat Tony. So the raid that happened the night of the Stonewall riots is different in that. First of all, it's much later. It doesn't happen until one twenty eighteen when everybody's already drunk and sort of having a good time. And in the middle of it, they also they intend to shut down the bar. So he is in a morals squad like a separate thing that the precinct is starting to do where they actually want to get rid of Vice in Greenwich Village.
So he is part of a new effort by the cops to get rid of the Mafia. Oh, he died in 2010, but he gave a lot of interviews after this happened where he talks about how his views on gay rights have changed. And he is sorry that he was homophobic at the time. He's sorry for the language that he used.
And he talks about, look for me as a cop, I was told we had to crack down on the Mafia. I considered it a mafia raid, not necessarily homosexual raid and like to be. There they were running a prostitution and extortion ring off the second floor, so it was both, you know, if you see the act of existing as a gay person, as a criminal act, which was at the time, then like gayness can become a function of organized crime.
And that world view, I can see that.
Well, that's the thing. It's like I mean, I don't necessarily believe him that the raids were not motivated by homophobia. I think that a lot of reckoning goes on when social change happens.
Like, I never felt that way. But I also think, like, it's all mixed in together. Right. It's like an easy target. It's like the gays who, you know, aren't going to fight back. It's the Mafia who everybody hates anyway. And it's a way to sort of appeal to the mayor and saying, like, we're cracking down on this.
Bottom line, I think, is that people in positions of power or complicit with systems of power just don't think that hard about the communities that they're dehumanizing. You know, if you're reconning and being like I was thinking of it as as a mafia establishment, it's like probably you just weren't even thinking about it at all.
You were, like, told to go do your job. And like, you don't sit around thinking about the humanity of the people that you are raiding and extorting and beating. Like you just accept that they're somehow less than human and you don't give it that much more thought. That's what makes these behaviors so sustainable.
And what's so interesting about a lot of the news coverage after the Stonewall riots from, you know, establishment, pretty homophobic press at the time, is sort of a both sides narrative where it's like, well, the gays were breaking the law.
So it makes sense for the cops to go in.
Well, yeah, they were breaking the law by existing. So that. Sure, fine. I mean, that's the thing is it becomes this justification for almost anything. Once you've made it illegal for people to gather.
Yeah. Then you can say, oh, well, you were gathering and you should have thought about that before you break the law.
So it's actually OK for us to do anything basically. Yeah. And this becomes like the establishment narrative of Stonewall afterwards of like, well, you know, we can't have people breaking laws.
Never mind that all of us break the law every single day by like texting while driving or smoking weed or jaywalking or whatever. But like, I think it's such a part of our national belief system that if a person who mainstream American society has it out for anyway and would like to see as less than human anyway, then you can find some law that they're breaking or invent a law for them to break. And then he can do whatever you want to them.
And you can have this nation of citizens just being like, well, I was raised to believe that lawbreaking means that you deserve whatever you get. And the system that is hurting these people is also keeping me safe because of my alleged law abiding. Yes. So this all seems fine, like it's a it's a very dangerous legal faith that we've invented.
Yeah, but one thing that's really weird about this raid is that before they raid at 120 a.m., they send in four undercover cops to sort of case the joint two men and two women, really, which is a very weird strategic choice.
Who sends two men in and two women? The two men come out like an hour later and they're like, yep, they're serving alcohol.
And it took me an hour to figure that out. I had to get three hand jobs. And then I don't really understand why, but the women don't come out, Piñon, the other four male cops are waiting outside and then they decide, well, whatever, it's 120. Let's let's just go in, huh? And so what happens is they do the thing.
They knock on the door, police, blah, blah, blah. The bar flashes the red light.
They turn on the lights on the dance floor, they turn off the music. Everyone just sort of like uncoupled from whatever they were doing. And it just like stands around and like they're already kind of pissed because they're like, we're in the middle of this. This isn't 9:00 p.m. This isn't how it's supposed to be done.
We had a deal about how we consent to be terrorized and this is breaks that.
So then what happens? And I feel like this totally has been edited out of the Stonewall narrative. So the way that these raids work is typically the cops officially want the employees of the bar and the owners of the bar. So usually when they do any bar raid, they come in, they check everybody's I.D. and they basically let everybody go. They're not trying to arrest every single person who's drinking there. But this process is super discriminatory because people of color are less likely to have IDs and trans women often have IDs that show them as male.
And so the cops use this as a pretext to bust them for female impersonation, which is a crime at the time.
Oh, my God. So there's this weird informal standard that the cops use that you have to be wearing at least three articles of clothing that match your gender.
Oh, my God. And obviously, the police should be in charge of making that distinction very like cut and dry and clear. Yeah.
And so, I mean, in the raid of Stonewall, they do this, they come in. It's really crowded. There's something like 200 people inside. They start checking everybody's ID and immediately. And this is something that Pyon doesn't apologize for later.
He immediately targets the trans women and pulls them aside and basically says, we know your sex workers get in the bathroom.
So they're applying the most force to the most vulnerable population.
I mean, this is the thing I think I mean, one of the big debates within the gay rights movement during this time, after this time is sort of where to put gender identity and where to put issues like race and wealth and age and all these other sort of interacting discriminations. And the argument that the gay rights movement makes at the time is that we are the gay movement. We should be looking at sexual orientation. We should be looking at gayness.
That's one variable only.
And what's really interesting is when you look over these old accounts of bar raids and legal discrimination, like there was never a time when it was only about gayness. Yeah.
Isn't it interesting how people who don't experience intersectionality are the ones who think that it shouldn't be a factor and how a movement functions?
