#30DaysofPride: Day 28- Sylvia Rivera

In honor of today being The 50th anniversary of the stonewall uprising in the place where it all began, NYC, today I am talking about Sylvia rivera, our Trans sister who helped pave the way to make sure we can have our rights. In 1969, Sylvia was homeless and on the streets and on June 28 of that year, she threw a brick through the window of the Stonewall Inn as a signifying of wanting a change.

During the 70s she founded an organization to get homeless trans people off the streets, they called it STAR House.

With few others willing to pick up the slack, Rivera felt compelled to help trans kids who ended up homeless and hustling. She started to call them “her children.” After Stonewall, in 1970, she started an organization called Street Transvestite Active Revolutionary, and later a home called STAR House. She and her partner kept both afloat with their sex work so her children wouldn’t have to hustle. The kids stole food for people living in STAR

Soon after STAR started, Rivera heard that an uprising against police brutality was kicking off uptown, led by the Young Lords, a revolutionary group of young Puerto Ricans. She and other members of STAR beat a path to Spanish Harlem, and marched alongside the Young Lords. “That was one of the first times the STAR banner was shown in public,” Rivera recalled, “where STAR was present as a group.” Rivera was surprised, happily, by the “respect they gave us as human beings.”

From the Timeline article: Sylvia Rivera threw one of the first bottles in the Stonewall riots, but her activism went much further.

She was an activist for poor queer people, she fought for disenfranchised people and helped to make sure they got what they needed.

At NYC Pride in 1973, she had a very famous speech. It was moving to hear because she is so emotional. It’s called “Y’all better quiet down”.

Y’all better quiet down. I’ve been trying to get up here all day for your gay brothers and your gay sisters in jail that write me every motherfucking week and ask for your help and you all don’t do a goddamn thing for them.
Have you ever been beaten up and raped and jailed? Now think about it. They’ve been beaten up and raped after they’ve had to spend much of their money in jail to get their [inaudible], and try to get their sex changes. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes or to become women. On the women’s liberation and they write ‘STAR,’ not to the women’s groups, they do not write women, they do not write men, they write ‘STAR’ because we’re trying to do something for them.
I have been to jail. I have been raped. And beaten. Many times! By men, heterosexual men that do not belong in the homosexual shelter. But, do you do anything for me? No. You tell me to go and hide my tail between my legs. I will not put up with this shit. I have been beaten. I have had my nose broken. I have been thrown in jail. I have lost my job. I have lost my apartment for gay liberation and you all treat me this way? What the fuck’s wrong with you all? Think about that!
I do not believe in a revolution, but you all do. I believe in the gay power. I believe in us getting our rights, or else I would not be out there fighting for our rights. That’s all I wanted to say to you people. If you all want to know about the people in jail and do not forget Bambi L’amour, and Dora Mark, Kenny Metzner, and other gay people in jail, come and see the people at Star House on Twelfth Street on 640 East Twelfth Street between B and C apartment 14.
The people are trying to do something for all of us, and not men and women that belong to a white middle class white club. And that’s what you all belong to!
REVOLUTION NOW! Gimme a ‘G’! Gimme an ‘A’! Gimme a ‘Y’! Gimme a ‘P’! Gimme an ‘O’! Gimme a ‘W’! Gimme an ‘E! Gimme an ‘R’! [crying] Gay power! Louder! GAY POWER!
(From the Internet Archive entry: Sylvia Rivera “Y’all Better quiet down”)
Rivera was an activist for 50+ years, she moved away after this speech was given only to move back to NYC after the death of her best friend Marsha P Johnson. She was homeless until she found solace in the same place that she helped found. Sylvia passed away in 2002 from liver cancer. She was a true angel and the mother of modern day pride. Happy pride Sylvia!!!!!

#30DaysofPride: Day 27- Craig Rodwell

Craig Rodwell is a name that not many people know. But he was a big part of the stonewall uprising as well as the pre-stonewall era.

A native of Chicago, Mr. Rodwell moved to the Village in the late 1950’s and quickly became a controversial figure in the New York Mattachine Society, a gay-rights organization. He pushed for gay pride and strong street actions to fight discrimination against homosexuals.

Rodwell’s Obituary, New York Times, 1993.

Rodwell is most notable for opening a bookstore in the Village that was specifically dedicated to Gay and lesbian books, the first in the world. However, The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore not only was a place that sold books but it became a makeshift community center.

In 1967, there were no gay community centers, save San Francisco’s Society for Individual Rights, that offered cultural programming and recreational activities. There were no gay bookstores that included shelves of gay books. In fact, there was no such thing as serious gay nonfiction. Libraries had systematically cataloged homosexuality as a deviance or a disorder. There were the occasional novels—notably, The Well of Loneliness, published by Radclyffe Hall in the United Kingdom in 1928—but mostly there was pulp fiction and porn, and novels that had queer subtexts.

Rodwell wanted a bookstore that would provide LGBTQ people with intellectual engagement. He also wanted the store to offer psychological-counseling services because, in 1967, the American Psychiatric Association still listed homosexuality as a mental illness in its diagnostic and statistical manual. For many queer people in the 1960s, the search for books, which offered some clues about homosexuality, was how they navigated their way out of the closet. “When I first wanted to find out what it meant to be gay, after I first put the label on myself, being a reasonably well-educated girl, I thought, ‘Oh well, I’ll go to the library,’” Gittings later recalled.

From The Atlantic article, Before Stonewall, There Was a Bookstore, 2019

Rodwell was an activist and little did he know that 2 years after he opened his bookstore, that he would be part of something even bigger.

