A very well-meaning friend of mine recently messaged me and asked me how excited I was for the Stonewall movie. She was very confused when I replied with “not at all.” In fact, I watched the trailer and actually recoiled. She told me that I should be pumped for it, after all, this is the legacy of my community finally getting the recognition it deserves, right
This Stonewall movie is not my Stonewall, and here’s why.
First of all, and most obviously, they have watered down the protagonist of the story to make it more palatable to the masses. Because the idea of a black trans woman being the leader of the movement is far too much for the people, it’s too radical. Let’s take Marsha P. Johnson, the actual leader, and make her a background character with hardly any importance. Instead, the lead of this story is Danny, a cis white male. Stonewall is not a white man’s story, and that’s final. You’re taking our history and changing it to make it more appealing. You’re taking a woman’s success, and making it a man’s. Stonewall is not meant to be a man’s story of going from country boy to revolutionary, because that’s not what happened.
The screenwriter of the movie, Jon Robin Baitz, attempted to calm down the uproar of people by saying the following: “…I also have tremendous empathy for those who think they are being erased, removed and made once more invisible. I really do not think that’s what this movie is….But such an erasure would be heart breaking to me, as a man of principle, who tries to grow wiser and broader in my vision of what the world should be. The movie is about an awakening, one young man’s awakening to the reality of what it means to be ‘the other’. It is not the definitive story of a revolution; that film has yet to be made – but its a humanist’s dramatization of how the disenfranchised are empowered by rage.” To that, I have to say this; why would you take an actual event from history, and put in your own fictional character, when the real story is fine just the way it is?
Secondly, I can’t help but feel like this movie is being made to make money off LGBT history. Haven’t you heard? Being LGBT is so in right now. With all of the people feeling safer to come out in the media (like I mentioned in my article here where I talked about Ingrid Nilsen’s coming out), and the recent Supreme Court ruling, what an opportune time to come out with a movie about an iconic event in LGBT history, right? If you’re going to try and make money off of us, at least make it accurate. Maybe then the majority of the community wouldn’t be boycotting it.
So all in all, I am not just underwhelmed by the Stonewall movie, I am actually quite angry about it. Yes, there were white cis men involved with Stonewall. But it was Marsha’s story, she threw the first brick. The writer made the conscious decision to change this, and he is erasing our history.
If you, like me, are angry about this and plan on boycotting, consider taking the money you would have spent on a ticket, and donating it to a cause that helps trans people. My favorite is TransKids Purple Rainbow, which helps to protect and help trans youth. Read more bout it here.
Edit: It was brought to my attention that there is also a great deal of bisexual erasure in this movie, as Martha herself was a bisexual. Bi erasure and biphobia is rampant in the media, and this is just perpetuating it. As someone who is bi, this makes me even more angry. Representation matters, and they’ve taken it all away.