“[E]xposure often erases or invisibilizes a population of queer people, and especially trans women of color, who are actually creating these cultural expressions,” Imp Queen says. “So it felt like an important time to gather a group of queens and trans women and try to make something about the history of drag and trans culture.”
On Sunday, November 17, 1901, police raided a private party and arrested forty-one men, nineteen of them were dressed as women. Those in drag were publicly humiliated by being forced to sweep the streets — “women’s work.” The 41 were taken to an army barracks and inducted into the Mexican army. At least some of them were then put on a train to Veracruz, sent by ship to the Yucatan, and made to serve in the army as it was putting down a Mayan insurgency.
Here is how El Popular reported the story on November 20:
Last Sunday night, the police of the Eighth Precinct were informed that in the house located at number 4 La Paaz Street, a ball was being held without the corresponding permit. They immediately moved in to surprise the culprits, and after having encountered numerous difficulties in trying to get the partygoers to open up, the police broke into the house’s patio where they found 42 individuals who were dancing to the excessively loud music of a local street band.
When they noted the presence of the police, some of those who were dressed in women’s clothing attempted to flee in order to change out of the clothes of the opposite sex; but as the police understood the gravity of the situation, they did not allow anyone to leave, and all 42 including those still dressed as women were taken to the station from which they were then sent to Belem Prison, charged with attacks on morality, and put at the disposition of the District Governor.
As a complement to the previous report, we will say that among those individuals dressed as women, several were recognized as dandies who are seen daily on Plateros Street.
These men wore elegant ladies’ gowns, wigs, false breasts, earrings, embroidered shoes, and a great deal of eye makeup and rouge on their faces.
Once the news hit the boulevards, all kinds of commentaries were made, and the conduct of those individuals was censured.
We will not provide our readers with further details because they are summarily disgusting.
It was said that many of those arrested came from highly respected families with ties to the government of dictator Porfirio Diaz. Some of the earliest newspaper reports, like this one, had it that 42 were arrested. That number later dropped to 41, which generated even more rumors. One had it that the elderly lady who owned the house was one of those arrested, and she was later released. Other, more sinister rumors had it that one of those arrested was one of Diaz’s nephews.
El Popular may have been reluctant to provide details, but in subsequent days it was happy to imagine the scene for its readers:
If only we had seen them in their resplendent hairdos, their fake cleavage, with their shiny sparkling earrings, with their falsies like the ones worn by anemic bimbos, with their corseted waists, their dancing-girl skirts like inverted tulips, their buttery tights, their shoes fringed with crimped gold thread and colored glass beads, and all of them bedaubed in white powder and rouge, prancing about in the fandango with their perfumed and curly mustaches.
On November 23, El Pas published this account of one group of prisoners being transferred to the train bound for Veracruz:
The men-only ball that was raided by the police continues provoking talk in all social circles, by virtue of the fact that many of those detained are perfectly well known, since among them are men who stroll day after day down the boulevards showing off their stylish and perfectly tailored suits and wearing sumptuous jewels.
As we stated in yesterday’s issue, 12 of those captured in the house on the fourth block of La Pazz were sent to Veracruz along with seven thieves who were also conscripted into the armed services.
At 5:30 in the morning, the hour at which attendance is taken in the 24th Battalion (that is being remitted to the port of Veracruz), those called on first were the 12 individuals who had been at the famed ball, and after number 13, who was apelado [a term for a rough, lower-class urban Mexican] was called, he replied on hearing his name, “Present, my Captain,but let me go on record as saying that I am being conscripted as a thief; but I’m not one of them,” and he pointed to the group of dancers.
This provoked the laughter of those present, because not even a thief was willing to be confused with the perfumed boys, as they are called by the soldiers from the barracks
A very amusing scene developed in the the barracks of the 24th Battalion when the repugnant ones arrived wearing their magnificent overcoats, along with hats and nice patent-leather shoes. The captain of the recruits made them all strip without delay, and then handed out the rough but honorable articles of clothing that are given to recruits.