Yes, and one of the things that's really interesting is, I mean, the amount of abuse that people of color, trans women, homeless people, sex workers, I mean, it was on a completely different scale that oftentimes cops would look around bars.
And if you looked like an upstanding citizen, we both know what they mean by that. They would kind of let you go, you know, you're fine, go back to your wife, whatever.
But I mean, trans women talk later about how they're arrested by the cops on suspicion of sex, work with no evidence just because they exist. And then they'll take them to jail. They'll shave their heads if they have long hair.
Oh, my God. They would force them to give oral sex. They were often raped. If they were put in jail with men, they would often be raped in jail and the cops would not stop it. Yeah, even, you know, men acting effeminately That's a group that is that gets it much worse than, quote unquote, straight acting gay men.
Those people were discriminated against not because of who they were having sex with. They were discriminated against because people find it very threatening when men act in a way that's coded as women. And so really I mean, there really was never a time when these extra dimensions were irrelevant now.
And so all the cops go through the crowd. They're checking everybody's IDs. Basically, they decide we're going to keep these trans women and then we're going to let everybody else go, because most of them have IDs are just like we don't really care so much on the way out. They start like checking people, like they start checking people's I.D. and like looking up their information and like looking through their wallets. And so people start getting let out of the bar slowly, like one every minute or so.
There's like a single file line sort of coming out of the bar. The cops are expecting everyone to just slink home.
Like what usually happens in these things is they're like, break it up, you faries. And then everyone just puts their hat on, looks down and then just like walks to the nearest bus stop.
But what happens with this one is partly because it's late at night, partly because people want to wait outside for their friends to come out, partly because it's on Christopher Street, which is just a bustling street at this time of the night. When people come out, they just wait right outside.
Huh. And also, presumably, like you would have people in there who you wanted to see if. They got out, too, and we're OK, and if the cops are going to pull any other random maneuvers that they've never tried before, like we can get used to a lot of harassment if we feel that there are understandable rules like things that you can and can't do and everyone knows how it works. But like once it gets unpredictable, that sense of complacency can go away.
I mean, also, like, there's the political aspect and then there's the logistical aspect. So politically, they're like, well, this is bullshit. But then logistically they're like, I think the bar is going to reopen in like 30 minutes.
I just want to go on and keep dancing things going on. Yeah. Like, I want to protect my friends and or I need another fucking drink tonight.
So as this crowd starts forming outside, of course, the other people walking up and down Christopher Street also start saying like, well, what's going on? There's now cops outside with lights flashing. So there starts to be like a hubbub outside and the crowd outside starts getting bigger.
And people in the neighborhood can tell that something weird is going on and they're kind of congregating.
Yeah. And one of my favorite things of this is that there's this crowd waiting outside and people are still trickling out one by one. And so as people come out, the crowd starts clapping for them and it's like, hey, welcome back.
And so eventually, as people start exiting the bar, they start like striking poses like folk and like blue steel as they're coming out of the bar.
Yeah, sashay away. Yes.
There's also this is also very like drag queens that as people come out, they start saying things that one of them says she like, walks out and she's like puts her hand to her head like she's looking at something on the horizon. And she says, Have you seen Maxine? Where's my wife?
I told her not to go far, but it just so campy and wonderful.
Well, I'm just like, I don't know, just like that. You have to show that your spirit is not broken. Thank you very much.
So then what happens is a paddy wagon arrives. It's like a van where they can put everybody in that they're arresting. So this all sort of adds to the hubbub, right? There's just something going on outside of this bar. And so this starts to attract more and more people.
But then what's interesting about this stage of the evening is that it's all kind of fun. People are like singing, everybody's super drunk, they're chatting with their friends. Nobody sees this as this huge injustice yet they're just kind of making the best of it.
Yeah, I guess like finding a way to have the upper hand by laughing about it and by, you know, showing some dignity. Yeah. Like you fall down the stairs and then you take a bow. Yeah.
And there's also this guy, Craig Rodwell, who's an early gay activist. It appears that it was his idea to have the annual reminder marches on Independence Day every year in Philadelphia.
He just says they're like a reminder that gay people don't have rights.
I love that Philly was one of the first places where that was happening. God bless Philly. Beautiful, gritty city of Contrarian's.
And he's somebody who is in the machine society and annoyed that they're not more radical.
Yeah, that sounds like a guy from Philly, but he's walking home from playing bridge. He sees this crowd growing outside of Stonewall and he's with his partner or friend at the time. And he's like, this might be a thing.
So there's like a lot of people who are just like have a sense that, like, this is something they need to keep an eye on. Yes.
He at some point during this sort of jubilant stage, yells gay power. But like, nobody really starts the chant.
That's not really the vibe at that time.
So what's happening now is pain starts boxing up all the liquor in the stone wall. He starts bringing out all the employees that he can find. And a lot of these trans women like in handcuffs. And so he starts perp walking.
All of these people that are being arrested outside into the paddy wagons and like the crowd is like 500 people at this point, like it is a big crowd. And so he is looking at this like this doesn't look great.
I feel kind of outnumbered. Yeah, he's a big thing. And what he says later is like he's never seen them stay before. He's like, this isn't how it works. Like you're supposed to go home and feel ashamed. You're not supposed to still be here.
You're supposed to go cry in a shower. Yeah. Yeah.
So he starts walking people out and starts putting them in this paddy wagon and this is where the crowd starts to get pissed off.
One of the people that he walks out is a middle aged, straight black dude who's the bathroom attendant. And this guy is getting arrested because he works there. Of course. Of course. Of course.
