Stonewall 2.0

I read this today in the New York Times. It’s a few days old now, I think. Here’s the gist of it: Some people are calling the outrage and protests over the passage of Proposition 8 “Stonewall 2.0.” It’s partly a take on Web 2.0, this new user-created content move on the world wide web. But it’s also a hearkening back to the Stonewall Riots of 1969. And I have problems with this second part of all this. Here’s part of the article: “Many grass-roots leaders say the emergence of new faces, and acceptance of tactics that are more confrontational, amount to an implicit rejection of the measured approach of established gay rights groups, a course that, some gay men and lesbians maintain, allowed passage of the ban, Proposition 8.”

The problem I have with this naming of the Proposition 8 protest is with the differing goals of the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the protests against the passing of Proposition 8. I don’t have mixed feelings about this – it pisses me off that now someone is going to go back and rename the original riots “Stonewall 1.0.” I have these images of beta versions of software that aren’t fully tested… and it slightly sickens me. It bugs me, too, that people have this idea that the energy surrounding the Stonewall Riots (and the Compton’s Cafeteria riots that happened even earlier in the 1960s) can be somehow re-created. There are very BIG and REAL differences in the social climate for LGBT people now, and the people leading these Proposition 8 protests are not similar to those who led the Stonewall Riots.

While it was not about Judy Garland’s death according to most scholars, the rest of this video shows a few important reasons why Stonewall 2.0 is not the right name for this backlash against the banning of gay marriage. First, and very important, the social climate of the 1960s was so much more hostile to LGBT people – the gay bars were primarily owned by mafia families (organized crime) and the police were corrupt. The raids on bars happened all the time – gay men and trannies were beaten, arrested, raped in jail, and then released with no method of recourse. The social climate now is at least slightly different. Most LGBT people can walk down the street and go to a bar without expecting that sort of treatment. I am not denying that this sort of thing happens, simply that we no longer expect that kind of treatment the way gays, lesbians, and trans people did at that time.

Second, the people who fought in the Stonewall Riots were fighting for their right to exist. They were not fighting for the right to be normal. The fight for gay marriage is a fight to be considered normal by mainstream America. Those who started the Stonewall riots were fighting for the right to be themselves – just the way they were – without interference from the government. People protesting proposition 8’s passage are fighting for the right to be a part of normal society – to be accepted on the terms of the straight majority. I want absolutely no part of it most of the time.

Third, and even more important, the people fighting at stonewall were not “normal” gays and lesbians. They weren’t the kinds of people who are in long-term relationships or the kinds of people who wear ties or skirts. The Stonewall Inn was a hang out for drag queens, transvestites, and leather dykes. Mythology surrounding the beginning of the riots mostly converges upon the idea that a dyke in a leather jacket resisted arrest, then some transvestites threw rocks, and then upended parking meters and used them in the fight. A policeman’s patrol car was filled with stinking, rotting garbage. These people had no interest in marriage – they were interested in having a bleeping drink in bleeping peace. Hear! Hear! Their methods were also nothing like the methods of the proposition 8 protesters. Some violence has occurred, but the fight is for the right to be considered normal, so the methods have to necessarily fit that. This is a sad state of affairs.

So, agree with me if you want. Hate me if you want. It really doesn’t matter. But, if you dare call this thing Stonewall 2.0 when I’m around, you’ll certainly hear an earful – and receive a nice long list of suggested reading.


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