“Why weren’t the events of Stonewall’s 50th anniversary covered by the Inquirer?”
That’s the question I’ve been asked after a whirlwind month that had me traveling around the country to talk about the Stonewall Riots and their aftermath in the year that followed. Even staffers in the Inquirer’s newsroom begged the question during a recent farewell party I attended at the Philly publication’s Center City headquarters.
The Inquirer didn’t publish an original Stonewall piece during last month’s milestone-anniversary commemorations, making it the only paper in a major American city that didn’t capitalize on its local connections to this historic event. Imagine if the paper failed to cover the March on Washington and those Philadelphians who participated. Instead, from what I saw, the Inquirer actually distorted Stonewall’s history by running what could only be described as a last-ditch effort to cover their tracks.
As a member of Gay Liberation Front, which participated in the famed Stonewall uprising and, a year later, the first Pride, I shared firsthand accounts with the various media outlets that interviewed me, including TIME, Newsweek, People and Entertainment Weekly magazines; the internationally distributed daily newspaper USA Today; and three major TV networks and PBS. Some 30 foreign countries also covered Philadelphia’s connections to Stonewall. The Inquirer did not.
I’m not Philly’s only Stonewall connection — but you might not know that unless you read PGN or Kyoto News in Japan, or The New York Times, Washington Post or The Philippines Star, or unless you watched the BBC or French or German television.
The Inquirer’s coverage instead celebrated several other events in LGBT history. Swapping people and events represents either bias or a poor sense of history, or an attitude of disregard for the community being covered. Over the years, I’ve had to urge the Inquirer to evolve on LGBT issues, including marriage equality.
I’ve told numerous news outlets and the Smithsonian that when someone claims to have been at Stonewall, I always ask, “What did you do after?” The Inquirer ran a piece that quoted a source who claimed to have been there and afterward started a party. As noted lesbian activist Robin Tyler stated, “We’re not going to be dancing our way to isolation to a disco beat any longer.”
LGBT activists this year made a point to leave behind a dubious organization known as The Stonewall Veterans Association — wherein it seems that anyone can be a member if they pay for membership — instead focusing on Gay Liberation Front. But the Inquirer didn’t seem to notice.
I am upset because Stonewall stands for fighting back against society and even against those early marches in Philadelphia.
Ellen Broidy, another Philadelphia connection to Stonewall, and prominent LGBTQ activist, Craig Rodwell, came to Philadelphia way back when and, in a heated debate, explained that the Gay liberation Front New York would not participate in another march in Philadelphia since we considered them out of touch with the times. Stonewall and Gay Liberation Front are connected, not the marches in Philadelphia as an Inquirer article suggested.
While those marchers in Philadelphia were brave, they didn’t create the grassroots movement that Stonewall and GLF did. GLF was intersectional with other groups and Black and Brown communities; GLF accepted youth, trans persons and POC.
Because of that grassroots and intersectional approach, we were able to do in one year what those marches in Philadelphia could not. We created a mass movement and an LGBT community.
The Inquirer missed the entire story of Stonewall — the community and the movement that was created from its ashes.
Distorting any group’s history reveals ignorance, and in this case, homophobia.