Stonewall and QueensBreaking News
tags: gay history, Stonewall, LGBTQIA history
Marc Stein is the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Professor of History at San Francisco State University. His most recent book is The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History, now available from NYU Press. For primary sources on the Kew Gardens vigilantes and hundreds of other topics in U.S. LGBT history (1965-1973), see Documenting the Stonewall Riots: A Bibliography of Primary Sources.
Not those queens. Not the drag queens, street queens, or radical queens who played key roles in the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
I mean Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City, reputed birthplace of Donald Trump in the 1940s, home to the Miracle Mets of 1969, and my family’s destination for monthly visits with my grandparents in the 1960s and 1970s. Queens may have been a short distance from Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where Stonewall’s gay rebellion occurred, but in social, cultural, and political terms it was far, far away. According to the 1970 Census, Queens was home to two million people, well above Manhattan’s 1.5 million, but it was significantly less diverse—85 percent white, as opposed to Manhattan’s 71 percent. In 1969, when I turned six years old, Queens displayed little of the bohemian cosmopolitanism, left politics, or sexual diversity that I would later come to associate with Manhattan.
And yet in the summer of 1969, sexual repression and resistance in Queens received far more media attention than did the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan.
Could that possibly be true? In June, the world marked the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall, justifiably understood as a momentous turning point in LGBT history. But as many commentators have noted, it was only later—and especially when the riots were commemorated with marches, protests, and parades on their anniversary—that the Stonewall uprising became central to the ways that we imagine and narrate LGBT history.
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