Who was at the Stonewall riots in 1969?

Who was at the Stonewall riots in 1969? And have “white gay men” stolen the history of Stonewall from trans people and people of color?

For those unaware of what Stonewall is, here is Wikipedia’s succinct description:

“The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. [The police routinely raided gay bars at the time.] They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.”

A vigil held outside the Stonewall Inn in NYC to honor the victims of the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida.

A vigil held outside the Stonewall Inn in NYC to honor the victims of the shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida.

President Obama just this week designated the Stonewall Inn a “national monument.” It’s the first national monument devoted to LGBT history.

I was at a Pride event last year here in NYC, and a few people were angrily demanding that the history of Stonewall be “taken back” from “gay white men” who “stole” it from trans people and people of color. It’s a claim that’s been made before.

Fast forward to today.

Two longtime LGBT leaders/activists, who were at the Stonewall uprisings, one transgender and one lesbian, have just weighed in publicly. Here’s what they witnessed that night.

Trans leader Dana Beyer writes:

“I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night, too, and the streets were overwhelmingly filled with white men (which included the way I was perceived back then, too).”

Lesbian activist Robin Tyler:

“I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night. The majority of protesters were white gay men. And a lot of people were very upset about the death of Judy Garland and their grief turned into anger. We talked about it.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that trans people and people of color (or women for that matter) weren’t there too, fighting for all of our rights. As Dana notes, they were — including trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. But it does mean that gay white men didn’t steal, or “whitewash,” the history of Stonewall from anyone. Gay white men were there in overwhelming numbers.

We don’t need to rewrite our history in order to honor it. There’s enough suffering for everyone.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis — Win a pony! (not really)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Bill_Perdue

    Censorship only helps the right, i.e., Democrats and Republicans.

  • Bill_Perdue

    My resposes reflect the left, democrats responses reflcet the center right. Some people get their comments deleted and some become the target of Dixiecrat attack dogs. It must be Democrat time.

  • Poor white man – your world is ending… :(

  • You too are a racist, I see.

  • dcinsider

    NO ONE is making it “all about them.” No ONE has said that. NO ONE has argued. NO ONE.

    You live in some weird world of absolutes where you are incapable of seeing that facts can co-exist. The MAJORITY of protesters were gay white males. FACT. Along with the majority were a minority of protesters who were lesbians, people of color, and others. FACT.

    See how nicely two facts can co-exist?

    BY stating this FACT we are not downplaying the participation of minority groups, nor are we over-playing the role of gay white men.

    And for a bit more history, gay white men funded the gay civil rights movement. Chew on that one.

  • dcinsider

    And if they say that they would be stating something that is factually inaccurate.

    You cannot simply repeat an inaccurate statement in the hopes that it might become accurate at some point.

  • dcinsider

    Thanks I was going to point out to Mr. No Facts that facts do actually exist.

  • No one said white men are stealing anything – they simply were not THE biggest part of Stonewall, just another part of it.

  • 虚心学习!!

  • Moderator3

    Bill will never know just how much we have helped him.

  • TampaZeke

    Yes, there ARE people who know. They’re called EYE WITNESSES. There are Stonewall eye witnesses who are still alive and telling their stories and they don’t match the meme that “white gay men are stealing Stonewall”.

  • TampaZeke

    He’s running out of blogs to troll.

  • Bill_Perdue, you are in time out for a week.
    Take the time off to consider your responses in this blog. If you do not like the way it is run, you can look for another blog, or start your own.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Some people get their comments deleted and some become the target of Dixiecrat attack dogs. It must be Democrat time.

  • Phil in FLL

    A general comment for this thread. “Hispanic” is a linguistic and cultural term, not a racial term. Some Puerto Ricans identify as because they are, e.g., Ricky Martin. Other Puerto Ricans identify as people of color because they are either nonwhite or mixed-race. Ray Castro (pictured in one of my comments below) was present on the first night of the Stonewall uprising, and the U.S. government would most likely consider him a white Hispanic, as would be the case with Marco Rubio (Cuban) and Ricky Martin (Puerto Rican). I’m simply asking fellow commenters not to bend the facts to support some kind of point that they are trying to make.

