Critics say the new movie celebrates white cisgender gay men as the heroes of the LGBT liberation while sidelining queer and trans women of color.">
A new movie intended to tell the story of the birth of the LGBT liberation movement in the U.S. has been hit by a boycott campaign started by transgender women of color who say it whitewashes their historical role in shaping the movement.
An online petition calling for the boycott of the movie “Stonewall,” premiered in cinemas nationwide Friday, has drawn nearly 25,000 supporters. The campaign came after the movie’s trailer, released in August, sparked mass uproar on social media predominantly among queer and trans people of color who criticized what they see as a celebration of white cisgender gay men as the heroes of the LGBT liberation, while sidelining transgender women of color
The movie “Stonewall” depicts the riots ignited on June 28, 1969 after the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a rare underground space where gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people could dance and mingle in New York City. The events have been widely seen as the catalyst of the movement for LGBT rights in the United States.
While transgender women of color like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major were at the forefront of the struggle, literally often being the ones receiving the hits and punches, the movie chose the fictional character Danny Winters, a white gay cisgender man, as its history-maker.
"Marginalizing trans women of color in the ‘Stonewall’ movie is part of an age old Hollywood tradition of whitewashing history to further separate marginalized people from the truth of their existence in this country. We have been, and continue to fuel this movement," Aaryn Lang, educator and Black Lives Matter NYC organizer, said in a press release for an education rally organized in front of the Stonewall Inn Thursday.
The movie has already received harsh media criticisms, including Vanity Fair’s earlier this week, stating that “’Stonewall’ is perhaps even worse than some feared it would be – more offensive, more white-washed, even more hackishly made.”
Writer Richard Lawson added that “’Stonewall’ at least does that bit of good: it illustrates how systems of privilege and prejudice within a minority can be just as pervasive and ugly as anything imposed from the outside. And that’s an outrage. So how long until someone throws a brick through the screen?”
For Raquel Willis, a 24-year-old black transgender writer and activist, the movie has done at least something positive for trans people of color and communities of color at large.
“We have been afraid of holding people accountable. I like that people are standing up and saying no to all of this. It will send a message that a collective consciousness is rising and empowering, which scares a lot of people,” Willis told teleSUR English.
“When we demand the expansion of the portrayal of trans people that will have some ripple effects for all people. It sets a social precedence to hold those gatekeepers accountable and have women portrayed accurately, people of color in general have their stories told accurately,” she added.