The realization of my transness while being a part of your “average” white upper class household has both broadened my world view and drastically changed who I am as a person. Pre coming out 5 years ago, I was “normal”, above average, and another “cis hetero white chick in Uggs” to be proud of. Upon donning men’s clothing and hair cut for my own comfort and self-love, I became “psychologically disturbed”, not successful enough, and the black sheep of the family. Although these words were rarely spoken aloud, I could feel my family’s atmosphere about me change within the micro-aggressions, disappointed looks, and lessening gestures of compassion. I was suddenly “less than” in their minds for being transgender. And through these new feelings being expressed to me by my family and others, suddenly I became “less than” to myself too. Here is where I learned about privilege and what happens when you defy society’s fitted box.
Of course, I’m sure a lot of people’s coming out stories were more successful and ended in acceptance. Many more probably began with them fighting from an early age with their parents about “being different” instead of my choice to hide beneath my parents’ expectations for so long. Either way, part of me is glad I hid. I got to have cis passing privilege for the first 17 years of my life and felt a brisk sting from society when it was taken away. The difference between those who have privilege and those who do not is that those who have it are considered human.
This is why representation is important. This is exactly why what Hollywood did to “Stonewall” is absolutely disgusting.
For those unaware of the historical Stonewall Riots, the event was the beginning of the gay rights movement and near the end of the civil rights movement. In 1969, it was legal to be arrested for being gay and for wearing the clothing of the opposite sex, since at the time the DSM still considered homosexuality a mental illness. There was an obsession with conformity to be heterosexual, cis, and white because society said so. Especially so, since the Cold War placed a fear in America of Communism, and at the time all that was un-conforming was communist. Of course this was wrong. Those affected knew it was wrong. And during a police raid of a popular gay bar in Manhattan known as Stonewall on June 28th, 1969, transwomen of color took action against this injustice.
But, how can this be? The trailer shows the leader as being a cis white gay man! Huh.
If it’s not clear to you by now, I’m very upset by this inaccuracy. I’m upset because people of color are still being harassed and killed by the police. I’m upset because my transgender siblings and I cannot use the bathroom in certain places without being harassed, fined, or arrested and can still legally be killed in some states. I’m enraged that the LGBT community has celebrated about legal marriage and then forgotten about the transgender suicide epidemic and the murders of trans women of color. It is 2015.
It says a lot about privilege, I think, when a movie that should have been dedicated to the successes of the non-white, non-cis, and non-hetero community, the most unprivileged part of the LGBT community, is both cis and white washed. What, is society not ready for “too many” queer and POC individuals? So unbelievably unready that Hollywood was literally willing to change the accuracy of arguably the most important event in queer history to a cis gay man, someone that society is “somewhat okay” with?
It’s heartbreaking to see heroes of the community silenced in their own movie. Those who started the movement, who longed for a better world where they would be seen as human are still not seen as human to this day. It’s like trans women of color have been left behind and forgotten so that the slightly more privileged can have their rights.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s amazing. It’s astounding. It’s fantastic that we now have marriage equality. Being queer is finding its fit among society and sure, it’s taking some time, but everyone knows someone who is gay. Gay people are loved and accepted finally, for the most part. We still have things to work on, but where we are now with this issue considering the past is great. It’s the cusp of what Stonewall stood for.
But that doesn’t make it right or okay to erase an important part of LGBT history and especially an important achievement for transgender women of color for the sake of the rest of society, who are allowed to feel human and comfortable in their own skin, to feel even more comfortable. Representation, especially accurate representation of this moment, would have provided this specific underprivileged group a reason to feel that same comfort. They could have been reminded that what they do and what they say does have purpose and merit in the world. Yet, what they will get instead is society’s version of the stereotypical gay male inaccurately saving the day.
By all means, if you want to view this film. Go ahead. Find it online. Rent it when it comes out. However, I along with many others shall be boycotting this one. It doesn’t deserve recognition for the more harm it will cause than good. No one is learning anything about POC or transgender individuals from this at a time when people really need to. That little itch of discomfort might cause the world to wake up to the fact that cisness and whiteness does not determine success. Here’s to Stonewalling “Stonewall”. Because no one, no matter how privileged or underprivileged deserves to be left behind.