New 'Stonewall' Trailer Whitewashes LGBT History

There was a glimmer of hope when the first trailer for Roland Emmerich’s new film Stonewall was released. That is, until you actually watch it. The director behind disaster films like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow went a little smaller scale with his retelling of the riots that became a pivotal moment in LGBT history. However, much like its 1995 predecessor of the same name that camp-ified the riots (Judy Garland’s death day is a major plot point, which should tell you something), the film seems much more interested in a heart warming story than the actual history behind the event. Instead of highlighting a movement that was pioneered by trans women of color, the film whitewashes the story with the first brick being thrown by Danny Winters, a white boy from Kansas.

For context, it is widely accepted that Marsha P. Johnson, a trans drag queen and heavily involved activist for the gay rights movement, threw the first brick that started the riots to begin with. Johnson, with Sylvia Rivera, founded STAR, a transgender rights group that gave shelter to homeless, queer youth in 1970. She was well known in the community, even posing for Andy Warhol in her now famous portraits.

So then why does such a influential member of LGBT history need to be replaced by some fictionalized white boy? While the film does credit Marsha as being in it, she is six credits below ‘Woman with poodle’ on the IMDB page.

LGBT history and issues are far too often whitewashed as it is. Their representation in media is disproportionately white, cis men. Even the ‘gay rights issues’ we focus on have a tendency to pander to the more privileged aspects of the community. Not to say that issues like marriage are not important, but when you consider that 40% of homeless youth are a part of the LBGT community and only 10% of the general youth population identify as LGBT, there are much more glaring problems facing these kids.

Luckily, we’re not the only ones to agree as there is already an online petition boycotting the new film with over 10,000 signatures. In the meantime, why not check out Pay It No Mind, a free documentary on Youtube detailing the life of Marsha P. Johnson. Or, look out for Happy Birthday, Marsha!, another retelling of Johnson’s life starring an actual trans actress, Mya Taylor.

Photo via Flickr, Polaroid of Marsha by Andy Warhol

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