41 years ago! Today! The Stonewall Uprising.
Joe.My.God, the brightest journalistic light in the homo heavens, did us a great favor by posting the New York Daily News’ original article covering the event. Required reading. Of course the article is homophobic as hell. That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is how LITTLE the Daily News’ editorial voice has changed. From the punny headline (”Homo Nest Raided - Queen Bees Stinging Mad”) to the reflexive habit of editorializing after every quote (“We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel.) to the chummy, chatty presentation of facts in a tone that says “this is clear as day. if you disagree it’s because you’re wrong” ( It was a raid. They had a warrant…. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.).
Bad as it is, I was actually a little surprised at how often the article managed to be even-handed. Some great quotes from the queers at the scene, especially the one who told the reporter “I don’t like your paper… it’s anti-fag and pro-cop.” Towards the end, where the general journalistic response is to include a derisive quote from some arbiter of morality, there’s a quote from a mom with two kids who says that the Queens never bothered anybody, they mind their own business, and that “It was just awful when the police came. It was like a swarm of hornets attacking a bunch of butterflies.”
It’s interesting to compare the way queers were discussed in the media back then, with the way homeless people are discussed in the media now. There’s the same condescension, the same blithe assumption that any reader will see things exactly the same way (which is not an assumption but a journalistic strategy that’s useful in convincing people of the truth of something that is patently false… say it with a straight face). Even that is beginning to change from the bad old days when the New York Post wrote editorials like “Vagrants with Laywers” (2003)and “Get The Violent Crazies Off the Street”(1999), and I’d like to attribute a lot of that to the radical, pioneering work of Picture the Homeless, the only group OF homeless people working to challenge stigmatization and stereotypes as well as the root causes of homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Here’s hoping that sustained agitation and organizing from the homeless will give that community the same quantum leap forward that us queers have made since 1969.