I mean, this is when we start to get to a much more tense vibe in the crowd. As some of the trans women are being marched out of Stonewall. One of them hits the cop with her purse.
It's like, be fucking polite to me.
That doesn't spark anything, but it just sort of plants the seed that, like this is an option. So the tensions start. Right. And the cops start to notice this is getting more tense. Hmm.
And so this I sort of hate this part. This is where we get to the question of who threw the first brick at Stonewall.
Is this like one of those moments that we are putting? Too much pressure on today because we have constructed a narrative, we're like, this is a little act of fiction that starts the Big Bang and it's like it doesn't really boil down to this break. It doesn't matter as much as we want it to matter who threw the first brick, because it matters that everyone who was there did what they did and had been moving toward this for years. And that's bigger than a brick.
But we put too much pressure on the brick by wanting it to be about a brick.
This is like that was just a huge spoiler, Sarah. That's basically what we're going to.
Sorry I'm sorry that I've learned about history before because, I mean, one of the main candidates is a woman named Sylvia Rivera, who is a trans woman who is extremely important in the Gay Liberation Front and all of the activism that happens in the years after Stonewall in 2001, she says, I didn't throw the first Molotov cocktail at Stonewall.
I threw the second Molotov cocktail at Stonewall.
And so this sort of becomes part of the narrative that this woman, who is extremely important, she was her mother committed suicide when she was four. She went to live with her grandmother. She got kicked out of the house at 11 because she was dressing in women's clothes.
Oh, my God. She ended up doing, it appears, sex work as young as 13. She was 17 at the time of Stonewall. Oh, my God. And she did have an I.D., according to her friends.
So there's debates about whether or not she was in Stonewall. It doesn't seem like she was.
And David Carter, who wrote the book called Stonewall in 2004, says that nobody reports seeing her at the Stonewall riots. And Marsha P. Johnson, who we will get to in a second, says that she was asleep during the early parts of the riots and that she wasn't there that night.
But it's also it feels like something where if we create a narrative where you had to be literally there to be one of the mothers or the fathers, what have you of gay liberation, then like you had to be literally at that spot. And if you weren't, then you're not part of that. And if we create that binary, then even if you weren't there literally, you were there figuratively. If you were one of one of the grandmothers, one of the parents of the movement.
And I mean, you see the same thing with Marsha P. Johnson, who is now getting a much deserved rediscovery as a really important figure in the early gay rights movement. There was a story that Marsha P. Johnson was inside the bar. And as the raid started, she picked up a shot glass and threw it against the mirror and broke the mirror and was like, fuck this. And that sort of started this revolutionary spirit.
It's not clear where that story came from. She herself says that she didn't get to the riots until at least 2:00 a.m. So after everybody was already being let out of the bar, she's also someone who is wildly important to the movement. She was also a sex worker. She was 23 at the time, which I just marvel at how young all these kids were.
She took her last name from the Howard Johnson on 47 Street that she used to hang out at end the P in her name.
She would say, pay it. No mind.
When people would ask her what gender she was. She was there for the Gay Liberation Front. She was there for every single gay riot after Stonewall. She was someone that really pushed the movement to accept gender diversity and like gender identity as a huge part of the LGBT community. And so she is like a towering figure in the gay rights movement in the 1970s.
But like there isn't really any evidence that she threw the first brick.
You know, it's like when we say threw the first brick or like was at Stonewall, then that's like that's what the language of history allows us to conceptualize us as being at the start of a movement. So it makes sense that we that that feels like the most legitimizing way to acknowledge her. Oh, totally.
And yeah. And I think a lot of this comes from a very real sense of frustration of how her and Cylvia and thousands of nameless trans women have been completely erased from the story that I one of the historical records points out that they built a monument to Stonewall Inn.
I forget when it was, I think, in the 1990s. And it's like two white dudes and two like thin, attractive lesbians.
Right. And then George Segal statues. So they're like really white. Yeah. They're like, oh, white. You know, the guy.
His name is Mark Siegel. He's now the editor of the Philly Gay News who was there that night. And he was a friend of Marcia's says that like the people who were rioting that night, like there's the rioters and there's the onlookers.
Right. So if you say there's around a thousand people total, only 100, 200 people were actually like doing stuff, like throwing things, shouting, breaking windows.
A lot of the rest were just sort of there and were onlookers who were shouting but weren't really participating in what he said was like, who are the people who are doing the actual uprising?
It's people with nothing to lose. It's people 17. It's people who are trans women who are living on the streets and have nowhere to go and are getting the worst forms of police abuse, like the most anger at the police and who have no rights for society to revoke as it is.
Exactly. And so I think a lot of this. Putting Sylvia and Marcia back into the Stonewall narrative is completely understandable because it's like they are much more representative of Stonewall than the hot white two percent body fat people that have typically been celebrated for this kind of event.
Right. The plate that I sort of came down in, you know, the insight that I stole from the historians I interviewed was that, like, it can be true that somebody wasn't there at Stonewall or wasn't integral to the events of Stonewall and they were integral to the gay rights movement.
Like those two things can both be true. Yes.
As the historians that I interviewed said, the goal now is sort of not necessarily putting trans women into these historical events that are already celebrated. It's finding events that were led by trans women, other marginalized groups that aren't even in the history books at all. Right. Like, there's this actually extremely charming uprising that happens at this place called Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco in 1966, where it's another cafe that hates their gay clientele. They constantly call the cops on their gay clientele.
Cops come in one night. It's all trans women of color, all sex workers. That's like the Denny's where they go after they're done working like day of night.
Cops come in and start harassing them. One of them stands up, throws coffee in the cop's face, and then they talk about it like this explosion that, like everyone else in there in unison is just like, yep.
And then picks up like sugar shakers and like throws them out the window and just starts looking like it's an actual street brawl with the cop. They set a shack on fire across the street.
It's a food fight. Yeah.
This is something that is sort of in the gay law of San Francisco but isn't as well known nationally. And so the move now is to be like there's a lot of these kinds of events that, like we can shine a much brighter spotlight on.
Right. It's like, yeah, this idea that we need to legitimize the work and the struggle of trans women and women of color and trans women of color and sex workers historically by making places for them and the narratives that we already acknowledge.
But, you know, being like, oh, look, there's a there's a spot for you over here. It's like, yes, that's important. But yeah, we can also go there. We can go to them. Yeah.
Yeah. And I mean, one thing that I can't get over and I still find really haunting is that after all this, despite how important they were, Sylvia and Marcia started a trans rights NGO that basically saved street kids like Trans Street kids and gave them a place to live like they were extremely important in this, like more revolutionary turn in the early 1970s, they both died destitute. Yeah. You see, as a movement forms there start to be NGOs.
There starts to be this institutionalization where you start to get funding, you start to get more of an infrastructure. And that infrastructure was nonexistent for the gay rights movement for years. I don't want to act like everyone got super rich off of this. Right.
You got somebody like Craig Rodwell who, you know, white, young, conventionally attractive. He starts a bookstore. He ends up basically living a middle class life. And then Sylvia, she works in food service her whole life. She ends up in 1994. She's homeless for another 18 months. And Marcia is bouncing in and out of homelessness. She's got severe mental illness.
That's part of their legacy as well. Is that like there was never any infrastructure to reward them for what they did? Yes.
So I think there's also something that happens where if you live in a marginalized group, then you get used to a sense of scarcity. That scarcity mentality means that you replicate the ways that you have been abused by those in power and turn that on people who are less powerful than you. And it's like one of the greatest and most insidious tools of any mainstream society that is is is abusing and keeping people down who don't fit with its demands. Right.
And also, I mean, I've read some really interesting work by Susan Stryker, who's a trans historian who wrote this really good book called Transgender History. And she talks about also that like we want to be true to the people who were there and we don't want to take away from people who really were there, really did cool stuff. So the closest thing to a first brick that we have is a woman who everyone refers to as the butch lesbian.
So she's like the man with no name like us. She showed up long enough to throw a brick and then disappeared into the desert. Yes.
I mean, this woman has we'll get into it. But like this woman has never been identified. Well, nearly everybody who was front row in the crowd describes this scene.
So this is something that people are pretty agreed on, that there's a woman who this is how she's described in David Carter's book, Tall and Stout, with a short Manesh haircut. She was wearing pants and what one witness described as fancy go to bar drag for a butch dyke.
Oh, I like to think that there is a mysterious butch lesbian who's traveling through time setting history. Right, and butch lesbian quantum leap.
And so apparently they're they're bringing her out and like, you know, that scene in. Norma Rae, where they're trying to get Sally Field into the car and she's like struggling like a gymnast, just like completely twisting and kicking, it sounds like that's what's happening.
And this, it appears, is the thing that really kicks up the crowd there, seeing how hard she's struggling, like it's super bullshit that she's being put in the van and that like it sort of opens up the option, like, oh, wait, we can fight back, too.
And so to the extent that there's a first break, it appears to be this butch lesbian who, interestingly, has never been identified.
There's some talk that it's a woman called Stormi Delivery, which I'm probably mispronouncing, who is relatively famous in the gay rights movement at the time, such as it exists that she's an activist.
But it's not clear that it was her because she's so well-known that it's weird that people would just call her the butch lesbian rather than Storm, because everyone sort of knew her. And she says for decades that it wasn't her. And then in 2008, she says that it was her.
It feels like history is communicating something to us with the fact that the insider of this night turning has not been identified or is fundamentally unidentifiable, but that it's like that tells us that, you know, trying to name the one person is somewhat missing the point.
And also, I mean, I was at the WTO riots in 1989. And like, if you're in a big crowd, there's lots of things happening at once and you can only look at one of them at a time.
So if we're talking about a crowd of a thousand people, I don't think more than I don't know, 60 would have been able to see the lesbian being put in the van. Right. And there were probably other things happening in the crowd to their narrow streets.
Right. So, like, there's not a lot of places where you would have a good viewpoint of what's going on. And a lot of people would be like physically far away from the bar itself. Like if that many if it's a thousand people by then. Yeah.
And there's also the line between a crowd and a riot is very porous. Right. It's not like this binary switch that flips. Yes.
That's why I never go to Black Friday sales.
So there's I mean, there's also reports that it's mostly like street kids, like really angry, like 17 year old who just hate the cops, start throwing pennies and throwing coins at the cops while this is happening because it's like take your payout.
Like you're here for the handout, aren't you little punks before? There are words for punks.
One thing Craig Rodwell says later is a number of incidents were happening simultaneously. There was no one thing that happened or one person.
There was just a flash of mass anger like this is the most convincing thing that I hear that like the lesbian thing did happen, the kids throwing coins did happen. Maybe Marcia or Sylvia did throw a bottle. There were a million things happening. And so however it gets triggered, this becomes basically a riot.
Yeah. No matter who made the spark, the tinder was ready like it was inside everyone to do that. Yes.
