Earlier this month Queens College’s Student Life Events Manager, John Carlson, hosted the Stonewall Panel Discussion, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Led by a panel of LGBTQ acitivists, the panel was a commemoration meant to reflect on the LGBTQ’s struggles to become recognized in the positive manner it deserves, and how far it has come in recent years.
The discussion began by noting, “It is important for us to look back at the narrative [of LGBTQ history] and make sure it’s truthful, and that it’s genuine, and this platform assembled is one of the great ways of making sure we [as a society] achieve that.” Gracie Manning, one of the panelists, is among a selected group to teach Administration for Child Services approved curricula to both LGBTQ and TGNC (Trans Gender Non-Conforming) youth. Manning further added, in regards to the LGBTQ movement, “Success of a movement is more so about, how many people did you leave behind?…Remembering trans people of color writes home the point that throughout our history… their representation and their fight remains to be heard.”
Event moderator, Crystal Frost, explained the background of the event was , “ …a haven for LGBT people of color in the 1960’s who were often sidelined by the white cis gender gay & lesbian community.” As for the historical significance of Stonewall, the riots were a series of demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community amidst a police raid that occurred one fateful early morning on June 28th, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village of Manhattan, New York.
Pearl Love, a peer health advocate and activist with Translatina Network here in NYC, is a survivor of hate violence and is an outspoken advocate for trans women of color. Love spoke about her story that touched many members of the audience at the event, revealing, “I’ve been here for 20+ years, not for any American dream though. In China, children get evicted for coming out.”
“Everyday we have to face a lot of discrimination and a lot of trauma, and I learned fast how to handle it,” Love stated. “It’s possible on the subway that people will ask you rude questions, make taunts. It made me feel hurt everyday, but I learned how to handle it and move on. When people assaulted me, I videotaped them, got a million views.”
The next panelist was Karleigh Chardonnay Merlot, a freelance video journalist with more than 25 years of experience, a trans-organizer for the ANSWER Coalition, and an operator for Trans Lifeline. Merlot explained, “When I think of Stonewall, I think of courage, and now that torch now moves to us, to me.”
“The first time I had even heard about the Stonewall rebellion while was writing a paper on the late ‘60s for my high school history class in Omaha, Nebraska, in the Reagan era.” Merlot further commented, “Your generation has that brick, in your hand, and you’ve done something with it… what you’re really on the way for doing is killing racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism etc. When I think of Stonewall, I think of that courage, and now, that brick is in all our hands, that torch now moves to all of us, and me. One thing that we celebrate as we get into the pride month, what are we going to do with this brick? What are we going to do about the people trying to roll back all the progress we’ve made? We’ll move forward.”