Now, as promised, since our storyteller at last night's event was a little inebriated and our improv artists were much more concerned with getting some laughs as per their job, we are posting below the copy we either wrote or borrowed from free source sites on the stories themselves. The Stonewall one at the end is kind of lengthy, so we won't be offended if you have to come back and read that one. Thanks again for your support, and see you at the next show!
Storyteller's Choice--The Lavender Scare
In 1950, the same year that Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed 205 communists were working in the State Department, Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy said that the State Department had allowed 91 homosexuals to resign. On April 19, 1950, the Republican National Chairman Guy George Gabrielson said that "sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years" were "perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists". McCarthy hired Roy Cohn–who died of AIDS, was a character in the famous play Angels in America, and is widely believed to have been a closeted homosexual–as chief counsel of his Congressional subcommittee. Together, McCarthy and Cohn, with the enthusiastic support of the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover (also believed by many to have been a closeted homosexual),were responsible for the firing of scores of gay men from government employment and strong-armed many opponents into silence using rumors of their homosexuality. In 1953, during the final months of the Truman administration, the State Department reported that it had fired 425 employees for allegations of homosexuality.
McCarthy often used accusations of homosexuality as a smear tactic in his anti-communist crusade, often combining the Second Red Scare with the Lavender Scare. On one occasion, he went so far as to announce to reporters, "If you want to be against McCarthy, boys, you've got to be either a Communist or a cocksucker." Both homosexuals and communist party members were seen as subversive elements in American society who all shared the same ideals of antitheism; rejection of bourgeois culture and middle-class morality; lack of conformity; they were scheming and manipulative and, most importantly, would put their own agendas above others, in the eyes of the general population. McCarthy also associated homosexuality and communism as "threats to the "American way of life."Homosexuality was directly linked to security concerns, and more government employees were dismissed because of their homosexual sexual orientation than because they were left-leaning or communist. George Chauncey noted that, "The specter of the invisible homosexual, like that of the invisible communist, haunted Cold War America," and homosexuality (and by implication homosexuals themselves) were constantly referred to not only as a disease, but also as an invasion, like the perceived danger of communism and subversives.
Connections between gay rights groups and so-called subversive elements were not entirely baseless. The Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States, was founded by Harry Hay, a former member of the Communist Party USA, who resigned when the membership condemned his politics as a threat to the organization he had founded.
Because social attitudes toward homosexuality were overwhelmingly negative and the psychiatric community regarded homosexuality as a mental disorder, gay men and lesbians were considered susceptible to blackmail, thus constituting a security risk. U.S. government officials assumed that communists would blackmail homosexual employees of the federal government to provide them classified information rather than risk exposure.
According to John Loughery, author of a study of gay identity in the 20th century, "few events indicate how psychologically wracked America was becoming in the 1950s ... than the presumed overlap of the Communist and the homosexual menace."
According to Lillian Faderman, the LGBT community formed a subculture of its own in this era, constituting "not only a choice of sexual orientation, but of social orientation as well." The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, which formed the homophile movements of the U.S., were in many ways defined by McCarthyism and the lavender scare. They were underground organizations that maintained the anonymity of their members and offered support and resources for those who did not identify as heterosexual or (in some cases) cisgender.
Audience Choice--Christine Jorgensen
Christine was the first American post-op transwoman. There have obviously always been people of all gender identities, but Jorgensen was the first to “come out” as trans, having had successful gender reassignment surgeries. Christine caused a lot of waves in part because of the movie star looks she chose to adopt as a woman, and in part because she was a former soldier in the U.S. Army--considered then to be the ultimate display of masculinity. Jorgensen was never happy in her male form. She was born in 1926, and after high school went straight into the army. From there, she went to three or four different schools, until in 1951 she underwent the first of several gender reassignment surgeries. In spite of being an outspoken advocate for transgender rights once she came back, and giving us lovely quotes such as "As you can see by the enclosed photos, taken just before the operation, I have changed a great deal. But it is the other changes that are so much more important. Remember the shy, miserable person who left America? Well, that person is no more and, as you can see, I'm in marvelous spirits." the stories the media chose to run included headlines such as “Ex-GI becomes blonde bombshell!” She was immediately objectified, but while some jokes didn’t bother her, she did walk off of The Dick Cavett show when he inquired about her personal life in a degrading way. Cavett apologized profusely, which was not the case when then U.S. President Spiro T. Agnew called a rival politician “The Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party.” Christine rightfully became upset for her own purposes as well as in defense of other transgender people who may be hurt by the joke. Agnew never apologized. Another dark side of Jorgensen’s story is that medicine in the U.S. was far from trans friendly at the time, so Jorgensen’s surgeries were all done overseas by doctors who were just then creating these procedures, except for a final vaginoplasty that was done in the U.S., but not until several years later. After Jorgensen considered her transition complete, she worked as an actress and singer who would do tongue in cheek performances of popular Broadway hits like “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” She died in 1989, proud to have contributed to the sexual revolution in a profound way, in spite of the media sensationalism of her story. She was able to look past that to see the people she had helped, encouraged, and inspired on their own journeys.