The bookshop had not only became a major touchstone for New Yorkers but also symbolized the promise of gay liberation to many others throughout the world.

On June 28, 1969, Rodwell was walking home from a bridge game with a friend when he heard noise coming from the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that had been owned by the Mafia and frequently raided by the police. At first he ignored it, but then he noticed that a crowd had formed around the police wagon; people were resisting being handcuffed by the police. Rodwell climbed onto the steps of the highest stoop and yelled, “Gay power!” and “Christopher Street belongs to the queens!”

Craig Rodwell was a big organizer for the original pride march, which was originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day parade.

Activists like Rodwell understood the value of visibility; he was among the architects of New York’s gay-pride parade. But some were struggling not just for rights or liberation, but for something still more revolutionary. They were fighting for what they called “gay power,” the authority to define their own identity. Their efforts produced the intellectual revolution that lent the Stonewall protests their power, and which helped ensure that long after the protests were over, the changes they wrought would endure.

From The Atlantic article, Before Stonewall, There Was a Bookstore, 2019

Rodwell worked with Barbara Gittings on her quest to get Homosexuality Removed from the DSM-IV(get it declassified as a mental illness). He sold his shop in 1993 and died a few months later of stomach cancer. The shop sadly closed in 2009 because of decline of business. The shop’s location (which moved from the original storefront on Mercer to the corner of Christopher street and Gay street) is now part of the LGBTQ historic sites project registry. Craig Rodwell’s activism still rings true with the Heritage of Pride march still happening 49 years after the first Christopher street Liberation day. I am excited to see the turnout of the parade…3 more days!!!!

#30DaysofPride: Day 25- Paris is Burning and Worship of Whiteness

The following is an essay written for my African Americans in the Media class. I was told to do a screening of a film. So I did a screening of Paris is Burning and I decided to write a critique of the film for its worship of Whiteness.

Paris is Burning is a film in which we see intersection more prominently, but in a more problematic way. The film centers around the Drag Ball scene in the Bronx. You have drag queens who are disenfranchised. some of them are trans, some of them black. This film is about using your body to live your best life. In Bell Hooks’s response to the film she talks about the idea it evoked as she heard about it.

When I first heard that there was this new documentary film about black gay men, drag queens, and drag balls I was fascinated by the title. It evoked images of the real Paris on fire, of the death and destruction of a dominating white western civilization and culture, an end to oppressive Eurocentrism and white supremacy. This fantasy not only gave me a sustained sense of pleasure, it stood between me and the unlikely reality that a young white filmmaker, offering a progressive vision of “blackness” from the standpoint of “whiteness,” would receive the positive press accorded Livingston and her film. (Hooks, 149)

Hooks is saying that the name itself gave her a sense of belonging and the utopian idea of overthrowing an oppressor such as the white man. However, there is more to film than just being nonconforming to gender norms, there is a clear statement of how we view whiteness. We have this eschewed vision of the way we view whiteness. We see it as the “ideal beauty”. It is a big step back when it really comes down to things. When Octavia has her model pictures from the magazines on her wall, she explains she wants to look like this one day. The high-class evening wear, furs and other over-the-top outfits are all representative of how all of these queens wish they were, rich and white.

Watching Paris is Burning, I began to think that the many yuppie-looking, straight-acting, pushy, predominantly white folks in the audience were there because the film in no way interrogates “whiteness.” These folks left the film saying it was “amazing,” “marvelous,” “incredibly funny,” worthy of statements like, “Didn’t you just love it?” And no, I didn’t just love it. For in many ways the film was a graphic documentary portrait of the way in which colonized black people (in this case black gay brothers, some of whom were drag queens) worship at the throne of whiteness, even when such worship demands that we live in perpetual self-hate, steal, lie, go hungry, and even die in its pursuit. The “we” evoked here is all of us, black people/people of color, who are daily bombarded by a powerful colonizing whiteness that seduces us away from ourselves, that negates that there is beauty to be found in any form of blackness that is not imitation whiteness.(Hooks, 149)

We see the problematic way that Paris is burning is portraying whiteness. Instead of having the queens reject all that whiteness stands for and be proud, they are actually idolizing these oppressors.

“The whiteness celebrated in Paris is Burning is not just any old brand of whiteness but rather that brutal imperial ruling-class capitalist patriarchal whiteness that presents itself—its way of life—as the only meaningful life there is” (Hooks, 149).

We given the representation we were missing in How to Survive a Plague; but at what cost? Instead of the erasure of black folks from the narrative, we get an entire movie dedicated to the black queer worship of the white oppressor. One example of white worship is when Venus talks about her job as a queen as well as her motivation for things like prostitution. She uses the example of upper-class white housewife who wants a dryer and she can get that dryer by having sex with her husband. Venus’s comparison of sex work to a white woman trying to get something by using sex.

The interesting thing about this film is that Jennie Livingston, the director of the film is queer itself. However, this intersection doesn’t work for her position because she does not know what it is like to be black/queer/gender nonconforming. Hooks explains that in this way, intersectionality didn’t work out in her favor.