  • Phil in FLL

    From your reply:

    “Nobody feels bad for white men in this country, and that includes gay white men.”

    Your assessment is premature. John Aravosis and any friend of his could drive south from Washington, D.C. into Virginia and stop at the local Denny’s in some town. The hostess (on instructions from the owner) has every legal right to say:

    I’m sorry, sir, but the owner recognizes you. We’re really not comfortable serving you and your friend at this Denny’s, and we’ll have to ask you to take your business elsewhere.

    There are lots of smaller towns in the U.S. where everybody knows everybody, and the situation that I described above is probably fairly common. Tell you what, heimaey. When that type of situation is no longer legal, you can get back to us. Until then, you need to keep your mouth shut about how you think that “Nobody feels bad for… gay white men.” Even after full civil rights are guaranteed nationwide, I have two observations about your statement about nobody feeling bad for gay white men:

    (1) It’s presumptuous. Who do you think you are? “Nobody” you say? Do you think you speak for everybody?

    (2) It’s a really asswipe thing to say on general principle.

  • I don’t think anyone knows what the majority race was or was not because there are conflicting accounts of who was there and who wasn’t . What we do know is that minorities did play a big part. Not only that but the gays that many middle class white gay men would scorn for years and still do, that is the drag queens, femmes, etc., who were ostricized by their own community even after the riots and the gay rights movement moved forward were essential to Stonewall. And while Stonewall was important, and a major turning point, it was not the only protest of that decade or in the country at the time.

    My friend worked on making Julius’ bar a historic landmark. The sip-in protest there was largely gay white men. In one of the interviews about the sip-in one of the men stated that there was a large contingent of white men who could not be bothered to be involved – that kind of stuff was for the femmy guys. There was a big class divide and a big butch/femme or passably straight/obviously gay divide back then that continues to a certain degree today. What made Stonewall so unique and so powerful was the fact that it was the draq queens, the puerto rican gays, etc who were so involved and so fine, yes white men were there but to make it all about them is not only simply wrong but ethically questionable.

  • dcinsider

    I urge you to read the facts and you will recognize that John’s take is accurate. Wanting to make sure history is accurate — and not distorted to pursue a particular agenda — is actually a noble effort.

    The majority of protesters at Stonewall were white gay men. That is an undisputed fact. It is also undisputed that many other minorities were well represented those nights. These are facts, and they are not up for debate.

    Everyone always wants to be part of history, and they are willing to distort facts to support their own fantasies, but Stonewall really happened, and it was primarily white gay men. That fact does not comport with the current fad among some people to denigrate the role of gay men, or to demonize them as unworthy of recognition, or to lump all white gay men in some sort of category that fulfills an agenda.

    Shame on those who seek to do that.

  • I don’t think anyone is re-writing history, it’s just that minorities tend to get downplayed in a lot of these events which is one reason why Roland Emmerich’s movie flopped. So where white men there? Yes, of course. But everyone knows that minorities were also involved, arguably more so by some accounts, so why do white men feel the need to protect themselves in situations like this? This article was not only ill-timed but read like another white man who’s lost his way and and is very sour grapes about whiteness diminishing in the US. So with that in mind it also borderlines on racist if you ask me. Nobody feels bad for white men in this country, and that includes gay white men. So even feeling the need to write something about this just shows how out of touch this blog has become on certain topics.

  • Kotleta

    Blyaaaadi, country of pidoras.

  • ComradeRutherford

    “We don’t need to rewrite our history in order to honor it. There’s enough suffering for everyone.”

    John, that is brilliant. Perfectly said.

  • dcinsider

    Thanks for the additional information. Facts are actually more important than fiction, something those of us paying attention to the current election may wish to keep in mind. Facts are, as they say, stubborn things.