And so this basically just turns into, like, full blown like people throwing things. People are picking up rocks from the ground. It doesn't appear that they were bricks. People say that the first brick at stone wall. But like there's some reports that there never were bricks. I mean, people say there's a construction site like a couple blocks away. But then the guy that I interviewed who was there, he's like who runs a couple blocks away to get bricks and runs back during a riot.
Don't you throw whatever is there, throw what you have. Yeah. And so maybe that's true. Maybe it's not. Who knows?
But anyway, people just are throwing stuff at. My favorite part of this is as this chaos breaks out the paddy wagon, like people are sitting in the paddy wagon and the doors are open.
So as this rain of coins and things start coming down on the cops, two of the dudes in the paddy wagon who are handcuffed together, wow. Are like, fuck this, we're out. And so they just like leave the paddy wagon and run away and the cops can't really catch them, but they're they're handcuffed together.
Oh, my God. So they walk around Greenwich Village until they find somebody who's, like in the S.A.M. community who has a handcuff key.
I want a movie just to handcuffed together. Guy is walking around for, like looking for like a leather shop workers. Where are the extras?
They will have the know how to set us free. That's beautiful.
And then basically, like, what's weird is that the cops at this point completely give up on, like, trying to do any cop stuff, like the paddy wagon drives away with the remaining people in it.
And then you've basically just got the cops are still in the bar. And so the cops barricade themselves into the stonewall and they're like, this is the only place where we can feel safe.
The irony it's also funny that, like, then the assault becomes on the gay bar, right? Because people are mad at the cops, but the cops happen to be. In the gay bar. So then there's people who I still don't know how they did this, they picked up a parking meter. I think they like rocked it back and forth until it came loose. And then, like, four of them lifted it up and they start using it as a battering ram.
Wow. On the door.
So this becomes like a helm's deep shit, like trying to break in and, like, get to these cops.
So, I mean, I want to read you because I think this is like really important of, like the emotional state of people.
I love it when he read to me. This is very moving to me. And like the feelings in the crowd are something new. And so one of the guys that was there and was throwing shit in the crowd says everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had been taken from us, all kinds of people, all different reasons.
But mostly it was just total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined. We felt that we had freedom at last or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We didn't have the freedom totally, but we weren't going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around. It's like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way. That's what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air freedom, a long time overdue, and we were going to fight for it.
It took different forms, but the bottom line was we weren't going to go away and we didn't.
And that's sort of what Stonewall was. Right. And like that's still what it was about, is this feeling of I'm not just going to put my hat on and walk into the night, I'm going to stay and I'm going to throw fucking pennies at you, I guess.
Well, I guess that, like straight culture, America at large, New York City, the NYPD, etc., you know, everybody had been feeding and feeding and feeding this fire that they didn't even know that they had created because they weren't thinking about the humanity of the people that they were abusing and terrorizing. They didn't know because they never bothered thinking about it, as far as I can tell, that they were creating this outrage and this hurt and this fury and this need for recognition.
Yeah, and that's an extremely important moment. I mean, you know, if you remember in the obesity epidemic episode, we talked about, you know, I interviewed this researcher who said the process of coming out isn't about telling other people that you're gay. It's about telling them you're not going to apologize for it. Yeah, it seems like that really wasn't an option before. And I don't want to slip back into the Big Bang thing with Stonewall that like no one had ever thought of that before.
Like the term gain power had showed up in flyers in L.A. in 1966, like these ideas had been bouncing around. Yeah, but for the people at Stonewall and I think for people reading about it afterwards, it sort of opened up this idea that, like, fighting back is an option. Yeah.
And it speaks to the power of protest, you know, into the power of being uncivil. Right. Because if you see someone who is agitating on their own behalf for the same reasons that you have been hiding, then like you can suddenly realize that, like you are worth fighting for to you are worth fighting for yourself and, you know, and for your community. And we model behavior for each other. We're social animals like we we learn these things by observing each other.
Yeah. And there's power in a collective right. Like together we have much more power than separately and doing this meek softly please respect me goodsir type of thing. You're not going to build power like that. Like that doesn't feel like power to people. It's too cerebral. Whereas like let's all get together and throw rocks at cops barricaded inside of a bar feels like power. Yeah.
Like if you treat us this way there will be consequences. Yeah. And to what Mark says later on, is it like a completely rejigger the relationship between the cops and the gay community that the cops it was now an option that gay people were going to fight back. And so there were actually a bunch of riots after Stonewall to where they would demonstrate outside of the police precinct.
They would throw shit at other bars. There was a huge riot one year after Stonewall, and I do. So it is this kind of like we can do this, like we can actually take power back.
That framing, that reframing of the gay rights movement was extremely important.
Of course, it's not only Stonewall, like you have to give all these caveats that it's like Stonewall inevitably lead to, oh, no, everything's fine now, right?
Yeah. You know what's amazing is that, you know, this riot keeps going. The cops are locked inside. The crowd starts trying to light the stonewall on fire.
So they start it's not clear if they were Molotov cocktails because I think Molotov cocktails are a specific thing. And you need like gasoline.
You need stuff. Yeah, but people have lighter fluid. Like what you put in a lighter, like a zippo. So they start, like, squirting that to the wall and lighting it or like maybe they're squirting it into bottles. The cops are losing their fucking minds.
The cops are terrified inside. To his great credit, Seymour Pyon, the cop that had organized the raid, goes down the line of every single cop and he tells them, we're not going to shoot the protesters.
This is not a crime. Merits any show of force? Well, if you like, Seymour more is like exactly the kind of person that you encounter, you know, in history where you let in all the complexity, we're like, he made bad choices and then he made some good ones. And both were true. And like there was stuff that he was able to reckon with morally and stuff that he didn't. And he acts like he is so recognizable as like this is how humans behave.
This is how we are capable of moments of grace. If we're complicit in abuse of systems like this. Is our complexity embodied? Yeah. Yeah.
So there's there's actually weirdly, there's a Village Voice reporter inside of the bar at this point because he like snuck into the bar once he saw the raid was happening, was like, I don't want to be in here anymore.
He's like Bronson, Pinchao and True Romance and of course, like he doesn't have a gun.
So when Pyon comes over to him and it's like, how are you holding up, buddy? He's like, can I have your gun? Absolutely not. Yeah, that's delightful.
So basically, the cops don't really know what to do. They try to train a fire hose on the protesters, but like, it's not a fire hose. It's like a normal hose. Like they just spray like a garden hose out the door. So they just water them, moisten them.
And then, of course, the crowd is like thinks this is funny. And so it's like getting their shirts wet and like dancing and partying like no one takes it remotely seriously, like, oh fuck, we've made them sexier.
And then somehow one of the cops, I think it's one of the women because she's a little bit smaller, she sneaks out the window or ventilation duct or something.
Somehow she gets out the back. She then calls the tactical squad, like basically the SWAT team to come.
And this is how the whole thing ends. The cops are still barricaded inside. They call the SWAT team. The SWAT team comes, gets the cops out like another paddy wagon comes. The cops dive into this van, the van pulls away. And then it's basically the protesters versus the SWAT team.
And it's like riot cops, like everything you've seen from, like Billy Elliot. Right. Like with the shields and the helmets and the nightsticks. Oh.
But then basically this whole thing becomes like a skirmish between the SWAT team and a thousand protesters.
So because there's narrow streets in Greenwich Village, the cops will sort of advance on the protesters and then the protesters will just run around the block.
So they show up behind the SWAT team and this goes on for hours.
The SWAT team advances on people and they form a chorus line really, and they start doing like Roquette kicks and like taunting them.
I mean this to me, it's like it's seen as this like, you know, explosion of camp within this violent scene.
But it's also just like that's a form of power. Yes. Right. Like you're taunting these people. Like you're feeling like you can get away with this. Now they're calling them the Girls in Blue and Lilly Lau.
Yeah. And they're like, come on, sweetie. Like, this is people realizing the power numbers that they have. And so that's really cool.
How is this never been made into a musical or has just one abysmal movie. Yeah, so the cops are feeling humiliated. This actually gets pretty ugly. Like the cops just start like beating people with nightsticks.
Yeah. You know, if you're a cop and someone calls you a girl and blue one time in your whole life, you have no choice but to wail on them. Right? It's like it's again, it's like this feels like such a theme. Like when the police intervene and their situations with communities that are used to being belittled and harassed and beaten and profiled every single fucking day. Yeah. They reveal their unbelievably low tolerance for any degree of disrespect.
This is what one of the one of the rioters says to David Carter for his book in 2004. The cops were totally humiliated. This never, ever happened. They were angrier than they had ever been because everybody else had rioted. Everybody in America who had a beef had already rioted, but the ferries were not supposed to riot and nobody else had ever won.
The cops realized that just by having to call in reinforcements, by barricading the door, no other group had ever forced the cops to retreat before. So their anger was enormous.
Wow. And this is really interesting in that another misconception about Stonewall is that Stonewall, by coincidence, did happen on the day of the funeral of Judy Garland.
Oh, yeah. This was always kind of part of the explanation that, like sort of gay togetherness, sisterhood was in the air that day because, like, we're celebrating Judy Garland.
And so when I talked to Mark about this, who was at the Stonewall Dancing that night, he's like punk. We didn't listen to Judy Garland. Like, that's our parents music. Like, that's what we were listening to Let the Sunshine in.
Like, that was his jam, which is a much better riot incitement song. Like if you're sitting around listening to Judy Garland, you're just going to be like softly weeping and the brandy all night.
And also this Judy Garland myth starts in a really homophobic column.
Oh, really? I can't imagine that that's possible. Exactly.
So it's like this homophobic columnist for the New York Daily News who's like, you know, these home. They're going to the funeral of their hero and then they want to riot and like no one gets in a rioting mood at a funeral.
And also it's like normally they would have been fine with this, but like the death of Judy Garland. And it's like. Right. There were no other problems. It's like if Judy were still around, everyone would have been perfectly happy with the way they were.
And also other riots, like one thing I love from that quote about the cops is that, you know, every other group in America had already rioted. And that's really important to why Stonewall happened, is that they're watching the civil rights movement.
They're watching the Black Panthers. They're watching, you know, women are getting much more radicalized at that point. Rioting is like a thing that happens a lot in the late 1960s. Right. The DNC. Right.
And protesting, which is I think it's important to recognize that there's a very porous line between protesting and what we call rioting. Absolutely. Riot is a great word to imply that the behavior the so-called writers are exhibiting is disproportionate.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
One of the historians that I interviewed who Ryan talks about how overlooking the Stonewall is a women's house of detention. All right. It's a lot of people of color. It's a lot of political prisoners.
It's a lot of like Black Panthers were angry, had work and got the pelvic exam exactly like a totally and where Angela Davis was there, too, later on.
And so the women in the prison are watching Stonewall happen and they start lighting their stuff on fire and pushing it out the windows and they start chanting gay power.