Jennie Livingston approaches her subject matter as an outsider looking in. Since her presence as white woman/lesbian filmmaker is “absent” from Paris is Burning it is easy for viewers to imagine that they are watching an ethnographic film documenting the life of black gay “natives” and not recognize that they are watching a work shaped and formed by a perspective and standpoint specific to Livingston. By cinematically masking this reality (we hear her ask questions but never see her), Livingston does not oppose the way hegemonic whiteness “represents” blackness, but rather assumes an imperial overseeing position that is in no way progressive or counter-hegemonic (Hooks, 151)

We have a shift because when you are looking through the lens of the camera, we see this narrative from her eyes and realize that she is totally looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. One of those scenes in the movie in which we are given a setup, but no resolution was the Venus is murdered by a man who was paying her money for sex. We are not given any time to grieve. It happens and the film ends.

The cinematic narrative makes the ball the center of their lives. And yet who determines this? Is this the way the black men view their reality or is this the reality Livingston constructs? Certainly, the degree to which black men in this gay subculture are portrayed as cut off from a “real” world heightens the emphasis on fantasy, and indeed gives Paris is Burning its tragic edge. That tragedy is made explicit when we are told that the fair-skinned Venus has been murdered, and yet there is no mourning of him/her in the film, no intense focus on the sadness of this murder. Having served the purpose of “spectacle” the film abandons him/her. The audience does not see Venus after the murder. There are no scenes of grief. To put it crassly, her dying is upstaged by spectacle. Death is not entertaining.(Hooks, 154)

In a sense, Paris is Burning started a drag revolution and it was one of the most iconic queer movies of the 90s, but it was at the cost of disenfranchising the queens featured in the film. When it comes to representation, Paris is Burning hits the mark. However, due to its idolization of the white body, it undermines what it means to be black and queer.

Works Cited

Hooks, Bell. “Is Paris Burning?” pp. 145-156

Black Looks: Race and Representation.

Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992. Print.

#30DaysofPride: Day 23- Cleve Jones

(This is a Repost from last year, I’m a little lazy today so I’m just gonna post it. Haha enjoy!)

In his memoir, When We Rise, Cleve Jones describes his experience living through the Gay liberation movement. For 40+ years, Jones has been a prominent figure in the fight for gay rights. He almost committed suicide as a teen because his father, a prominent psychologist, tried to get him cured when he came out

I felt that my life was over before it even really began because it just seemed then that there was no way to have a decent life and to be gay. So I was terrified that I was going to be caught and I had already experienced quite bit of bullying and I just thought that only misery lay ahead and when I got caught that that would be the solution.

From When We Rise, Cleve Jones

He found solace in the San Francisco gay community and after traveling from his hometown in Indiana to live in Scottsdale, AZ at age 18, he settled in the San Francisco community of “The Castro” where Harvey Milk began his career in politics. He became close to Milk and worked on a few of his campaigns. He came to city hall the night of the assassination of Harvey because he had heard of the death of mayor Moscone and knew Milk was possibly dead too.

It changed my life forever. … Dan White had invited him into his office and shot him there. And his feet were sticking out in the hall and I recognized his wingtip shoes — he had second-hand shoes he had bought at a thrift store. Then we couldn’t leave. We were stuck there because the police were doing their thing.

(From the Fresh Air episode: “LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is” by NPR, pub. 11/29/2016)

He was pushed to activism, working for the California speaker of the house, working for other activism organizations. During the HIV/AIDS crisis he was diagnosed with HIV and his reaction was just shock

By the fall of 1985, almost everyone I knew was dead or dying or caring for someone who was dying. I tested positive for HIV the week the test came out, which I’m thinking was 1985. That time is a bit of a blur. …

I had been in a study I had volunteered for, so I knew that they had samples of my blood going back all the way to 1977. So I learned that not only did I have HIV, but I learned that I had had it since the winter of ’78, ’79, so I never expected to survive

(From the Fresh Air episode: “LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is” by NPR, pub. 11/29/2016)

He saw the amount of death in his community, and he started a project called the NAMES project and AIDS quilt. Where people across the country would sew patches in memory of people they lost to AIDS. This idea came to him during the Harvey milk memorial

That year, as we were getting ready for the annual tribute, the death toll in San Francisco rose to 1,000 and there was a headline in the paper about “1,000 San Franciscans Dead From AIDS.” …

I was just so struck by that number: 1,000. … So that night of the march, I had Harvey Milk’s old bullhorn and I got stacks of poster board and stacks of markers and I asked everybody to write the name of someone they knew who had been killed by the new disease. At first people were ashamed to do it, but finally began writing their first and last names, and we carried these placards with us with our candles to … the building that housed the Health and Human Services West Coast offices for the federal government for the Reagan administration. …

We had hidden ladders in the shrubbery nearby and climbed up the front grey stone façade of this building and taped the names to the wall. After I got off my ladder I walked through the crowd. There were thousands of people. It was gentle rain, no speeches or music, just thousands of people reading these names on this patchwork of placards up on that wall. And I thought to myself, “It looks like some kind of quilt,” and when I said the word “quilt” I thought of my great-grandma. … And it was such a warm and comforting and middle-American traditional-family-values sort of symbol, and I thought, “This is the symbol we should take.”

(From the Fresh Air episode: “LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is” by NPR, pub. 11/29/2016)

Cleve Jones has been a freedom fighter, had to live through persecution, through disease, through so much hardship and hell and back and he is still alive and Here to tell the tale. I’m inspired everyday by people like himself. Please if you have a chance, read his book and support him. He’s an amazing person who is still working to fight for the underdog!

Link to purchase book:

When We Rise

#30DaysofPride: Day 23- Magnus Hirschfeld

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a sexual scientist who began the first gay Rights organization in Berlin, Germany.

In 1897, when he was 29 years old, he founded the, uh… I’m gonna need some help with my German here… 

Daniel Baranowski: Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee…

EM Narration: …or, as it’s known in English, the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee.” And that’s where it all began. The first gay rights movement in the world. Hirschfeld was gay, but closeted. That’s just how it was. 

At the time, homosexual acts between men were illegal under paragraph 175 of German law, punishable by imprisonment. Hirschfeld and his newly founded committee got to work, lobbying for paragraph 175 to be repealed. 

From Making Gay History, Season 4, Episode 2, Magnus Hirschfeld

Hirschfeld was a pioneer in his field and highly liberal. His life‘s work was to show people that Homosexuality was inborn and was not abnormal.

Dagmar Herzog: So he runs a petition campaign, which gets thousands of signatures from prominent politicians, medical doctors, religious leaders. He also gives 3,000 public lectures to all manner of audiences. He starts a sexual medical journal in 1899 called “The Yearbook for Sexual Intermediaries,” which is highly respected among medical doctors.

EM Narration: Establishing himself as an expert on sexuality, frequently giving evidence in court, Hirschfeld argued that homosexuality was inborn, natural, and should not be punished.

From Making Gay History, Season 4, Episode 2, Magnus Hirschfeld

The thing about Berlin during the early 1900s is that even while Homosexuality was illegal. People were still open about their sexuality. There was a thriving gay culture in Berlin. And that’s why he opened his “institute for Sexual Research” in the center of the “gay-borhood” (if you will haha)

EM Narration: That tentative openness was a feature of gay life in Berlin at the time. While homosexuality remained illegal, dozens of gay clubs were open and thriving. In 1920, Kurt Schwabach and Mischa Spoliansky wrote “The Lavender Song,” or “Das lila Lied.” Here’s Marek Weber’s recording of it.

He’s singing, “We are just different from the others who are being loved only in lockstep of morality.” The song became a gay anthem and was performed in the cabaret clubs around Berlin. 

Dagmar Herzog again… 

Dagmar Herzog: And it’s a city that sort of celebrates every possible predilection. I mean, the crucial thing about Berlin in the Weimar years is not the pervasiveness of people who are comfortable with their homosexuality and acting on it; it’s the visibility, it’s the proud visibility, and the glamor and the fun of it. And that already triggers conservative responses, even before the Nazis come to power, of two varieties: Christian-conservative, on the one hand, and right-wing thuggish Nazi, on the other.

EM Narration: While the backlash built in the background, in the middle of gay Berlin—literally the middle—Hirschfeld’s institute opened its doors in 1919, on the edge of Berlin’s Central Park. 

From Making Gay History, Season 4, Episode 2, Magnus Hirschfeld

Being that he was a socialist Jew in Germany, Hirschfeld was triple targeted. He would get death threats, hate mail, anti-Semitic letters.

He is constantly reading slander. You know, you think you’re dealing with aggression on the Internet now, but, I mean, every morning he woke up and there was nasty, crappy, disgusting, anti-semitic stuff, above all, being said against him. And, you know, 1920, he’s at a lecture in Munich, and right-wing thugs beat him up and leave him for dead on the street. He’s bleeding. And then he’s reading his obituary the next morning. And luckily he’s still alive, but then there are many right-wing venues that say, “Oh, we’re really sorry that this poisoner of the Volk hasn’t died already.”

EM Narration: Despite the threats, the violence, and the slander, Hirschfeld persisted. Through the 1920s, his institute grew, and in the late 1920s Hirschfeld organized the first of several international congresses for sexual reform. The speakers were a laundry list of leaders in the nascent gay rights movements, the fight for women’s rights, and sexual science.

In 1931, while Dr. Hirschfeld was on a tour of the U.S., the Hearst newspaper chain nicknamed him “the Einstein of Sex.”

From Making Gay History, Season 4, Episode 2, Magnus Hirschfeld

Hirschfeld was a big target for Hitler. As early as 1920, Hitler had hated Hirschfeld referring to him as “Jewish swine” And when Hitler rose to power in 1933 he had his sights set on Hirschfeld’s institute.

When the Nazis swept to power in 1933, Hirschfeld’s library at the Institute for Sexual Science was their first target for book burnings. On the night of May 6, Nazi youth ransacked the institute—most of the contents of the institute were destroyed or stolen, and thousands of books were seized. Four nights later, stacks of volumes from Hirschfeld’s library went up in flames on the Opernplatz. The bust of Hirschfeld that had greeted visitors to the institute was tossed on the fire, too.

From Making Gay History, Season 4, Episode 2, Magnus Hirschfeld

However, Hirschfeld was not in Berlin at the time of the book burning. He was giving a Lecture in Paris. He had to watch the Burning of his books and destruction of his institute on a news reel in Paris 3 days later.

He was the first person to start the movement in the early 1900s, his fighting led to the push for equality here in the States, such as the Mattachine Society, Daughters of Bilitis, as well as Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance. The work of one man is important in the movement. Hirschfeld was ahead of his time with his ideas. It made him hated and threatened by the nazis but he died in 1935, before he got to see anything happen on the issue of Gay Rights. But he is in a sense the catalyst in the movement! Thanks Dr. Hirschfeld! Also, if you want to learn more, please listen to Making Gay History. Like I said, I don’t do this all by myself and I wanna make sure the researchers get the credit they deserve! ❤ Including Eric Marcus. He is awesome! Happy Pride!!! 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

#30DaysofPride: Day 22- Drag Ball Culture

If you know of drag queens, you are aware because of the popularity of RuPaul’s DragRace. But drag balls came before the drag we know now.

Pose has become a big deal in the community and in the mainstream media for having an all trans cast playing the main characters. The story of Pose comes from a culture of queer youth trying to make a place for them to feel safe and secure.

What are drag balls anyway?

Drag balls are fashion show-like competitions where queens from different houses face off with one another as each of them don typically extravagant costumes and walk down a runway, to be judged on their outfits and appearance, and their attitudes. It’s like an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race but a million times more intense. Aside from appearance, the focal point of each competition is voguing, a form of dance that was created by members of the ball scene — not by Madonna, though she did help to popularize it in the 1990s. It involves intricate movements meant to mimic the way models pose in magazines and on catwalks.

As Blanca Rodriguez, played by MJ Rodriguez, says in the first episode of Pose, “Balls are a gathering of people who are not welcome to gather anywhere else.” The competitions first rose to prominence in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance (though they had been around since the mid-1800s) as a form of social defiance and a way for queer youth to carve out a safe space in a world where acceptance was difficult to come by.

From Thrillist article, The Real Underground Ball Culture That Inspired FX’s ‘Pose,’ Explained, 2018

The fact that it was around during the Harlem Renaissance brings me to a realization and with my research to see that Poet Langston Hughes was part of the Drag culture of the Harlem Renaissance. He was both inspired by and participated in the balls of the 20s.

As a gay man, Hughes took part in Harlem’s spectacular drag balls, places where all races, genders, and social classes mixed in “the safest and most visible space in which queers could…[convene and cross].” Hughes saw Harlem culture itself as an extended show with “poems that perform in drag

From JStorDaily Article, The Drag Aesthetic of Langston Hughes, 2016

1932 tabloid Exposé of drag ball in Harlem

Drag ball culture and House culture was made popular in the mainstream by the 1991 Documentary film, Paris is Burning.

Houses are like chosen families that helped give refuge to those queer kids that had been rejected.

…houses were often seen as a source of refuge for those who had been rejected by their families and/or were struggling to survive. House members didn’t actually live together, but some children had the option to live with their house mothers if they had nowhere else to go.

In addition to being a source of emotional support, the main function of houses was for each group to compete with one another at balls. As Dorian Corey, the late founder of House of Corey, so eloquently puts it in Paris Is Burning, “A house is a gay street gang.” She adds, “Street gangs get their rewards from street fights. A house street fights at a ball — and you street fight at a ball by walking in a category.”

From Thrillist article, The Real Underground Ball Culture That Inspired FX’s ‘Pose,’ Explained, 2018

(Dorian Corey in Paris is Burning)

According to the website them., one of the first balls for black queens was organized by Marcel Christian in 1962, but years later in the ’70s, Crystal and Lottie Labeija founded the legendary House of Labeija (more on that in a moment) and coordinated the first ball that was held by a house. Essentially, the duo is responsible for the origin of the house system that quickly evolved into the scene that’s being paid homage to in Pose

From Thrillist article, The Real Underground Ball Culture That Inspired FX’s ‘Pose,’ Explained, 2018

Drag ball culture is ingrained in its own way in trans and black/Latinx culture. Because these people were more often than not disenfranchised not just because of their race but because of their sexuality. The girls who would participate in the balls would often go hungry and steal their outfits to get trophies in the competitions. It was a sad way to live but a way of life. Later on I will post my essay from Queer Studies about how Paris is Burning is problematic for its worship of white bodies. Thanks for reading! And if you have any more questions, feel free to watch Pose and Paris is Burning, they’re both on Netflix! Happy Pride 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

Another interesting resource about drag ball culture in Harlem during the 20s: https://www.harlemworldmagazine.com/harlems-drag-ball-history/

#30DaysofPride: Day 21- The raid at the Snake Pit

People always talk about stonewall only but they do forget a few other raids that went down in history.

In March 1970, the NYPD raided a bar on W 10th st. called the Snake Pit. It was an after hours bar and was run by the Mafia.

On March 8th. 1970 at about 5:00 a.m in the morning the NYPD raided the Snake Pit, an after-hours bar at 211 West 10h. Street in Greenwich Village. Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine (the same Seymour Pine in charge of the raids upon the Stonewall Inn) showed up with a fleet of police wagons, and arrested all 167 customers, staff, and owners and took them to the station house, which violated police policy.

From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

There was one person who almost died. His name is Diego Viñales. He was in the country illegally and when he was taken to the precinct house, he was scared Because he was in the country illegally.

he feared what would happen to him in the police station and tried to escape by jumping out a second story window. He landed on a fence below, its 14-inch spikes piercing his leg and pelvis. He was not only critically wounded, but was also charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As paramedics attended to Vinales, a cop told a fireman, “You don’t have to hurry, he’s dead, and if he’s not, he’s not going to live long,”

All quotes From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

Immediately after hearing this, the Gay Activist Alliance printed a pamphlet for a protest. “A pamphlet publicizing the protest read, “Any way you look at it, Diego Vinales was pushed. We are all being pushed.”

Nearly 500 people showed up for an angry and loud but peaceful protest protest to the precinct station on Charles Street, followed by a vigil at St. Vincent’s hospital where Vinales lay in critical condition.

All quotes From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

This article was published in the New York Times the next morning.

Rep. Edward Koch, who would later become the Mayor of NYC accused NYPD Commissioner Howard Leary of green-lighting the resumption of raids, harassment, and illegal arrests against the gay community. Both Leary and Seymour Pine was reassigned to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

All quotes From Back2Stonewall.com Article, March 8, 1970: After Stonewall – The Forgotten NYC Snake Pit Bar Raid. 167 Patrons Arrested, 1 Critically Wounded, 2019

Vito Russo was around during the entire Gay Rights movement. He was sitting in a tree watching the tree in Sheridan Square during the stonewall riots but the Snake Pit was his first time involving himself in activism. He talked about his story of the Snake Pit being his springboard into activism on the Making Gay History Podcast.

I was on my way home from work and I passed St. Vincent’s.  There was a candlelight vigil and I remember being handed a leaflet.  And the leaflet said, “No matter how you look at it Diego Vinales was pushed.”  And that’s when I put two and two together, when I realized the political impact of a social event.  That in fact he was pushed from that window.  He was pushed by society. That if he didn’t have to be so scared of being deported, he wouldn’t have jumped.  And so for the first time the organized response reached me on a gut level.  And that was the following Thursday when I went to my first Gay Activists Alliance meeting.

From Making Gay History, Season 1, Episode 10, Vito Russo

We rarely hear about the year after the 8 nights of riots at stonewall and the organization that happened afterwards. They never talk about the fact that these raids lasted into the 70s and early 80s. The narrative is that stonewall happened and that was it; but it isn’t all black and white, there’s much more depth to it. Also, Diego Viñales did survive and moved back to Argentina. Thanks for reading and hearing my history lesson. Happy Pride. 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

#30DaysofPride: Day 20- Stormé DeLarverie

This is one of the forgotten heroes of the movement. Stormé DeLarverie was a bouncer at a bar known as “The Cubbyhole” (now known as “Henrietta Hudson”). She was also present at the stonewall uprising. She is the person that is known as “the catalyst” for the riots.

She was a Drag performer with the Jewel Box Revue. The Jewel Box Revue where everyone was dressed as the opposite sex.

You’re watching the Jewel Box Revue. And, like any other show at the Apollo, this is top of the line — but it’s just a little different than their usual shows. The show is billed as twenty-five men and one girl. So most of the people on stage are impersonating women, and the audience is supposed to spend the show figuring out who the quote-unquote “real girl” is. Toward the end of the show, it’s dramatically revealed that none of the people high kicking in dresses was the “real girl.” It was actually the smooth baritone in the tuxedo — Stormé DeLarverie

From The Nod Episode Cowboy of the West Village courtesy of The Podcast Nancy.

Stormé was the male impersonator who pushed people to act. And she is usually forgotten in our queer narrative.

a butch lesbian was responsible for starting the first Stonewall riot at 1:20 a.m. on June 28, 1969. That night, a brave woman of color, Stormé DeLarverie was hit on the head with a billy club and handcuffed. She was bleeding from the head when she brazenly turned to the crowd and hollered, “WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING!?”

After a long struggle, Stormé was dragged into a paddy wagon and that’s when the scene exploded. That summer night a revolution began and it was a strong butch woman of color that is reported to have thrown the first punch.

From HuffPost article, Remembering Stormé – The Woman Of Color Who Incited The Stonewall Revolution, 2017

She remained a part of the community in New York for the time after Stonewall.

Shortly after Stonewall, DeLarverie’s girlfriend of 25 years, a dancer named Diana, passed away, and DeLarverie left entertaining almost entirely. Instead, she became a bodyguard for wealthy families during the day and a bouncer (though she didn’t like the term and much preferred“babysitter of my people, all the boys and girls”) at several lesbian bars in the West Village at night. DeLarverie was also known at the time for roaming the West Village vigilante-style — she had no tolerance for what she called “ugly,” meaning rudeness, bullying, or behavior that was otherwise intolerant of her “baby girls” at the bars she was protecting.

From them. Article, Drag Herstory: A Drag King’s Journey From Cabaret Legend to Iconic Activist, 2018

Stormé worked at Henrietta Hudson until she was 85 years old.

DeLarverie also became a board member of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association and was an annual fixture at New York’s annual Gay Pride Parade. “She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero,” longtime friend Lisa Cannistraci told The New York Times upon DeLarverie’s death, in 2014. “She was not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.” DeLarverie would continue to sing at charity events and fundraisers around New York, too, specifically for victims of violence and domestic abuse.

Having experienced a difficult upbringing herself, DeLarverie always sought to provide protection for others, whether it was at the Jewel Box or Henrietta Hudson. As she said in a 2001 documentary short called “A Stormé Life,” “I’m a human being that survived. I helped other people survive.”

From them. Article, Drag Herstory: A Drag King’s Journey From Cabaret Legend to Iconic Activist, 2018

Stormé DeLarverie is an icon for pushing people to take action. Because if it wasn’t for a lesbian of color, stonewall would have just been another raid. Thank you Miss DeLarverie. Happy Pride 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈

#30daysofPride: Day 19- Oscar Wilde

Today’s #30daysofpride feature is another prominent figure when it comes to queer people at the turn end of the 19th century. This is Oscar Wilde. His most notable works include “picture of Dorian grey”, “The importance of being earnest”, and “The happy prince and other tales”. He is also known for being the first openly gay playwright of his

“Around the same time that he was enjoying his greatest literary success, Wilde commenced an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. On February 18, 1895, Douglas’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry, who had gotten wind of the affair, left a calling card at Wilde’s home addressed to “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite,” a misspelling of sodomite. Although Wilde’s homosexuality was something of an open secret, he was so outraged by Queensberry’s note that he sued him for libel. The decision ruined his life. Queensberry and his lawyers presented evidence of Wilde’s homosexuality—homoerotic passages from his literary works, as well as his love letters to Douglas—that quickly resulted in the dismissal of Wilde’s libel case and his arrest on charges of “gross indecency.” Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895 and sentenced to two years in prison.”

