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Marsha P. Johnson (L) and Sylvia Rivera (R)

The German blockbuster-directer Roland Emmerich has just released a trailer for his new movie Stonewall, and it’s been already discussed controversially, particularly about its lack of authenticity. Just to quickly recap: The Stonewall Riots were a series of protests in 1969 against the police by the LGBT community in New York after a police raid in Greenwhich’s Stonewall Inn sparked a violent backlash. Stonewall is now referred to as the most significant event in the history of LGBT liberation. People critcize the movie as another example of whitewashing. Even though the film is billed as a “true story”, it appears to be told from the point of view of a corn-fed, white, cisgender boy called Danny who is kicked out of his house because of his homosexuality and retaliates by hitting the big city. In reality, Stonewall was started by black trans drag queen Marsha P. Johnson. While Marsha P. Johnson has been given a role in the Hollywood narrative, she is played by a cisgender male. She is only listed two places higher in the credits on than “Woman with Poodle”, played by Nathaly Thibault. Fortunately people reacted promptly. Two days after the trailer’s release, a petition to boycott the movie popped up; by now it has been signed by over 23,000 people. Boycotters claimed that the film had “white-washed” and “cis-washed” history, erasing the significant contribution made by trans and queer women of colour and drag queens in the Stonewall uprising. The petition was created by Pat Cordova-Goff, a trans activist feminine person of colour. She wrote on the page:

“OUR HISTORY WILL NOT BE WHITE/CIS-WASHED. History classes throughout our nation have built a reputation of instructing young generations that white, straight, cis folks are the saviors and founders of this land. Wrong. We were taught that light-skinned people are the goal; the goal to assimilate to. Wrong. We were also rarely taught about queer history, but when we were, it probably revolved around white cis gay men. Wrong.”

Emmerich responded to the controversy stating, “I think we represented it very well[...] We have drag queens, lesbians, we have everything in the film because we wanted to portray a broader image of what ‘gay’ means.” His responds fail even more spectacularly when saying in a Facebook comment “We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.”

No. We are not all equal in our struggle. People like Emmerich – cisgender, white people – are born into a world that gives them unqualified power. If you, Emmerich, cannot recognise that, you definitely should not be doing a movie about the most significant moments for transgender people of colour.

One Comment

  1. C.Michol wrote:


    Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 18:45 | Permalink