Mark My Words: History and Mythology

Mark My Words: History and Mythology

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Last week’s tour took me to Pilgrim House during Provincetown’s second annual Gay Pride for a speaking engagement. The organizers wanted a Stonewall participant to help separate the myths from the facts.

But, more importantly, people wanted to understand how our actions and accomplishments that night in 1969 could be applied to today’s climate of politics and activism. That’s an audience I really appreciate.

Naturally, I was excited and the timing was perfect, as The New York Times had just released a video for Gay Pride Month that attempted to sort myth from fact during that infamous night at Stonewall (and those days and nights that followed). Featured in the video are historians, researchers and Stonewall participants. It’s a factual and amusing piece about a millennial’s attempt to unearth the Stonewall spirit. You can watch Shane O’Neil’s video at nytimes.com.

The night before my talk, I was almost euphoric because the facts were actually out there. But then I remembered that reality doesn’t always topple mythology. My brothers, sisters and I from the Gay Liberation Front wonder why that is.

It seems like we might as well accept the common myths, since our attempts to correct the record seem to go unnoticed. People want to make us out to be more than we were. Each of us at Stonewall that night, for our own reasons, has an issue with that.

To answer the question Shane raised in The NYT: No one threw that first brick (and Judy Garland had nothing to do with the riots). I won’t give away how Shane made that point. You’ll have to watch the video, but his piece was with me until the Provincetown Gay Pride Parade that followed my talk. Called a sashay to Tea Dance, it was led by an outrageously dressed drag queen carrying — you guessed it — a giant brick. 

That night, my husband Jason and I thought we’d take in one of Provincetown’s many drag shows. We picked Miss Richfield 1981. As she neared the end of an amusing show, she wished everyone in the audience a happy Gay Pride and said something like, “We should be grateful for what Judy Garland started.” 

Jason grabbed and squeezed my leg, smiling at me.

He knew it was painful to hear — but sometimes you just have to smile.


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