Metro Weekly

Larry Kramer responds to “Stonewall” movie boycotters

Playwright and longtime LGBT rights activist says keeping film from being seen "is only hurting ourselves"

Larry Kramer, with his dog Charley, in his Manhattan home Photo by Chris Geidner

Larry Kramer, with his dog Charley, in his Manhattan home
Photo by Chris Geidner

Playwright and LGBT rights activist Larry Kramer had some harsh words for those protesting the movie Stonewall, calling them “crazies” in a Facebook post after the movie was criticized for “white-washing” the contributions of transgender women of color in the Stonewall riots.

LGBT activists previously started two online petitions, one through MoveOn.org, and another via the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Network. As of Monday morning, those petitions had garnered 468 signatures and 21,906 signatures, respectively. The activists say that, based on the film’s trailer, the movie appears to erase or downplay the influence and role that LGBT people of color played in the early days of the gay liberation movement.

Director Roland Emmerich has taken to social media to defend the film from charges that he made the character of Danny, played by Jeremy Irvine, the main protagonist at the expense of including the contributions of transgender women like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the latter of whom is credited, by some sources, with having thrown the first brick during the Stonewall riots. The Washington Post‘s Soraya Nadia McDonald writes that other sources credit butch lesbian Storme DeLarverie with throwing the first brick. In either case, it was not cisgender white men who are credited with sparking the riots that helped publicize the gay liberation movement.

“When I first learned about the Stonewall Riots through my work with the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I was struck that the circumstances that lead to LGBT youth homelessness today are pretty much the same as they were 45 years ago,” Emmerich wrote in a Facebook post that was subsequently shared by others on social media. “The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves.

“I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film — which is truly a labor of love for me — finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day,” the post continued. “We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.”

In response to Emmerich’s shared post, Kramer jumped into the fray, writing a message intended for Emmerich. 

“don’t listen to the crazies,” Kramer wrote. “for some reason there is a group of ‘activists’ that insists on maintaining their prime importance and participation during this riot. unfortunately there seems no one left alive to say ‘it wasn’t that way at all,’ or ‘who are or where the fuck were you.’ as with so much history there is no way to ‘prove’ a lot of stuff, which allows artists such as yourself (and me I might add) to take essences and attempt to find and convey meaning and truth. i sincerely hope this boycott your film shit peters out. we are not dealing with another ‘Cruising’ here. keeping your film from being seen is only hurting ourselves. good luck and thank you for your passion.”

Stonewall is scheduled to be released in theaters on Sept. 25. The chief author of the GSA Network petition, Pat Cordova-Goff, posted a video to YouTube explaining why she and others were calling for a boycott. 

“I am sick and tired of the stories of brown and black folk being erased. I am sick and tired of the stories of trans people being erased,” Cordova-Goff says in the video. “…if this film is an accurate representation of what happened, when people watch it, then by all joy, I’ll be like, ‘I was wrong. Sorry.’ But this might be the first time some viewers are introduced to anything queer, and they are going to get the wrong narrative. That cannot happen. … There are other options. And don’t even get me started on a cis man playing a trans woman.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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