Sunday, June 01, 2014

No Drag Queens, People of Color, Stonewall Riot Vets at Federal Photo-op

Take a look at this photo snapped on Friday in front of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan, as the National Park Service announced a project to identify and designate additional sites of relevance to LGBT and American history, and see what's wrong with it:

(Courtesy of the Gill Foundation's Facebook page.)

At the lectern bearing the seal of the Secretary of the Interior is millionaire and gay political strategist Tim Gill, who has donated $250,000 to the Department of Interior's project, on the left is Democratic gay New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson and a member of the National Park Service wearing a green uniform. Also speaking at the event was Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Notice how there are no drag queens, no people of color and no veterans of the Stonewall Riot. Representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are two white men, hardly displaying the diversity of our community and especially those who stood up to the Mafia bosses and New York Police Department in the sweltering month June 1969.

As far as homo historians and many activists are concerned, the riot was not instigated by wealthy people or politicians, yet present day commemorations of that turning point in LGBT activism and pride such as the one on May 30 feature only the rich and ambitious elected officials.

Where the hell are the flamboyant dragsters, transgender folks, Latino and black people, and those of modest means from our community?

I reached out to two LGBT activists and journalists in NYC for their take on what transpired on Friday. Duncan Osborne wrote:

It was a press conference announcing this DOI history project. This project had a hastily thrown together feel. [Longtime gay historians] David Carter and Jonathan Ned Katz learned about it roughly 48 hours before the announcement. As of Friday, they had not been invited to participate in any next steps. As I understand it, the next step is a round table discussion among historians and neither Carter nor Katz knew when or where this was to occur.

The release from the Department of the Interior says an unnamed panel of LGBT scholars will meet in Washington, DC, on June 10 to take the project to its next level. Ann Northrop said:

Secretary Jewell was asked for the names at the press conference and said, "We'll get that for you." Can't wait to hear who's on the panel of historians.

I emailed the department's press affairs officer April Slayton seeking those names, explanation as to who chose the scholars, if the June 10 meeting will be live-streamed and how the public can engage with the panel. Slayton replied:

Thank you for your message. I will work with the staff that is responsible for the LGBT Heritage Initiative and will try to get information in regards to your questions to you as soon as possible.

There is quite a bit here that doesn't pass a few smell tests and I hope the Department of the Interior early this coming week gives me answers about why only Gill and Johnson were invited to speak, the absence of drag queens, people of color and Stonewall Riot vets and the panel.

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