I awoke this morning feeling drained, as if I had worked all day doing a job I hated. As I lay there wondering why, trying to find the source of my building depression, several things came to mind.
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which occurred on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Inn, located in Greenwich Village, New York, is hailed as the origin of the LGBT movement. But let’s not forget those who came before Stonewall. A couple of incidents come to mind.
In May 1959, Los Angeles police entered Cooper’s Donuts to harass the customer’s who happened to be primarily drag queens and male hustlers. The customers fought with the police resulting in the subjects of the harassment — those in drag — being able to get away!
In August 1966, three years before Stonewall, the management called the police at Compton’s Cafeteria, located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. The complaint: they claimed there were a number of drag queens loitering outside the cafeteria. The riot resulted in the police being chased while the drag queens beat them with their purses!
Not every assault on our freedom has come from a homophobic and transphobic government. One of the biggest and most hurtful assaults came from within. Just months after the Stonewall Riots, we saw a rise in groups calling themselves the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Although they were more accepting of cross-dressers and transexuals than others, it is not clear how inclusive they actually were. Close to the same time as the formation of the GLF, other groups like the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) had been formed. The GAA believed the rights of transsexuals were irrelevant to, and even counter to, their mission. Members of the GAA refused to include rights of cross-dressers and trans people in their manifesto and were often hostile and unwelcoming to the trans women who attended their meetings.
Likewise, in the 1970s, trans women faced rejection by lesbian and straight feminist organizations, which claimed trans women were not in fact real women but rather men trying to infiltrate and sabotage their movement.
Not knowing our past results in making the same mistakes as those before us. How often have you heard the phrase, “If I had only known what I know now, I wouldn’t be here!” The fact is, what you learned the hard way has already been written in our history! You just did not want to hear about it or rejected the lesson outright. That is not to say that we should seek retribution or reparations from those of the past. Education is the great healer, educating the uneducated. Speaking of history whenever you have an audience often results in a seed being planted in the mind of even the most negative of persons. Although the most hateful and negative of people may not want it, that seed will germinate and grow into a flower of knowledge that may one day lead to change in their very way of thinking.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.