With tears in their eyes, they stripped off all their clothes, some of them begging that they be allowed at least to keep their nice silk undergarments, a request that the captain denied, since, he told them, there they were just the same as everyone else. He didn’t even allow them to keep their socks, and they all began to cry as they put on the shoes that would replace their lovely patent leather ladies’ shoes.
The government paper, El Imparcial, took plains to deny that the army was foolish enough to send any girly-men to the front lines:
All of the prisoners have been sent to Yucatan, but not as it has been said to join the ranks of the valiant soldiers taking part in the campaign; they will be employed instead on such tasks as digging trenches, opening breaches, and raising temporary fortifications.
Today, the number 41 has become slang for homosexuality or, more specifically, “faggot” or maricon. As the former revolutionary general and National Defense Secretary Francisco L. Urquizo explained in 1965, “The influence of this tradition is so strong that even officialdom ignores the number 41. No division, regiment, or battalion of the army is given the number 41. From 40 they progress directly to 42. No payroll has a number 41. Municipal records show no houses with the number 41. No hotel or hospital has a room 41. Nobody celebrates their 41st birthday, going straight from 40 to 42. No vehicle is assigned a number plate with 41, and no police officer will accept a badge with that number.” Some of the early LGBT advocacy groups in Mexico incorporated the number into their names, just as many similar groups in the U.S. have leveraged “Stonewall” as a shorthand for the struggle for gay rights.
American activist, Stonewall Riots instigator, “Queen Mother” and “saint.” She moved to New York City in 1966, where her outgoing, ebullient personality made her a well-known fixture among the drag queens and trans women on Christopher Street. She was often homeless, but she was also known for giving her last few dollars away to someone who might need it more. When asked what her middle initial stood for, she would say, “Pay it no mind.” She was present in 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, proclaiming “I got my civil rights!” and throwing a shot glass at a mirror. The “shot glass heard around the world” is believed by some to be the inciting action of the ensuing riots. After Stonewall, as “crossdressers” were being shunted away from the mainstream gay rights movement, Johnson and her close friend Sylvia Rivera founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR. Securing a run-down apartment, they took in as many drag queens and transgender youth as they could, then hustled the streets to raise money so that their children wouldn’t have to. In 1972 she joined the queer performance troupe Hot Peaches, and in 1974 Andy Warhol painted her portrait as part of his series “Ladies and Gentlemen.” She fought for LGBTQ rights all her life, and later joined ACT UP to advocate for people with AIDS. In 1992, shortly after the Pride March, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River. The police ruled it a suicide, and refused to investigate the death further.
Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned.
The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell, and through hell she strutted. Our #WomanCrushWednesday for this week is Sylvia Rivera! She was a transgender Puerto Rican drag queen and an accomplished activist. She stood for the liberation of gay people, transgender people, and people of color and against police brutality, sexual assault, and poverty. Her fierceness and nurturing kindness were born of an extraordinarily tough childhood. She endured homelessness, poverty, and abuse because of her gender identity; these experiences both hardened her and gave her incredible empathy for those in similar situations. She went on to start the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance, and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). In STAR, she and her friend Marsha P. Johnson housed and fed transgender/gender nonconforming youth. In her other activist efforts, she made sure the intersections between poverty, gayness, nonwhiteness and other marginalized identities were addressed. For this and so much more, we want to honor Sylvia Rivera this pride month. With that, let’s hear 5 fun facts about this fierce feminist:
She is said to have thrown one of the first bottles at the Stonewall Riots. They’re known as the catalysts to the gay liberation movement.
She was dubbed “the mother of all gay people”. She earned this title at Italy’s 2000 Millennium March.
She was scary dedicated. When NY lawmakers discussed gay rights behind closed doors, she was there climbing through the window in heels.
Her life partner was another transgender woman. Sylvia met Julia in a shelter. Theirs was a healing love that helped Sylvia sober up.
She loved Pokemon. Her favorite was Pikachu; she had a Pikachu plush, which Julia gave her, and a pair of fuzzy Pikachu slippers!
Trans women and drag queens started everything at the stonewall riots, it's in the police reports who started throwing shit and resisting the cops first, and it wasn't the white gay men, that's for damn sure.
No it wasn’t white gay men, the first punches are generally agreed to have been thrown by
, a butch black lesbian who was being hauled away and brutalized by 4 police officers.
But guess what, dude, the drag queens were also gay men. Malcom/Marsha P. Johnson was a gay man. Sylvia Rivera was sleeping off a heroin high on a park bench while all these gays were fighting cops. But he too was gay.
Gay people fought for their rights, gay people are still fighting for our rights.
Hirstory lesson time! When heading to all your “Pride” parties this weekend, don’t forget the people who came before us, those who paved the way, who are often overlooked especially by mainstream LGB(T) “culture”.
Marsha P Johnson was an American transgender rights activist, Queen of Stonewall and Transgender Revolutionary. She was a co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in the early 1970s and became the “mother” of S.T.A.R. House along with Sylvia Rivera. They would get together food and clothing to help support the young trans women living in the house on the lower East Side of NYC.
Here’s a belated piece for you: some history about the Stonewall Riots.
There’s no queer history unit in the typical U.S. history class. Yet each June cities across the U.S. celebrate Pride and, perhaps unbeknownst to them, the anniversary of nearly a week’s worth of rioting in downtown Manhattan.
Without our history to provide context for our movement, we have no way to understand how far we’ve come, how far we’ve yet to go, or why we’re wearing a rainbow cape and tiara in public. With that in mind, let’s explore the symbolic beginning of the struggle for queer rights in the United States.
-The Stonewall uprising (or Stonewall riots) is considered the birth of the LGBT rights movement, but it wasn’t the first or only queer uprising in American history. Three years earlier in August 1966 queers in San Francisco rose up, fighting against police in an incident called the Compton’s Cafeteria riots. Susan Stryker has since made a film about the uprising, 2005’s “Screaming Queens.”
- The Stonewall Inn is a bar and club in New York City’s Greenwich village. In June of 1969 same-sex activity was still illegal in New York state, and the Stonewall was a notorious hangout for homeless queer youth, drag kings and queens, trans folks, gays, lesbians and queers of all stripes.
- Police entered the bar on the night of June 27, trying to shut it down for serving alcohol without a license. Several other gay bars in the neighborhood were recently closed for similar reasons — liquor licenses could be suspended for any illegal (read: queer) activity happening inside the bar.
- Authorities rounded up those without IDs, bar employees, and anyone whose gender marker on their ID didn’t match their gender presentation. A crowd of hundreds gathered outside the bar to heckle police as they loaded people into police vans. The Stonewall patrons resisted. Punching, kicking — some people escaped from the police van into the crowd. The crowd began joining in, throwing coins, bottles and trash at officers.
-Violence broke out. The police retreated inside Stonewall. The crowd began full-on rioting in the streets. A trashcan went through the front window of the Stonewall, shattering it. It was followed by lighter fluid and lit matches. One of the fires caught. A loose parking meter was torn from the ground as some rioters began using it as a battering ram against the now-barricaded door of the Stoneall Inn, trying to get to police.
-Police called in a riot squad. Authorities chased the crowd; the crowd chased back. A Rockette-style kick-line was formed by drag queens, singing and mocking the oncoming formation of riot police. This wasn’t an easily-scared group of queers succumbing to police brutality —that night and for the next five days, queers fought back.
-Storme DeLarverie, who passed away this May, is the lesbian/drag king credited with throwing the first punch, and whose subsequent assault by police might’ve sparked the counter-violence from the crowd gathered outside the bar.
-Trans activist and co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) Marsha P. Johnson is credited with throwing the first bottle at the raiding police officers. STAR was founded shortly after the Stonewall uprising, and Johnson and fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera advocated for and provided shelter to homeless queer and gender non-conforming youth. The momentum groups like this created following Stonewall are what kept the LGBT rights movement thriving.
-The first Pride parade was held in New York City the following year in June of 1970, not as a pride parade but as an anniversary celebration of the Stonewall uprising. June has remained Pride month ever since.
As both a citation for this piece and recommendation for further reading, see Martin Duberman’s “Stonewall.”
It is shameful that the leading role that transwomen and drag queens played in the Stonewall riots is being written out of the upcoming Stonewall feature film - but I’m disappointed to have seen nothing in the boycott campaign referencing the erasure of Storme DeLarverie, a biracial butch lesbian and drag king, who THREW THE FIRST PUNCH AT A COP, and as she was being dragged into the police van, turned to the passive crowd outside Stonewall and shouted “WHY DON’T YOU GUYS DO SOMETHING?”, which reports say sparked the crowd to fight back. Bricks were only thrown through the bar window after her arrest.
She was a major leader of the riots, if not the ignition.
Trans women and drag queens are being written out of the film, but Storme and lesbian history is being written out of the boycott campaign as well.
I want a good heart I want it to be made of good stuff I want the stain glass window builder to be my drinking buddy I want to drink only the punch of a million gender queer school kids taking free martial arts lessons to survive recess I stopped calling myself a pacifist when I heard Gandhi told women they should not physically fight off their rapists I believe there is such a thing as a non violent fist
I believe the earth is a woman muzzled, beaten, tied to the cold slinging tracks I believe the muzzled have every right to rip off the Bible Belt and take it to the patriarchy’s ass I know these words are going to get me in trouble
It is never polite to throw back the tear gas Just like its never polite to bring enough life rafts They crowd the balconies where the wealthy shine their jewels But sometimes love Sometimes real love Is fucking rude Is interrupting a wedding mid vow just as the congregation is about to cry To stand up in your pew to say, “Is everyone here clear on how diamonds are mined?”
Hallelujah to every drag queen at Stonewall who made weapons out of her stiletto shoes Hallelujah to the blues keeping the neighborhood awake To the activist standing in the snow outside of the circus holding a ten foot photograph of a baby elephant in chains when it’s probably some little kid’s birthday Hallelujah to making everyone uncomfortable To the terrible manners of truth To refusing to clean the blood off the plate
Bend this spine into a bow I can pull across the cello of my speak up Love readies its heart’s teeth Chews through the etiquette leash Takes down the cellphone tower after millions of people die in wars in the Congo fighting for the minerals that make our cellphones Love blows up the dam Chains itself to the redwood tree To the capital building when a trailer of Mexican immigrants are found dead on the south Texas roadside Love insists well intentioned white people officially stop calling themselves color blind Insists hope lace its fucking boots Always calls out the misogynist, racist, homophobic joke refuses to be a welcome mat where hate wipes its feet Love asks questions at the most inappropriate times Overturns the Defence of Marriage Act then walks a pride parade asking when the plight of poor single mothers will ignite our hearts into action like that Love is not polite deadlocks our rush hour traffic with a hundred stubborn screaming bikes Hallelujah to every suffrage movement hunger strike Hallelujah to insisting they get your pronouns right Hallelujah to tact never winning our spines To taking our power all the way back to that first glacier that had to learn how to swim To not turning our heads from a single ugly truth To knowing we live in a time when beauty recruits its models outside the doors of eating disorder clinics That is not a metaphor This is not a line to a poem An Indian farmer walks into a crowd of people and stab himself in the chest to protest the poisoning of his land A Buddhist monk burns himself alive on the streets of Saigon A US soldier hangs himself wearing his enemy’s dog tags around his holy neck May my heart be as heavy as a tuba in the front row of the Mardi Gras parade five months after Katrina May it weigh the weight of the world so it might anchor the sun so it might hold me to my own light till I am willing to sweat as much as I cry Till I am willing to press into the clay of our precious lives A window Might our grace riot the walls down May the drought howl us awake May we rush into the streets to do the work of opening each other’s eyes May our good hearts forever be too loud to let the neighbors sleep
“I stopped calling myself a pacifist when I heard Gandhi told women they should not physically fight off their rapists
I believe there is such a thing as a non violent fist
I believe the earth is a woman muzzled, beaten, tied to the cold slinging tracks
I believe the muzzled have every right to rip off the Bible Belt and take it to the patriarchy’s ass
I know these words are going to get me in trouble
It is never polite to throw back the tear gas
Just like its never polite to bring enough life rafts
Hallelujah to every drag queen at Stonewall who made weapons out of her stiletto shoes Hallelujah to the blues keeping the neighborhood awake
To the activist standing in the snow outside of the circus holding a ten
foot photograph of a baby elephant in chains when it’s probably some
little kid’s birthday
Hallelujah to making everyone uncomfortable
To the terrible manners of truth
To refusing to clean the blood off the plate
Might our grace riot the walls down May the drought howl us awake
May we rush into the streets to do the work of opening each other’s eyes
May our good hearts forever be too loud to let the neighbors sleep”
The Rallying Cry of the Transracial Movement Or An Open Letter to Rachel Dolezal
Dear Rachel Dolezal,
You have given me a lot to think about these last few days. The main question, the nagging question being, can transracial really be a thing?
