The Two Stonewall Riot Queens You Need to Know
The police violence that led to the Stonewall Riots is something many communities are familiar with. The brutalization of the Black community at the hands of police is something the LGBTQ⁺ community understands in our own way. For years, LGBTQ⁺ people were arrested, beaten, and abused by police officers for gathering in bars. Black trans woman Marsha P. John and Latina trans woman Sylvia Rivera were there to start the fight.
On June 28, 1969, a riot began that would lead to the modern Gay Rights movement. That night, New York City police officers busted up another queer gathering sparking a revolution. This time, the officers focused on the Stonewall Inn, a bar for the LGBTQ⁺ community to gather in on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. What police were unprepared for was the fact that the community was angry, and it would be the last time that people would let the police push them around.
Yet, despite this history, the LGBTQ⁺ community still has a lot of work to do. We have seen protests for weeks following the death of George Floyd. The Black community in the U.S. has been subjected to arbitrary and deadly arrests for no reason. The LGBTQ⁺ community and the Black community overlap because race and sexual orientation are intersectional for many in our world, particularly the trans community. The trans community needs to be protected and for too long the rest of the LGBTQ⁺ community often forgot the trans community. This anger was echoed by Sylvia Rivera during the early days of the Gay Right movement.
The violence began when, according to History.com, police hit a lesbian over the head when arresting her. The crowd reacted by throwing objects at the police. Before long, hundreds of people were on the streets attacking the police for raiding the bar that night. The violence was so intense that police officers, some prisoners, and a reporter for The Village Voice hid themselves inside of the bar. That was short-lived as the angry mob outside tried to set Stonewall Inn on fire in retaliation.
During her “Y’all Better Quiet Down” speech, Sylvia Rivera called out the LGBTQ⁺ community’s willingness to throw the T under the bus to further their own rights. Specifically, Sylvia Rivera was calling out middle class white gay men who were making deals to advance legislation if the trans community was excluded.
“You all tell me, go and hide my tail between my legs,” Sylvia Rivera told the crowd. “I will no longer put up with this shit. I have been beaten. I have had my nose broken. I have been thrown in jail. I have lost my job.I have lost my apartment. For gay liberation, and you all treat me this way? What the f**k’s wrong with you all? Think about that!”