    I’m glad John wrote this if for no other reason than to clarify what should not need an ounce of clarification. Misinformation and wishful thinking have led some in this community to desire to change the facts of our history to comport with a current agenda. This is shameful.

  • dcinsider

    Bravo! Thanks for stating this unequivocally.

  • Sueanndtorres2
  • Bill_Perdue

    With so many comments being deleted the Dixiecrats are having a field day.

  • Ed

    The gay bars were run by the mafia. The police raided them when they didn’t get their cut.

    It’s a worthy fight against police corruption. Naturally, the narcissistic gay community thinks it’s all about them.

    The most pathetic national monument ever created.

  • hiker_sf

    An additional comment: Funny, while we quibble about the demographics of that night, we seem to be missing the elephant in the room: We are celebrating our rights that were somewhat derived from a violent event. The same thing happened with the “White night riots” in San Francisco.

    Think about that the next time you all are verklempt over vandalism, violence etc, when people block a freeway, chain themselves to fences or doors or get carried away when protesting injustices.

    This country was born in violence. Sadly, it is our process when justice fails. It is a last resort that is often effective. The Boston Tea Party wasn’t afternoon tea. It was vandalism and violent, and we are all taught that it was a pivotal moment in our country’s history.

    As for our ‘straight-acting’ gay brothers, Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt said this: “The people who passed for straight hid and didn’t want to be active at the beginning. The straighter-acting people ran away.”

    To summarize: It was out, activist types that started the riots, not comfortable closeted, mostly white gay men. There were many ‘drag queens of color’ who seem to be the first arrested, possibly because they were the most defiant, defiance which ignited the revolt. Straight-acting gay men ran away, being the wusses they are. And this violent event launched the modern LGBT-rights movement, not because it was ‘better’ than previous actions, but because it got so much press, by design.

  • Phil in FLL

    So, webster, it appears that you’re showing us how to summarize. Here is the paragraph from John’s post:

    Now, this doesn’t mean that trans people and people of color (or women for that matter) weren’t there too, fighting for all of our rights. As Dana notes, they were — including trans activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. But it does mean that gay white men didn’t steal, or “whitewash,” the history of Stonewall from anyone. Gay white men were there in overwhelming numbers.

    And here is your summary of John’s post:

    Hey guys I just wrote a pice about how stonewall riots was all white gay men like me.

    You clearly don’t feel that your summary skills and capacity for critical thinking are nonexistent, but they are.

  • Phil in FLL

    Photo of Ray Castro.

  • Phil in FLL

    The photo of the white lesbian who was brutalized by police in front of the crowd.

  • Phil in FLL

    The first picture is of the first hand-to-hand violence between those in the crowd and the police. Jack Daniel Whitehall is the blond man on the left side of the photo.

    The second photo of Jack is at an antiwar rally in Bryant Park in 1970.

    The third photo of Jack is from the Gay Liberation March in November 1969.

  • Phil in FLL

    Picture of Marsha Johnson

  • Phil in FLL

    4. Ray Castro

    Ray Castro, a Puerto Rican gay man, was grabbed by police near the door of the bar and immediately engaged in a fist fight on the ground with two of the officers, who dragged him off to the paddy wagon. These actions also enraged the crowds.

  • Phil in FLL

    3. A white lesbian who was never identified

    A white lesbian who had been arrested and was being led to the paddy wagon struggled and tried to fight back and was brutalized by the police in retaliation. She was the victim of police brutality in front of the entire crowd, which further enraged the crowd.

  • Phil in FLL

    2. Jack Daniel Whitehall

    According to eyewitnesses, the actions of Jack Daniel Whitehall were critical. He through a large projectile, which most report as being a metal trash container, through the front window of the bar, which also broke the wooden boards that the police inside had propped up against the window. This allowed others in the crowd to light small objects on fire and throw them through the breached front window. Witnesses report that after Jack threw the metal trash can through the front window, the riot began in earnest.

