Stonewall Movie: whitewashed, ciswashed and men-centered

September 23, 2015
Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

Photo credit: Roadside Attractions

This guest article is part of our #SetStonewallStraight campaign—an initiative to increase public awareness of the significant voices that shaped this pivotal moment in LGBTQ history. Learn more ?


by Hayfa Abichahine and David Le
Our City of Colours Board Members

There has been controversy surrounding the upcoming release of the film Stonewall, a fictional interpretation of the events leading up to the historic Stonewall Riots of 1969. At the centre of the controversy is the fictional protagonist of the film, Danny – a young, white, cisgender man.

Many have argued that the film is a whitewashed, ciswashed, and men-centred account of the events leading up to the Stonewall Riots, because the protagonist as well as the trailer features many white cisgender men. These charges levelled against the film emerge from several accounts, including from veterans of that night, that indicated that people of colour – particularly queer, cis, and trans women of colour – were central to the events leading up to the Stonewall Riots, not white cisgender men.

As board members at Our City of Colours, we feel that the Stonewall film will likely be a missed opportunity when it comes to showing how pivotal people of colour, particularly queer, cis and trans women of colour, were in these historic events and the LGBT movement more broadly.

Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Storme DeLarverie were among the amazing queer, cis and trans women of colour who were central to the riots that night. Johnson threw the first shot glass during the riots. DeLarverie threw the first punch.

Recently, Miss Major–a Black trans woman and living veteran of the Stonewall Riots–highlighted the erasure of queer, cis and trans women colour in an interview about the film. She commented that

“they [white cisgender men] were not the ones getting slugged or having stones thrown at them. It’s just aggravating. And hurtful! For all the girls who are no longer here who can’t say anything, this movie just acts like they didn’t exist.”

Johnson and Rivera founded Street Transgender (then called Transvestite) Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that advocated for trans rights, and were central to the addition of the T in LGBT. Miss Major has been a trans activist for the last 40 years. DeLarverie became the “self-appointed guardian of the lesbians in the Village.”

Our hope is that the controversy surrounding the Stonewall film will move us all to revisit queer hirstory/herstory/history and to honour the amazing trans women of colour whose legacies are lived and felt by us everyday.

We would also like to share two documentaries about some of these amazing women that are in need of financial support:

Also, for more information regarding the controversy around the Stonewall film, please see Kat Blaque’s videos:

Written by David Le and Hayfa Abichahine, Board Members of Our City of Colours.

Share this: