"For the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, an anthology chronicling the tumultuous fight for LGBTQ rights in the 1960s and the activists who spearheaded it, with a foreword by Edmund White. June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Drawing from the New York Public Library's archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots. Most importantly the anthology spotlights both iconic activists who were pivotal in the movement, such as Sylvia Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), as well as forgotten figures like Ernestine Eckstein, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s. The anthology focuses on the events of 1969, the five years before, and the five years after. Jason Baumann, the NYPL coordinator of humanities and LGBTQ collections, has edited and introduced the volume to coincide with the NYPL exhibition he has curated on the Stonewall uprising and gay liberation movement of 1969"-- "For the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, an anthology chronicling the tumultuous fight for LGBTQ rights in the 1960s and the activists who spearheaded it, with a foreword by Edmund White"--
The Stonewall Reader is a comprehensive collection of interviews, transcripts, and articles in three parts: the before, during, and after Stonewall. The “Before” focuses more on the varied personal and intimate experiences of LGBT people. It recounts of discovery, acceptance, and the creation if not the search of a community. At an era when consenting adults of the same-sex is punishable by law and psychology considers homosexuality as a mental illness, conversion therapy is advised, spurts of silent revolt happen far and between. Every small group, mostly underground, contribute their own acts of insurgence through magazine-printings and assemblies. Most members don’t disclose personal details, not even their real name, for they live differently outside. There is the constant fear of being found out which could be grounds for unemployment. The “During” tells of the Stonewall riots that spanned from 28 June to 1 July 1969. Selected first hand accounts including those of transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are terrifying and touching albeit there is one account, amidst having importance, from journalist Howard Smith which is tinged with homophobia instead of an impartial air. The resilience and resistance of the LGBT community at such a time is admirable, even empowering. The prior uprisings leading to the Stonewall Riots are also notably significant in their own contributions. The series of protests during the Stonewall Riots has forced people outside the community to listen and see that gay, gender non-comforming, and transgender people exist, have always existed, and will not go away. Visibility is a force. In its last section, the “After”, some look back, nostalgic and grateful. Although the Stonewall Riots had not completely turned the tide over it has inspired and prompted not only the gay liberation, Pride celebrations, but also the continuous effort of the community to work on persisting issues and stop attempts to roll back progress in different means. This book stands alone by itself but I can imagine its impact amplified by the emotional New York Public Library’s exhibit, “Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50“ which ran from 14 Feb to 13 July 2019.
“True, some gays play the same role-games among themselves that straights do. Isn’t every minority group fucked over by the values of the majority culture? But the really important thing about being gay is that you are forced to notice how much sex-role differentiation is pure artifice, is nothing but a game.”
I consider The Stonewall Reader a more or less condensed modern history of the LGBT and is there anything better than a collection weaved together by the members of the community themselves from their own works or in their own words? The result is outstanding and expansive than I expected. And I am very pleased that this does not focus on white people alone but also includes people of colour. Some accounts mildly touches on the gay movement‘s intersection with the civil and feminist movements too. As these appear more of an opinion than a fact, further reading is advised. Of course the flaws within the community, specifically the still present discrimination against transgender people and drag queens, is not dismissed and it calls for action. In the end this book makes my own identity, shall I say, robust and tangible. Reading about those who have lived before me, felt similarly, had the same thoughts, and fought the same afflictions is reassuring. With knowledge of my own people’s history, I know myself better.