  • Phil in FLL

    Seymour Pine, who was the police inspector in charge of the raid on the Stonewall Inn, stated that there were no black transgender women or black transvestites in the bar at the time of the raid. Many witnesses in the crowds outside the bar (which was now barricaded with police inside) reported that Marsha Johnson was among the first in the crowds outside protesting the raid. Some conclusions are obvious. It was not Marsha’s birthday, nor her birthday party—Marsha was born in August, not June. The story about Marsha throwing the shot glass against the mirror and shouting “I got my rights!” is fabricated. It’s counterproductive to fabricate stories when the truth is just as compelling. Marsha was among the first to throw projectiles at the police… first pennies (because the police were “coppers”), then stones, then bottles. Long after the riot began in full earnest, the crowd circled around onto 6th Avenue and found a construction site with piles of brick pavers.

  • Karen Medina
  • hiker_sf

    I copied this comment from another blog, in response to a post that wasn’t about the Stonewall riots. But I think it is applicable to John’s post.

    “As an Elder-in-Training, I have learned that when a group of people who have clearly had a long history of being targeted for violent oppression and discrimination speak up – the chance to check my privilege always looms near. It can be an opportunity for me to listen and gain perspective from someone whose truths appear to be different than mine or it could be an occasion for me to transfer my own pained feelings by deriding the oppressed. I find that each time that I exercise the former – my resistance to evolve lessens and my innate human ability to be a wisely compassionate individual expands. In this instance, the community has asked that a community security detail be the preference over a police security detail. I encourage us to stand with the members of historically oppressed communities and I offer my sincere respect for their courage to speak out and risk being maligned and punished for doing so.”

  • Phil in FLL

    I’m adding more comments underneath my first. The demographics of the neighborhood aren’t necessarily the same as those of the bar’s clientele, but they are the same as the demographics of the crowds of hundreds, and then thousands that formed outside the bar and sparked the Stonewall uprising. Please be patient with me, and I’ll add more.

  • hiker_sf

    Kind of a needlessly divisive post that is ill-timed today, a day that should be about unity.

  • hiker_sf

    Demographics of a neighborhood don’t equate to the demographics of a bar’s clientele.

  • Phil in FLL

    Fortunately, David Carter spent over a decade conducting hundreds of interviews and researching a vast amount of historical data in the form of contemporary accounts—both media accounts and personal accounts, public files, previously sealed files and photographic evidence. Carter’s history of the Stonewall uprising, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, is the definitive academic work on the topic. It is well worth reading.

    Obviously, the demographic makeup of the crowds during the Stonewall uprising reflected the demographic makeup of Greenwich Village’s LGBT community in 1969. Gay non-Hispanic white men accounted for over half, which is the dictionary definition of the word “majority,” and blacks, nonwhite Hispanics, white Hispanics and lesbians of all racial backgrounds made up the remainder. The bone of contention is who was the first to resist the police in a violent way, and historical records identify four such figures: Marsha Johnson (a black transgender woman), Jack Daniel Whitehall (white gay man), Ray Castro (Puerto Rican gay man) and a white lesbian whose name is lost to history. Now for the historical data.

  • Bill_Perdue

    This was removed and censored becasue I advocated LGBT unity.

    In the US, as well as the rest of the capitalist world, right wing parties and cults rule by utilizing the strategy of divide and rule. They’re very good at it.
    In 2007 Quisling Barney Frank viciously and deliberately excluded transpeople from ENDA and accused them of being spoilers becasue they wanted the same rights as other Americans. For most of Obama’s first term he pandered to the christer right by opposing our right to marriage. Then, after the GayTM slammed shut in his face and he was the subject of bitter criticism at the National Equality March in October 2009, he put the christers on the back burner and just before the 2012 election rebranded, discovered marriage equality and begged us for votes and money. (BTW, whatever happened to the violent bigot Leah Daughtry, Obama’s pick for the chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee. She seems to have been purged.)
    The Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual and Transgendered communities are different, have some different goals but the truth is that the LGBT communities and movements are integrally connected and have overwhelming interests in common.