From Oscar Wilde Handout

He had a never care attitude about his sexuality and he had much success in life when it came to his writings. He passed away from meningitis in 1900 at age 46. He continues to be a big conversation starter when it came to out queer people in popular culture.

#30DaysofPride: Day 18- the Murder of Matthew Shepard

So, I am pretty young and I am gonna be honest right now. I was only 4 years old when this happened so it happened relatively early in my life and I only recently watched a documentary about it and listened to an episode of Nancy about his murder.

Matt Shepard was 21 years old when he was murdered. He was a freshman at the University of Wyoming.

In the evening hours of Oct. 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who was openly gay, went alone to the Fireside Lounge in Laramie after a meeting of the campus LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) student group and a quick stop at the Village Inn. In less than two hours’ time, he became part of a chain of events that attracted international media and political attention, spotlighted the ongoing public debate over hate crime legislation, and became one of the most prominent cases in Wyoming judicial history.

From the Wyoming State Historical Society Article, The Murder of Matthew Shepard, 2014 (https://www.wyohistory.org/)

While at the Fireside Lounge, he sat at the bar for about an hour and was approached by 2 men his age.

Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, high-school dropouts with roofing jobs. They had purchased a pitcher of beer with small change and eventually engaged Shepard in a conversation. Shortly after midnight, Shepard left the bar with McKinney and Henderson; police and prosecutors would assert that the two men lured Shepard, perhaps under the pretense of themselves being gay, but in fact with the intent of robbing him. In his police confession, McKinney repeatedly described Shepard as “a queer,” “the gay,” and “fag.”

McKinney and Henderson drove Shepard to a remote area in the Sherman Hills development east of Laramie. By McKinney’s own confession, corroborated in most details by Henderson, McKinney told Shepard that the two men were not gay and that he was going to be robbed. McKinney began punching and pistol-whipping Shepard before continuing the assault at a buck-rail fence on Warren Livestock Company land. Investigators and an autopsy would later determine that Shepard was struck 19 to 21 times in the head with the butt of a .357-caliber Magnum Smith & Wesson pistol, the final blow irreparably damaging Shepard’s brain stem.

At McKinney’s direction, Henderson bound Shepard’s wrists with white clothesline from McKinney’s truck and left him tied—unconscious—relieving him of his wallet, identification, and shoes. The two assailants returned to Laramie at approximately 12:30 a.m.

From the Wyoming State Historical Society Article, The Murder of Matthew Shepard, 2014 (https://www.wyohistory.org/)

Matt was left there on that fence for 18 hours. He was noticed by a passing biker, Aaron Kreifels who thought his body was a scarecrow.

Kreifels ran to a nearby residence to call authorities; sheriff’s deputy Reggie Fluty and emergency medical technicians responded. Fluty later reported that Shepard, who was 5 feet 2 inches tall and boyish in appearance, looked at first to be a child and that his face was caked in blood except where tears had left tracks along his cheeks.

From the Wyoming State Historical Society Article, The Murder of Matthew Shepard, 2014 (https://www.wyohistory.org/)

Doctors at Ivinson Medical Center in Laramie, WY concluded that his head injuries were grave and he needed to be transported to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, CO, 65 miles away and was placed in ICU. McKinney and Henderson along with their Girlfriends were arrested. Shepard was in a coma for 4 days. During that time Henderson and McKinney along with their Girlfriends were all placed under arrest.

His parents, Judy and Dennis, were notified of his condition and began an arduous journey to Fort Collins from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where Dennis was employed as a safety specialist by Saudi Aramco among many expatriate staff. During their 36 hours of preparation and travel, the story of the attack spread from local to regional to national media, underscored by the reports from several of Shepard’s friends that he was gay and their fears that he had fallen victim to an anti-gay hate crime.

By the time the Shepards reached Poudre Valley, the case was the subject of national broadcast coverage, a vigil of media and well-wishers had formed in front of the hospital, and President Bill Clinton had sent his best wishes to Matthew’s parents. Matthew Shepard succumbed to his injuries in the early morning hours of October 12, and the charges against McKinney and Henderson were quickly upgraded to felony murder and kidnapping. 

Shepard‘s murder became national news and brought the issue of gay hate crime legislation into the mainstream. His face was on the news for weeks. And months.

His parents Dennis and Judy started the Matthew Shepard Foundation as a way to honor his life.

Because of the tragedy endured by the Shepards, the beginning principle of the Foundation was to teach parents with children who may be questioning their sexuality to love and accept them for who they are, and to not throw them away.

From About Us, Matthew Shepard Foundation

Their mission:

The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, we empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes.

Our work is an extension of Matt’s passion to foster a more caring and just world. We share his story and embody his vigor for civil rights to change the hearts and minds of others to accept everyone as they are.

From About Us, Matthew Shepard Foundation

Ellen Degeneres, who only a year before had come out on Oprah and Diane Sawyer but also became the first person to have a Sitcom character come out at the same time, was so upset by this moment in time and talked about it in her oral history interview from 2001 for Eric Marcus‘s Making Gay History.

Eric:  When Matthew Shepard was killed, do you remember what your reaction was to that news?