Oh, God bless the women prisoners. So Tupac Shakur, his mother, Afeni Shakur, was really important in the Black Panther movement over the course of this summer. The following year, she sees more of these gay power demonstrations and she starts going up to her fellow prisoners and saying, tell me about being a lesbian.
Tell me about your sexuality. And once she's out, she starts infighting within the Black Panther movement for them to do much more work on misogyny and homophobia. That's so wonderful.
She's like looking out through the bars. Right. And she's like, this is a teachable moment. I need to think about my revolutionary methodology.
And this is also happening both ways so that what this Judy Garland myth totally ignores is like gay people are noticing Vietnam War protesters like their power from these other movements.
It's not a singer that their parents were into who died.
I mean, you know, Judy Garland was great, but we just we can't give her credit for everything.
So that's basically it. You know, that skirmish between the SWAT team and the writers goes on. It eventually peters out. It's 4:00 a.m. By that point, everyone kind of goes home.
But then, Mark, this guy that I interviewed who was there says one of the people I think it was one of the owners of Stonewall, gave him a piece of chalk and was like, go around Greenwich Village and write on every single flat surface tomorrow night, Stonewall protest.
So the night after Stonewall, there's 2000 people because again, this is like walking up something in people. Yeah.
And then there's five nights of riots after Stonewall. Well, so this is a thing.
Now, let it go. Let it go. Don't hold it back anymore. And I lost it but.
Right. It's like it was always it was there it just like and now that it's out like it can't go back in.
And also Craig Rodwell, this guy that started the annual reminder parades during Stonewall, he leaves to go get his camera because he knows this is going to be historic, although none of the photos come out, which is like a national tragedy.
That's terrible. Yeah.
And he calls The New York Times The New York Daily News and The Village Voice. And he's like, something is happening. You need to get down here. And so there's all this amplification that happens. There's all this political organizing that happens.
So they're also like, we need to force the issue that this is, in fact, New York. Exactly.
And that was very smart. Like it gets written up in the papers. I mean, this is something that is you I mean, the civil rights movement was also very strategic about and that is still something that I think mainstream society hasn't accepted and that we, you know, today will like use to discredit a movement or a protest or whatever that like, oh, they wanted to be in the paper. They wanted media attention.
And it's like, yes, that's how you force change. That's how you bring light to injustice.
But and this is I mean, one of these I think is so interesting. There's this really great article about why did Stonewall blow up? Like why was Stonewall a thing? And they talk about it was bigger. It was in New York which had more of an established media, but also before Stonewall, there wasn't any infrastructure to make a story like this national right.
There weren't gay publications. There wasn't enough gay rights stuff happening in different cities for them to communicate with each other.
But between 1965 and 1969, that infrastructure was being built. So the advocate, which I believe is the first gay publication in America, had 28000 subscribers by 1969. And like that's not a lot, but like, that's enough. To get the word out nationally that, like, look at this uprising, yeah, look at what we can do. Yeah.
And so Craig Rodwell, you know, there's a lot of other people that basically dedicate themselves to, like, let's make Stonewall a thing. And this is where we get gay pride that they decide on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, they're going to have the Christopher Street Liberation Day parade.
Right. It's I mean, there's just so much invisible labour within social engagements. And I think it's also so important to remember that, like, humans aren't actually get it, remembering what got us where we are.
People have to like put a lot of time and work into into organizing acts of remembrance.
There's a thing where Sylvia Rivera climbs the walls of city hall wearing a dress and high heels to protest a closed door meeting about a civil rights bill that they're thinking of passing and heels.
My God, there's also there's stories of people using their work printers to make like 500 copies of gay leaflets. There's a lot of this sort of quiet stuff happening.
And this year, Stonewall was this galvanizing force that all of a sudden there's trans rights groups that form out of this. There's youth groups because youth had been excluded from the machine society before.
They didn't want people under 21.
But, you know, sex workers, it's all these groups that had been excluded from the sort of establishment gay rights groups that all of a sudden were like, well, we can organize. So they you know, they formed the Gay Liberation Front, which is the much more radical side of things.
And what's really interesting is all of the debates about respectability, everything that was happening, all the infighting before Stonewall continued.
So the machine society didn't want to celebrate Stonewall riot, of course, because if you still think the police might be nice to you someday, then you want to be like, I know I don't think anyone should want Penneys that, you know, that's the thing.
I mean, there's there's a really good paragraph in Martin Doberman's book where he says not all gays were pleased about the eruption at Stonewall. Those satisfied by or at least habituated to the status quo preferred to minimize or dismiss what was happening. Many wealthier gays sunning at Fire Island or in the Hamptons for the weekend either heard about the rioting and ignored it or caught up with the news belatedly. When they did, they tended to characterize the events of Stonewall as regrettable as the demented carryings on of stoned, tacky queens precisely the elements in the gay world from whom they had long since disassociated themselves stoned, tacky queens.
Thank the Lord for the stone tacky queens. I feel like that's the make the stone tacky queens are the one secretly running this killing. Yes.
And this is sort of again, this is an element of stonewall that sort of overlooked now is that eventually everything sort of reverts back to that, that by 1973, the Gay Liberation Front is de facto defunct.
Like it's it's splintered off.
It's not really centrally organized. There's something called the Gay Activist Alliance, which emerges to replace it. And then the gay activist alliance takes this tone of we only want to work on gay rights. We're not going to work on all these other issues.
The civil rights bill that Sylvia climbed the city hall to protest that passed, but it didn't include anything about gender expression. So there was like a brief moment where the sort of the radicals were in charge and then it just sort of drifted back to this kind of respectability.
