Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Stonewall narrative

In my last post (Ang Lee's Acid Trip) I was going on about how about history is often represented by the cliche terms or iconic constructions applied to it, mainly by journalists, themselves uninformed, who need to make events comprehensible to an uninformed public. Then time goes by and the historical event is remembered only by the attributed representations and not by the actual events themselves.

There is no better example than the universal homage paid to the Stonewall Riots, touted as the mainspring and the initiating moment of Gay Liberation in America. In reality the similarly motivated Compton's Cafeteria riot preceded it by three years. And there were Gay Lib political demonstrations and gay protest literature disseminated in San Francisco long before Stonewall. In other words, the Gay Lib movement started in San Francisco and not in New York.

One source gives an over-hasty version of the San Francisco story here, but the full record is available only in the archives of the San Francisco GLBT Historical Society.

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