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The Stonewall Exception


I’m starting to feel very uneasy about the amount of attention that is given to Stonewall, and only to Stonewall.

You see, there is a long history of LGBT people (often transgender sex workers of color who were worst hit by police brutality) fighting cops. Before Stonewall, there were the Cooper Do-Nuts Riot (1959), the small California Hall Riot (1965), the Black Cat Cavern Riot (1966), the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot (1966) and many more lesser known riots big and small. After Stonewall, LGBT+ people continued to fight cops in the street, to resist arrest, to bash back and to riot. Queers riot all over history and they are rioting now.

But we only ever hear about Stonewall, seperated from it’s larger history of queer riots, seperated even from the decades of radical activism and defiant survival of the people that were actually at the riot.

I’m starting to think that is because people want to see Stonewall as the exception. The one justified riot. Unique in history. They can’t pretend that all LGBT history was non-violent, Stonewall is too famous for that. So instead they create the fiction that one riot was all it took to change the world and from that point forward everything could be civil and non-violent. Never mind that the system is still killing us.

I feel like Stonewall is being put on a pedestal as The One Riot to make new riots difficult to imagine. Dissertations on Stonewall are written by queer academics who have never fought for anything and would never condone queer riots today. A lot of LGBT activists consider themselves to be the radical children of Stonewall but the truth is they would snitch to the cops the moment we started to make weapons out of bottles and stones. They want the thrill of the romanticized history of struggle but not it’s reality, where we fight for our lives and the lives of our comrades.

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