The Stonewall Inn was located at 52 and 53 Christopher Street. In the 50's police raids were common on gay bars, but because the Stonewall was owned by the mob, frequent bribes kept the police away. The Stonewall was not a glamorous place. There was no running water behind the bar, the mob watered down the drinks, and the toilets overflowed constantly. Though not specifically used for prostitution, drug deals and other “cash transactions” took place, but it was the only place gay people could dance in NYC so it became THE gay bar. The only way to get in was to knock on the door and a bouncer would answer and decide if he knew you, or if you looked gay enough.
At 1:20 pm Saturday June 28, 1969, a couple of plainclothes cops infiltrated the bar. They called for backup on the bar payphones. Inside the bar the lights were kept low and were colored. When police were spotted the management would turn on the normal white lights which was everyone's cue to stop dancing or touching. The white light came one and the cops shouted, “Police! We're taking the place!” normal protocol for police raids were for the cops to line up people along the back wall and check ids. Anyone who did not cooperate was arrested. In addition those wearing “opposite gender” clothing were also arrested. Though few men in full drag were admitted to the bar, there were a few and these were taken by a female cop into the restroom to have their sex “verified.” They were also arrested.
The raid did not go as planned. The men lined up against the back wall began to refuse to show the officers their identification and those dressed as women refused to be taken to the bathroom. The police decided to arrest everyone in the bar. Those who weren't arrested were released but they did not disperse. While waiting on the paddy wagon to arrive and take the bar's alcohol, employees, and patrons away and group of about 100-150 people had massed outside the Stonewall. Over the next 15 minutes the crowd would more than double the number of people being arrested.
Police began shoving people and physically kicking them out of the bar. The crowd booed. Someone shouted “Gay Power!” Someone else started singing “We Shall Overcome.” When a woman in handcuffs escaped, multiple times, an officer hit her over the head with a baton. As she fell she looked at the crowd and says, “Why don't you do something.” Apparently that was all the crowd needed.
Shit hit the fan and the crowd became violent, throwing coins, beer bottles, and bricks from a nearby construction site. Police tried to subdue the mob, but the police cruisers and the patrol wagon (with a few slashed tires)left immediately. The cops barricaded themselves inside the bar as the mob attracted more attention and grew in numbers. The only known photo of that night depicts a group of homeless young hustlers scruffling with the police. The most outcast members of the community, gay street kids, hustlers, and “flame queens”, were said to be responsible for the first volley of projectiles in the form of garbage cans, garbage, bricks, and bottles. The mob lit garbage on fire and stuffed it through the broken windows of the Stonewall Inn as police tried to put it out with firehoses. The first onslaught lasted about 45 minutes.
Things escalated when the Tactical Police Force arrived to free the trapped officers. One officer's eyes was cut and many others were struck by flying debris. The police force was angry and embarrassed because this had never happened to them before. There had been riots before, but the fairies were not supposed to riot. The mob was fighting with ferocity and killing was not out of the equation.The TPF formed a phalanx around the mob and attempted to clear the streets. The mob openly mocked the police by forming a kickline and slowly advancing on them. The riots lasted until 4:00 in the morning in which most of the streets were cleared.
The next day people came from everywhere to gaze at the burned Stonewall Inn. Three major papers covered the riot, The New York Post, The New York Times, and The Daily News. A second night of riots followed and then four more nights. Thousands of people choked Christopher Street during the riot. Up until that time homosexual activist groups called homophile groups had concentrated on making gay people seem no different than heterosexuals, but this changed with the Stonewall Riots. Pamphlets were passed out with slogans like, “Think homosexuals are revolting? You bet we are!” This spawned the Gay Liberation Front. The first pro-homosexual organization to use the word gay.
Before the Stonewall Riots there were about sixty homophile organizations in the country. The year after Stonewall there were over 1500. On June 28, 1970 Christopher Street Liberation Day marked the one year anniversary of the riots with an assembly on Christopher Street. Similar events were held in Los Angeles and Chicago. This marked the first Gay Pride marches in US history.