Sure. Why the fuck not. Anyone can take up a cause. Anyone has the right to wave the banner for something.
So let’s do it. C'mon Rachel, you want to be black so bad let’s put in the work the way the transgendered community has. Let’s put our lives on the line for what we believe in. Let’s risk beatings, rape, incarceration for the right to be transracial. Let’s riot like the street queens did in Stonewall in ‘69.
Let’s rally. Because if transracial is really a thing then that means that there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of white people out in the world living a lie, right? They have been living in oppression, unable to express their true racial identities. And these white people will join the movement. They will “come out” as black to their family and friends. They will brave the judgement and backlash. They will write letters, lobby, raise funds. They will fight for the rights of transracials everywhere right?!?
And of course an entire institutional support system will have to be constructed to allow for the transracial community to be included into mainstream society. There will need to be a massive social media campaign. There will need to be outreach in schools, government offices, community centres. People will need to learn a new vocabulary and a new way of interacting with transracial people that is sensitive of their status.
Because that’s what it takes to start a movement when you are truly oppressed, which, Rachel, you would know if you were. You might have found out, had you tried. But you didn’t have to. Because white privilege means that all you have to do is live a lie and deceive and fraud people for years in order to become a martyr for a nonexistent cause.
Transgendered people had to scream from the rooftops for decades in order to reach the level of mainstream acceptance and attention their community is currently receiving (attention, I might add, mostly due to the coming out of a very rich, privileged white transwoman who fits the mould of acceptable femininity). But you, Rachel, you didn’t have to do any of the work did you? You didn’t even try. This was an accident. You got caught. You stumbled your way into this. You fucked up and yet still your nonexistent identity became a national trending topic meanwhile the protests of black women are, once again, drowned out by the deafening cacophony of (mostly white, male) voices that are rallying to your defence. You didn’t even have to try while we just cannot seem to try hard enough.
That is what white privilege is. That is why transracial is nothing.
whatever your take on the asterisk is, saying “non-binary people are already included in trans!” should never be a point, because it’s false
don’t coercively place non-binary people under a trans umbrella. don’t apply words without consent; this includes categorically
don’t pretend all trans spaces welcome non-binary people no question, as they really don’t
much like queer doesn’t always mean safe for trans folks, or lgb doesn’t always mean safe for pan folks, or asexual doesn’t always mean safe for demi and grey folks……these things actually do deserve to be spelled out, and assumptions are really dangerous
(what’s the content of your particular usage of + in lgbt+ anyway, right. footnote elaborating specifics please.)
((sidenote: there’s a world of historical deeply relevant difference between “cis white drag queen” and “drag queen”; much of stonewall involved self-id’d drag queens of color who today we rewrite as trans women often without their consent. saying “drag queens” don’t belong in a trans+ community and that they were sneaking in under the asterisk betrays our history and classist, racist ideas of access to words; eg david valentine’s “imagining transgender: an ethnography”))