Ellen:  Yes.  Well, he was still alive…  I called the hospital when I found out about it and talked to somebody at the hospital.  And they said that his parents were not receiving phone calls.  I was just trying to see if there was anything I could do.  And… we flew out thinking that we would… That he was still going to be alive.  You know. And then… and he died when we were planning the whole thing. 

I think I really thought that that should have been me.  I really thought that I would be killed for what I did.  And that here’s this innocent guy that got killed.  And he didn’t do anything.  You know. He was just gay. He didn’t make a statement.  I was the one who was the threat.  I was the one that was upsetting people.  And I was the one who was…  And I really thought it wasn’t fair.  I mean like that’s a horrible thing to say that…  I don’t mean that you know it wasn’t fair.  I mean I just… You understand what I’m saying?

Eric:  Of course I understand what you’re saying.

Ellen:  It’s like…  I thought, you know, he did not deserve that.  And I mean it’s why I did what I did. So it would stop.  So people would understand.  And stop the hatred, and stop the judgment.  And I was talking to a friend of his they were at a party watching the coming out episode and how Matthew was so happy.  And how…  And it’s just so weird to know that Matthew was watching that show.  

From Making Gay History Season 3, episode 3 Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen gave a speech at the vigil for Matthew where she expressed her outrage.

In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by President Obama. Shepard‘s life was lived to the fullest. He lived in Saudi Arabia, Wyoming, Colorado, And North Carolina. His friends talked about their bond with him in Matthew Shepard was a friend of mine, a documentary created by his friend Michelle Josue.

The murder of Matthew Shepard is important for us to remember as there has been a rise in murders of Trans and more specifically black transgender women right now.

According to Human Rights Campaign there has been 10 Black Trans women murdered this year.

Sadly, 2019 has already seen at least ten transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. As HRC continues to work toward justice and equality for transgender people, we mourn those we have lost:

  • Dana Martin, 31, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Montgomery, Alabama, on January 6. Reports stated that she was found in a roadside ditch in her vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, an Alabama-based trans advocate, said that “she was a person that was loved by many.”

    • Jazzaline Ware, a Black transgender woman, was found dead in her Memphis apartment in March. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, according to The Advocate.  “Our community in Memphis is mourning the death of Jazzaline Ware, a Black trans woman and beloved friend,” said the Transgender Law Center in a press release. Further details are unknown as of May 31, 2019.

    • Ashanti Carmon, 27, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Prince George’s County, Maryland, on March 30. Few details are yet known about the crime, and the investigation is ongoing. “Until I leave this Earth, I’m going to continue on loving her in my heart, body, and soul,” said Philip Williams, Carmon’s fiancé. “She did not deserve to leave this Earth so early, especially in the way that she went out.

    • Claire Legato, 21, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Cleveland on April 15. Local media reports that Legato was shot in the head after an argument broke out between her mother and the suspect. She was taken to a nearby hospital and died from her injuries on May 14. Friends and family took to social media to mourn Legato’s death, remembering her as someone who was “full of life.”

    • Muhlaysia Booker, 23, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Dallas on May 18. Local media reported that Booker was found dead, lying face down with a gunshot wound near a golf course in east Dallas. In April, Booker was viciously attacked in what Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings described as “mob violence.” Officers say that there is no indication as of this point that the April attack is linked to Booker’s killing.

    • Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington, 40, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Philadelphia on May 19. Police responded to reports of shots fired in North Philadelphia’s Franklinville neighborhood, according to the Philadelphia Gay News. Washington, who was also known by the name Tameka, was found with several gunshot wounds and transported to Temple University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She is remembered by friends and loved ones as a beloved sister and “gay mother.”

    • Paris Cameron, 20, a Black transgender woman, was among three people killed in a horrific anti-LGBTQ shooting in a home in Detroit on May 25, according to local reports. Alunte Davis, 21, and Timothy Blancher, 20, two gay men, were found dead at the scene and Cameron was taken to the hospital, where she died from her injuries. Two other victims were also shot but survived. “This case illustrates the mortal danger faced by members of Detroit’s LGBTQ community, including transgender women of color,” Fair Michigan President Alanna Maguire said.

    • Chynal Lindsey, 26, a Black transgender woman, was found dead in White Rock Lake, Dallas, with signs of “homicidal violence” on June 1, according to police. The Dallas Police Department has reached out to federal law enforcement to aid in the investigation. As of June 4, no further details were are available

    • Chanel Scurlock, 23, a Black transgender woman, was found fatally shot in Lumberton, North Carolina, on June 6. Few details are yet public about the crime, but police told a local news outlet they have “great leads” in their investigation. “RIP baby,” wrote a friend on Facebook. “You [lived] your life as you wanted. I’m proud of you for being unapologetically correct about your feelings and expectations of YOU.”

    • Zoe Spears, 23, a Black transgender woman, was found lying in the street with signs of trauma near Eastern Avenue in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, and later pronounced dead on June 13, according to local reports. While officials have not yet released her name, transgender advocate Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, identified Spears as the victim. “She was my daughter — very bright and very full of life,” Corado told HRC. “Casa Ruby was her home. Right now, we just want her and her friends and the people who knew her to know that she’s loved.”

    From Human Rights Campaign Article Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019

    It has been 20 years since Matthew Shepard was murdered and we need to think about our trans and gender nonconforming siblings and how not enough people are angry about these young women’s deaths. Since Shepard’s death, the violence has changed the coin and now Trans people of color are at risk. We need to take care of the community, support everyone and educate ourselves about intersectionality within the community. If you are trans-identifying, and have faced violence or would like to find out more resources for violence, please visit the NYC Anti-Violence Project website at https://avp.org.