As a rule I'm quite a fan of National Public Radio (NPR). Their podcast and radio broadcasts are how I keep myself entertained and informed while working during the day. Amidst a vast wasteland of 24hr cable news and highly partisan talk radio, it often feels as if NPR is one of the few mainstream sources left for intelligent, in-depth news and analysis.
The high standards to which I hold NPR certainly contribute to how disturbed and disenchanted I was with the January 22nd article by NPR Washington Correspondent (Digital News) Liz Halloran entitled "Stonewall? Explaining Obama's Historic Gay-Rights Reference."
The piece was ostensibly intended to provide background on the Stonewall Riots for people who may have been unfamiliar with the historic reference President Obama made during his second inaugural address. Unfortunately, Ms. Halloran's piece, which as of 4:30am EST Wednesday morning was top of NPR's "most shared" list, is one of the most blatant examples of what could only be considered trans* and non-conformist erasure I've ever seen.
How, one might wonder, is it possible to write an account of the Stonewall raid and subsequent uprising without any mention of the pivotal role played by drag queens and trans* women? As hard as it is to imagine, Ms. Halloran has done exactly that.
In fact, the only mention of drag found in the article is an assurance by Stonewall veteran Martin Duberman that the Stonewall Inn was not in fact "filled" with "drag queens and street hustlers." Equally disturbing, the piece explicitly states that "gay men resisted police harassment," despite the fact that the presence of trans* women among those fighting back that night, and throughout the days that followed, is an accepted part of the history of the Stonewall Riots.
By dismissing and demeaning the very presence of drag queens and other non-conforming people, those who arguably set light to the kindling of resentment felt by the community at the time, Liz Halloran has perhaps unintentionally crafted a masterful piece of revisionist history.
Her article presents the Stonewall Riots in a sanitized form, stripped of anything that could be seen as "other" or frightening by a white, straight, middle-class, and cisgender audience, whom National Public Radio presumably considers their core constituency.
Ms. Halloran uses the word "gay" nineteen times in her article; while the word "lesbian" is used exactly once when not in a proper name, and never by the author herself. The words and subsequent identities "trans*," "transgender," and "transexual" are nowhere to be found, along with "bisexual" and the acronym "LGBT."
Despite how NPR might choose to portray matters, Stonewall belongs to us all. By blotting out anyone who doesn't fit within some conformist ideal of how we should be portrayed to mainstream society from the history of our movement and community, Liz Halloran and National Public Radio have, in their own small way, perpetuated the very sort of injustice that sent us rioting in the streets of New York, back in 1969.
And now, here's what you need to know today: