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A Reflection on Stonewall50, The Whitewashing of a Revolution

As Malcom X stated in 1962 and I modified in 2019:

 

“The most disrespected person in America is the black womxn. The most unprotected person in America is the black womxn. The most neglected person in American is the black womxn.”

 

Womxn because black and brown folks of trans experience have historically been muted, ostracized and exploited. The interlocking systems of oppression that impact access to resources, showcase that the experiences of black and brown womxn are different than white folks and cis women. Looking at how race intersects with gender expression and sexual orientation, we begin to see the manifestation of sexual violence, physical violence, and racial violence that disproportionately impacts black and brown womxn. Within the LGBT movement for gay liberation there has been a hyper-focus on cis gay white men leaving the rest of the community as after thoughts. Stonewall had a major impact on focusing on the collective gay liberation of all folks in the LGBT community, but particularly womxn of color who sat at the intersection of poverty, racism, and transphobia led by womxn of color. The Stonewall riots were a powerful display of a “not today bitch,” moment after experiencing countless harassment by police officers and people in general. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were two womxn of color at the forefront of the revolution. Fighting back looked like, and continues to look like, incarceration, murder, exploitation and harassment that these two womxn faced on a daily basis. Due to the fact that there was no space that truly represented the complexity of their identities and stories, they worked together to create Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or STAR house, which would be the first LGBT womxn of color led organization in the US. They would go on to inspire so many people, while still getting disrespected and silenced within their own community. Though people did not want to hear them speak they spoke anyway. The Stonewall riots and STAR were taking place in the 60s and early 70s where a large number of movements were taking place to advocate for the rights and humanization of marginalized identities, and because of their identities they were often pushed aside and their labor erased because people were not in a place to move pass their transphobia and racism.

50 years later we have seen the commodification of the Stonewall riots to perpetuate capitalism in a way that only allows for the rich to get richer.

When we think of it being 50 years since Stonewall, we forget that it was a riot. It was a declaration stating that as black and brown womxn we are not going to sit here idly and take your shit. Instead, 50 years later we have seen the commodification of the Stonewall riots to perpetuate capitalism in a way that only allows for the rich to get richer. New York is having this massive pride parade that is inherently white and has an influx of funders who have thrown a colorful flag on their clothing, their business cards, products or their building as an acknowledgment or some form of reparations for the problematic and dehumanization of black and brown womxn the months before and that follow June, hell even in June. This “pride month” alone, we have lost 5 beautiful souls Johana Medina Leon, Chynal Lindsey, Chanel Scurlock, Layleen Polanco, and Zoe Spears. There have also been a total of 10 black trans women killed this year. The people at the forefront of bringing these stories to light are folks like Janet Mock, Indya Moore, and Hope Giselle  —black and brown womxn still on the front lines in the face of trauma. Today, we continue to see white folks steal the work and narrative that womxn of color have invested their livelihood in only to make a profit.

Pride is not only about celebrating who you are but also asking yourself who is missing.

 

Why are they missing, and how can we elevate society as a whole to not have these sort of gaps. No matter how many colorful flags we have, no matter if they throw a black and brown stripe on the flag it does not impact the systemic ways in which black and brown womxn are disenfranchised, murdered, and exploited. If we are not using pride as a way to address the issues within the community, then what are we doing? We have to take off our blinders and reflect on the fact that folks in our community do not all have the same privileges.

 

What is so special about 50 years if we still treat black and brown womxn as disposable? It is great they have finally decided to put up a statue for Marsha and Sylvia, but why now? They should have been honored years ago for their work and their influence in the LGBTQ+ community. A statue is great, but in what ways are they creating sustainable solutions that elevate trans womxn of color? What ways as a community are we working together to stop black and brown womxn from only being seen when it is convenient and commodified? We should not become complacent in what we have done because when we make a change in the right direction there are folks working just as hard to create laws and policies that are inherently racist, homophobic and transphobic. Use this time to be the riot and fuck shit up while centering black and brown womxn.

Cover photo: Washington Post

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