Police Brutality Sparked the Riots

Our country is fighting three threats–three toxins that are destroying our world. As deaths continue to surge due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Black and Brown Americans die at the hands of police due to systemic racism, all while an uncaring egomaniac–sitting behind a wall in Washington, DC, is intent on destroying all environmental protections.

June was once a month to celebrate! A time for music festivals, graduations and summer vacations…and Pride. This is a month when communities celebrate LGBTQ rights. This Monday, the Supreme Court gave us good news for a change.  After Trump revoked Trans Healthcare protections on Friday, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that a key provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination. You cannot be fired for your sexual orientation or gender conformity. Finally, it’s official. In 2020.

But why June? How many of us remember that the reason Pride month is in June is to commiserate the Stonewall Riots? And that those riots were due to police raids.

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community. The riots were in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Fed up with constant police raids, brutal beatings and harassment, a handful of people fought back and took to the streets. Thousands joined the protests. The riots and marches lasted from June 28th-July 3rd, 1969. The first Pride Parade was one year later in NYC, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Pride is now celebrated around the world.

The Black Lives Matter movement shares many similarities with the Gay Rights movement. Before 1969, there’d been many early protests and small policy changes, but homosexuality was still illegal in most states and police raids and arrests were common. It took violence, burning police cars and buildings…and thousands of people in the streets, to bring awareness to unjust laws and to stop the brutality at the hands of the police. This year, there’s been 24 days of marching in the streets demanding social justice! Pride parades won’t be happening but there was a huge demonstration in support of Black Trans Lives in Brooklyn last week.

There are Pride celebrations and events streaming online. We can also watch films that showcase the need to still fight for gay liberation and acceptance. I’ve chosen a documentary to highlight the roots of the Pride parades, a fictionalized account of British Queer history, a young adult love story with a twist and a tale of enduring love that will touch your heart.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, 2017, David France (How to Survive A Plague), director (available on Netflix)

I recommend this documentary for some historical perspective. It’s gritty (handheld, low-budget) and has a lot of heart. Marsha P. Johnson was a transwoman celebrated for her activism and her sweet demeanor. She and Sylvia Rivera were key figures in the gay liberation movement. They fought back during the police raid that started the Stonewall Riots. They started STAR–Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and helped young gender non-conforming and Trans people with housing and activism.

The film goes back in time as Johnson’s last days are investigated by an advocate and fellow activist, Victoria Cruz. The archival footage reveals that tragic era in NYC past. It’s interesting to see so many cassettes: video, music, tiny tapes from video cameras and watch Cruz write down all the evidence in multiple notebooks. I found the soundtrack distracting (insistent strings) and wished for more closure. It’s tragic that this story is still so relevant with black Transwomen being murdered in large numbers today—14 this year alone!

Drinks with Films Rating: 2 cocktails held just so…while Vogueing (out of 5)

Pride, 2014, Matthew Warchus (available on Amazon)

An uplifting film that’s based on an amazing-but-true story. In 1984, a gay rights group in London decided to raise funds for striking miners. Picking a town in Wales almost at random, they traveled to the village and tried to establish solidarity with the working class miners and their families. This outreach was not reciprocated at first and much of the humor of the film is watching the flamboyant gay men interacting with desperate down-trodden men. With the young star from 1917, George MacKay, as our young closeted protagonist and a star-studded cast including Andrew Scott (yes, the hot priest from Fleabag), Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton—the acting is top-notch.

The subject matter is serious: mining strikes, police brutality, homophobia and gay Brits fighting for acceptance while AIDS was devastating the population. Yet the tone is kept light by focusing on the passion of the young crusaders of LGSM, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. You’ll want to cheer when footage of the actual events depicted plays at the close of the film.

Drinks with Films Rating: 3 Welsh beers (out of 5)

The Half of It, 2020, Alice Wu (Available on Netflix)

This young adult drama is elevated by an unusual plot and sensitive direction. The Half of It will be appreciated by anyone wanting a sweet twist to the standard coming-of-age story. Our young star is a brainy Chinese girl, Ellie (played by the expressive Leah Lewis) who in a Cyrano de Bergerac twist is hired to write letters and texts to the young woman of her dreams. Along the way, she develops a friendship with the doofus football player who shares her crush. All of the characters eventually reveal unfulfilled passions and interests that take them beyond the stereotypes they’ve been playing in high school. It’s refreshing to see a teen romance where the same sex attraction isn’t treated as tragic but as viable as any other crush.

Drinks with Films Rating: 3 shakes w/3 straws in a high school hang-out diner (out of 5)

A Secret Love, 2020, Chris Bolan (Netflix)

From the Ryan Murphy production, A Secret Love

Imagine if your favorite Aunt was a baseball player in the 40’s and had been living with her friend for over 40 years. One day, in her 70’s, acting as nervous as a school girl, she reveals that she’s been lovers with that woman friend and is finally coming out of the closet. Terry Donahue was a professional player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War 11. Her grandnephew, Chris Bolan (a Hollywood actor), spent six years recording this romantic tale of two Canadian girls who moved to Chicago to start a life together. True love across six decades had to stay hidden, first, because it was a illegal in the eyes of the law and then later, so as to not jeopardize their relationships in conservative families. A Secret Love is a film as dear as the two women you’ll come to love.

Drinks with Films Rating: 4 Coronas – sipped before taking their meds (out of 5)

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