Some members of the LGBT community reacted swiftly with criticism after the first trailer for director Roland Emmerich’s film “Stonewall” was released in mid August.
The film, which creators say is based on the true events surrounding the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, follows the story of Danny, a fictional character who moves from his midwestern home to New York City.
Criticism centered primarily over Danny’s character. Played by “War Horse” actor Jeremy Irvine, the character is the film’s main protagonist. Danny ends up making friends with a group of young LGBT people who frequent the Stonewall Inn, but critics say the trailer leaves them worried that pivotal and iconic leaders — primarily young people of color, transgender people, drag queens and lesbians — in the Riots will be forgotten, overlooked or take a backseat to Danny’s story. Critics have claimed the movie is engaging in whitewashing and transgender erasure.
Critics have started several online petitions asking community members to boycott the film.
“When I started the petition, I was frustrated to learn that yet another history account will be told through the eyes of a white person,” writes Pat Cordova-Goff, a transgender woman of color behind a petition at GSANetwork. “‘History is written by those in power,’ and this is proof. Throughout the 2-minute trailer, I watched the passionate and diverse history of our movement be whitewashed and ciswashed. While I am sure white cis people were involved in the riots, there was no need to fictionalize a character to tell this story. The lives of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Ray Castro and Storme DeLarverie are fascinating enough. The fact that Stonewall’s screenwriter referenced the expectations of marketing proves that this is a systematic issue.”
Director Emmerich and Irvine have responded to the criticism in posts on Facebook.
“When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots through my work with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I was struck that the circumstances that lead to LGBT youth homelessness today are pretty much the same as they were 45 years ago,” Emmerich wrote on Aug. 6. “The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves. I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film — which is truly a labor of love for me — finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.”
Irvine responded the same day, writing: “To anyone with concerns about the diversity of the #StonewallMovie. I saw the movie for the first time last week and can assure you all that it represents almost every race and section of society that was so fundamental to one of the most important civil rights movements in living history. Marsha P Johnson is a major part of the movie, and although first hand accounts of who threw the first brick in the riots vary wildly, it is a fictional black transvestite character played by the very talented [Vlad Alexis] who pulls out the first brick in the riot scenes. My character is adopted by a group of street kids whilst sleeping rough in New York. In my opinion, the story is driven by the leader of this gang played by [Jonny Beauchamp] who gives an extraordinary performance as a Puerto Rican transvestite struggling to survive on the streets.” : :
— Matt Comer
A 21-year-old transgender rights activist in Scotland was found dead in her apartment in early August. Danielle Robins was president of Abertay University’s LGBT Society.
Six people were stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man during Jerusalem’s Pride march on July 30. The perpetrator, Yishai Shlessel, attacked the marchers half way through the event. He had just been released from prison where he had been serving a 10-year sentence for a similar attack at a Jerusalem Pride event in 2005. On Aug. 2, a 16-year-old teenager attacked by Shlissel died from her injuries. In a statement after teen Shira Banki’s death, Jerusalem’s Open House for Pride and Tolerance stated: “The LGBTQ community in Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Open House mourn her death at the hands of a fanatic, consumed with hatred and fear. The knife that fatally injured Shira was sharpened by years of incitement. That knife targeted all those who believe in a just society, where every woman and man can live freely, without fear of violence and persecution. That knife has wounded all those who believe in life and in God’s creation. Ignorance and fear will not discourage our uncompromising demand to live our lives as we are,” added the organization. “Knives will not stop us. With pride and pain, with broken hearts and tearful eyes, with Shira’s memory and our unanswered prayers, we will continue to march in Jerusalem.”
LGBT Jamaicans held their first-ever Pride celebration in the island nation’s capital in early August. Events included a flash mob in a park, an art showing and performances with LGBT Jamaican artists.