Let's make the parade family friendly, like let's make sure we're doing everything by the book. Let's get all our permits, et cetera.
And then the gay community was like, you know, as long as we never need, like, a lot of money or research funding or like care or recognition from the straight communities holding the purse strings for, you know, medical research or what have you like, that's not going to happen. Will be. Will be. We can. Yes, it's fine.
I mean, yeah, I don't know. I mean, I think there's this old quote that I forget where I got it from, but it's talking about respect for the dead and it says to the living one owes respect to the dead, one owes only truth.
And I think it's like very important to just be honest about what was happening. And the thing is, I don't think that it's like every single person who was involved in gay rights at that time was like a racist prick, like a lot of them were like radical socialists and like wanted to create a wildly equal society.
And we're like also doing Black Panther stuff. Like there was a lot of crossover between all of the civil rights movements. And one of the things that Hugh Ryan, the historian that I interviewed mentioned, is like all of the groups, do you radicalize during this period, like from 1970 to 1975, was a really bad period for radicalization.
Like most of these movements were radicalizing at this time because the Christian right was mobilizing cops. Like as there became more infrastructure for movements to organize around the country, there was also more infrastructure for cops to mobilize around the country.
And this sort of increasing militarization is like the beginning of the mass incarceration move.
Yes, this is the beginning of. The law and order years, like, yes, people have more to be afraid of, like new and more dire consequences are being invented for free social radicals. I mean, I think it's important to acknowledge that, like, there is no correct way to change society. We're all going to be shaped by our own fears and the ways that we were raised and everyone was doing their best. And like the point is not pillorying people who we can now with like decades of hindsight see behaved in ways that were maybe harmful or ineffectual in the long run, because no one can know that about what they're doing.
And yet the central injustice is that you have to do it at all.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. The debate over the tactics and strategy that the gay rights movement used in the 1960s and 1970s will never end. And it's fundamentally unknowable. Yeah, we don't know in a counterfactual world what could have been different. We do know that we could have taken a lot better care of Marsha and Sylvia and the people like them that we've completely forgotten about. Like we can be clear on that. But I think also people at the time were pissed off about them getting a raise, too, like it wasn't monolithically let's get rid of Marsha and Sylvia, like there were people that were fighting for their inclusion.
There were people that ended up leaving New York City because they were really pissed off about the way that it was going. Like all of the divisions and diversity that we have within the gay population now were there then.
And so you don't want to paint anything with too broad of a brush, the legacy of the Stonewall riots, it's like, you know, you interview enough historians and you become just, like, totally insufferable about making any bold statements about anything.
I don't think that's inseparability. I think that's a good thing.
Well, I just think that, like, Stonewall was really important and a lot of other stuff was really important, too. Yeah. And so I think that the Big Bang narrative of Stonewall is a bit oversimplified, but it's also not completely bullshit either.
Stonewall was different and Stonewall was bigger. And so when was the first event like this to get national attention and to drive a feeling within people that like this can be different?
This reminds me of my favorite queen, Thomas Jefferson, like the opening of the Declaration of Independence.
My paraphrase of it is bitch. It is already over.
If another country treats a country the way you have treated us like you don't notice anymore, like that's it. You don't. Right. And the radical nature of that statement is something that I cherish as like that. You can make your rights real. You can manifest your rights by saying them at the same time. I can see the root of so much of the straight male capitalist, great man theory of history that we will have ideas and we will get them right the first time and then we will be done.
And it's like.
Right, no, like like you can have a really great radical idea and then you have to keep working on it every single day and you have to keep thinking about the fact that it doesn't speak for everyone and that that you are initiating and less work and less learning. And like, you know, as Americans, we are so enamored of the idea that we can get big ideas right the first time and never have to revise anything. Right. Like, yeah, both of these things can be true.
Like Stonewall can have been this momentous moment that did change the world and that did say, you know, it is already over like we can.
Yeah. We can't be treated this way anymore. And by saying we are ushering in a new world and also we still have to keep working on on making that world real every day. Yeah.
Can I end with the best moment that I had from any of my interviews? Yes. So this guy Mark, who was at the Stonewall riots, he was telling me about the year after the Stonewall riots, all of the work that they were doing. Right. The phone calls, the leaflets. Kids were arriving as young as 13 years old in New York City. He would put them up on his couch. He said that nobody had training. There was no such thing as any infrastructure to care for these kids or to care for each other.
And as he's telling me this, I said, you know, it sounds like there's just layer like a wedding cake of trauma everybody's dealing with, like it must have been so hard. And he said, you know what? It was one of the best years of my life. He was driving a cab to make enough money to do this at night. He felt like it was the first time that he could actually fight for a better world. And that was extremely empowering and it made everybody really happy.
And I think that's that's really important to that. Like, it wasn't all trauma and misery. It was fun. And it was people spending time in each other's houses and brainstorming the insane projects that they wanted to work on, like, you know, having a parade full of gay people, which was a completely ludicrous idea at the time. And then they made these ludicrous ideas happen.
Yeah, yeah. And just the knowledge that the plan is not to take decisive action and get your rights and be done because, hey, that's impossible. And B, it's by struggling and communally recognizing what we have been through and what we need to do and finding language for experiences like that's how we come to know each other. That's how we build community. That's how we experience and. I see, like, yeah, you know, as Emma Goldman never actually said, but it spiritually feels like her kind of statement, the same way that Marsha P.
Johnson spiritually threw a shot glass. If I can't dance, it's not my revolution.
Yeah, and if somebody doesn't let you dance with some pennies, Adam. And.