    We are our own best allies, not corporations and especially not politicians

  • Bill_Perdue

    This was removed and censored becasue I advocated LGBT unity.

    In the US, as well as the rest of the capitalist world, right wing parties and cults rule by utilizing the strategy of divide and rule. They’re very good at it.
    In 2007 Quisling Barney Frank viciously and deliberately excluded transpeople from ENDA and accused them of being spoilers becasue they wanted the same rights as other Americans. For most of Obama’s first term he pandered to the christer right by opposing our right to marriage. Then, after the GayTM slammed shut in his face and he was the subject of bitter criticism at the National Equality March in October 2009, he put the christers on the back burner and just before the 2012 election rebranded, discovered marriage equality and begged us for votes and money. (BTW, whatever happened to the violent bigot Leah Daughtry, Obama’s pick for the chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee. She seems to have been purged.)
    The Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual and Transgendered communities are different, have some different goals but the truth is that the LGBT communities and movements are integrally connected and have overwhelming interests in common.
    We are our own best allies, not corporations and especially not politicians

    http://americablog.com/2016/06/stonewall-riots-1969.html

  • Webster

    And thank God, there weren’t any of those damn snowflake millennials there either!

  • ECarpenter

    The people fighting against the police that weekend fought together – no one tried to claim it as a white, black, puerto rican, drag queen or jock event, no one was told to go home because they weren’t the “right” kind of gay person. They fought together, against a common enemy.

    And when we heard about it on the West Coast, no one was ‘whitewashed’ out of the picture. Part of the impact of the story was that it was different groups of gay people fighting together. And from our own West Coast experience it was not surprising to hear that some of the first people to start fighting were drag queens of color, since we knew drag queens of various descriptions who were ridiculously brave in the face of formidable adversaries.

    It also wasn’t surprising that gay people of all descriptions quickly joined in – it took place in a tumultuous time, where fighting against injustice had been gathering momentum for years, riots were much more common and lots of us were fed up with gay bashing from all of the institutions around us.

    Claiming the event for one racial or sexual or subcultural category over another misses the entire point of Stonewall.

  • Jimmy R

    I was there. I’m a gay white man from Kentucky. I had just come out. First trip to NYC on break from school, went with two friends, another white gay man and a white straight woman. We just happened to be there, our second night in the city, when the raid occurred. The response was immediate and angry. The crowd consisted of all kinds of folks, all genders, all colors. I do recall a preponderance of what I then called drag queens of color being herded into the back of a paddy wagon, but that may be because they raised such a ruckus. I really don’t think the riot had much to do with garland’s death, but perhaps. I think people wee tired of the raids, the abuse, getting fucked with, and finally fought back. I went back every night until there were no more people showing up. It was a magnificent moment for the entire LGBT community, a defining moment, and we should all be proud. I’m thrilled that I got to be there.

  • Bill_Perdue

    In the US, as well as the rest of the capitalist world, right wing parties and cults rule by utilizing the strategy of divide and rule. They’re very good at it.

    In 2007 Quisling Barney Frank viciously and deliberately excluded transpeople from ENDA and accused them of being spoilers becasue they wanted the same rights as other Americans. For most of Obama’s first term he pandered to the christer right by opposing our right to marriage. Then, after the GayTM slammed shut in his face and he was the subject of bitter criticism at the National Equality March in October 2009, he put the christers on the back burner and just before the 2012 election rebranded, discovered marriage equality and begged us for votes and money. (BTW, whatever happened to the violent bigot Leah Daughtry, Obama’s pick for the chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee. She seems to have been purged.)

    The Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual and Transgendered communities are different, have some different goals but the truth is that the LGBT communities and movements are integrally connected and have overwhelming interests in common.

    We are our own best allies, not politicians and not corporations.

  • Webster

    And thank God, there weren’t any of those damn snowflake millennials there either!

  • Oh boy.

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