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Dis-membering Stonewall

 Dis-membering Stonewall

Cissy detested that her eldest, Nate Turner “Birdie” Anderson, Jr., went outside the community to a white neighborhood to be himself. Nate, Sr., too, worried about his eldest son. When Birdie told his dad he was gay, his father asked him if he understood that he didn’t know how to keep him safe, especially if his son wandered out of his purview. When his voice rose above Dupree’s and the crowd, we were as shocked to silence as we were by Cissy’s bloodcurdling scream. “My son is somewhere there and I need you all to help me find him and bring him home safely to his mother and me.”

Coming out of the subway station at Christopher Street we could hear the commotion. The shoving and pushing by both protestors and police yanked three of us away from the core group; we were left to fend for ourselves.

As the momentum of the crowd pushed my small group to Waverly Place, a block away from the Stonewall, we witnessed two white cops pummeling a Black drag queen. “I should shove this stick up your ass,” said one of the cops as he pulled up her dress with a nightstick in his hand. The taller of the two cops yanked off her wig and laughingly tossed it to the other cop. In spotting us, the cop who caught the wig threw it at us yelling, “You nigger fags get away!” The wig missed and landed about a foot away from us, but the cop’s words hit, striking fear.

On the first night of the Stonewall Inn riots, African Americans and Latinos were the largest percentage of the protes­tors because we heavily frequented the bar. For Black and Latino homeless youth and young adults, who slept in nearby Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn was their stable domicile. The Stonewall Inn being raided was nothing new. In the 1960s gay bars in the Village were routinely raided, but, “Race is said to have been another factor. The decision by the police to raid the bar in the manner they did may have been influenced by the fact that most of the ‘homosexuals’ they would encounter were of color, and therefore even more objectionable.”

The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969 in Greenwich Village started on the backs of working class African American and Latino queers who patronized that bar. Those brown and Black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but have been bleached from its written history. Many LGBTQ Blacks and Latinos argue that one of the reasons for the gulf between whites and themselves is about how the dominant queer community rewrote and continues to control the narrative of Stonewall.

*The names in the story has been changed to protect identites.