Roland Emmerich's new movie Stonewall purports to tell the story of the infamous Stonewall riots, which sparked the birth of the LGBT rights movement. However, he has understandably come under fire for placing a fictional white gay male protagonist at the center of the story. There's been a widespread outcry over the fact that the trans people, people of color and women who were at the forefront of the riots and who took the lead in organizing in its aftermath have been seemingly erased in favor of a more "mainstream" hero.
Emmerich responded to these accusations in a Facebook post, saying: "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. 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," he continued. "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. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance."
Fair enough, but there's still no getting away from the fact that one - or all - of these "characters" could and should have occupied the starring role(s). Why create fiction when there is enough drama in the truth? Without further ado, we explain just why these five real-life heroes of the riots deserve the limelight...
1. Stormé DeLarverie
Butch lesbian DeLarverie threw the first punch at a police officer when the raid on the Stonewall Inn kicked off, galvanizing the crowds into action. As well as being an MC, singer, bouncer and bodyguard, DeLarverie also worked as a volunteer street warden in queer hot-spot Greenwich Village, calling herself "the guardian of the lesbians".