stonewall 2015

Struggle Was More Than One Man

stonewall 2015Suddenly, in my morning fugue I hear a loud knock at the front door.

Several more loud knocks jolt me from my half-sleep to half-coffee-awake morning ritual in front of the desktop in the “Goose office.” This is 10 a.m., which makes no sense on a weekday morning with a working bell door.

I drag myself to the front door to be greeted by a policeman, with three police cars parked out front. Wow.

Goose, ever friendly, extended his hand to the office and asked, “How may I help you?” Okay, probably not the best idea to extend that hand, since the officer pulled away.

He announces, “There had been a report of a domestic argument at this address with breaking glass.”

I chuckled, after all, my front storm door is peppered with GLSEN, PFLAG, rainbow and equality stickers – and for an extra dose of queerness, a “Have A Gay Day” sticker. Goose quickly announced I was gay, vaguely flapping a wing in the direction of the storm door, and offering I “had no husband to get domestic with.”

The officer made a small, almost detectable grimace, but maintained his composure, and asked “to check inside.” I knew I should not have “technically” let him in – but I had nothing to hide, the house was clean. When was the last time a man was in my house? He came and went quickly, never got more than two feet inside the door and left. I waved goodbye to the other police waiting for him. It was over.

I’m sure it was a wrong address.

But, the incident got me to thinking – imagine if this same incident played out in 1969, the very year of the Stonewall riots? Isn’t there a movie out now called “Stonewall?”

This movie’s title immediately made me think “oh, another historic retelling of the facts of Stonewall.” Evoke the name Stonewall, and you’ve touched the third rail of queer sensibilities. Maybe I should have paid more attention, but all the reviewers seemed to loathe it. When dealing with reviewers, let alone the experts in our own communities, I have learned to be pretty suspicious of opinions until I take a look-see. Besides, taking a historic event and trying any retelling, while people and history are still easily able to be confirmed, is usually begging for trouble.

Trouble there was. Once I started watching it, I got it was not much of an attempt to be true to the past, but rather a tale told through a fictionalized Midwestern piece of boy trade who finds himself on Christopher Street after a Midwest blow job goes horribly wrong.

Now, I was never as pretty as this child. I am much too old to play that role today. Yet, let the record show my park blow job of a boy in high school also went horrible wrong and yes, everyone knew.

This was 1966, three years before Stonewall, and one year before I graduated high school. Like the character in the movie, I didn’t know anyone “really gay.” The difference, of course, is I didn’t have an agent nor did I know about the scene in large cities in 1966.

Like most modern retellings, lead characters now have to be sanitized and made pretty for a short-attention-span audience, to sell tickets. Maybe it is the same formula “leadership groups” now employ?

The movie did remind me of an HRC Cincinnati gay dinner incident five years ago where they gave diversity leadership credit to a person at P&G. This person, while having a role in diversity at that moment, was not even alive or very young when straight allies and Goose struggled with P&G to include “gay & lesbian” in the EEO policy before finally succeeding in 1992.

Just like the critics of this movie, many have and continue to criticize HRC for distortions in retelling history. The Goose sat in the audience and watched as my efforts and those of straight allies were ignored while one person was asked to stand in place and be credited. Any retelling, while people and history are still easily able to be confirmed, is usually begging for trouble.

Trouble HRC got, and trouble richly deserved, just like the makers of the movie. The use off the “one perfect individual” to retell the story of gay oppression in the movie was as foolish as HRC picking one perfect person to them, not even marginally involved in the original work EEO, as the standard bearer of workplace quality.

I’m glad I had the experience with HRC Cincinnati. It presented me an opportunity to not just to retell my own story and to reclaim those who took a risk at P&G long before gayla dinner parties. Just as I felt a rightful rage at HRC Cincinnati, so too should we all demand accurate retelling of our communities’ histories.

I’m glad I saw the movie, because that “rage” supplied the fuel for this piece.

Those 1969 Stonewall drag queens, trans folks, people of color and the leather queers were the ones who made my recent brush with the police minor, not those who continue to distort our story with false icons as easy currency for those too lazy to study our history.

Never forget the struggle; never lose the rage; never forget the ones who brought us; never assume the battle is won for human equality.

Never, ever, let someone else tell your story, even if the title includes “Stonewall” or a dinner ticket.

Article republished with permission from The Gay Word and may not be republished.

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