E. Winter Tashlin

NPR Re-Writes LGBT History Edition [What You Need To Know]

Filed By E. Winter Tashlin | January 23, 2013 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: anti-gay, Boston College Law School, Brian Brown, Carleton University, LGBT, LGBT history, Liz Halloran, Neil's Puppet Dreams, NPR, President Obama, same-sex marriage, states' rights, Stonewall Riots

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:

  • Portugal now includes crimes based on gender identity in their equivalent of hate crimes provisions.
  • The office of Boston College Law School's "Lambda Law Students Association" was vandalized on Monday.
  • Autumn Sandeen over at Pam's House Blend reminds us that while the Obama administration has been supportive of the trans* community, the wording in his inaugural address was conspicuously not inclusive of trans* people (or bisexuals for that matter)
  • Isabel Perez, a lesbian who was fired by Ashley Furniture because her sexuality was in conflict with the company's culture and mission statement, is suing on grounds of unlawful termination under New Jersey employment protections law.
  • The Obama administration wants to be very clear that the President's inclusion of gay and lesbian equality in his inaugural address does not indicate any shift in position regarding the President's belief that same-sex marriage is a state issue rather than a federal one.
  • An LGBT activist at Carleton University tore down a "free-speech wall" that he felt constituted an act of violence against LGBT community on campus. You can read his full statement on his Facebook page.
  • A new film staring Alan Cumming, and looking at the often heartbreaking plight of LGBT parents trying to adopt in Florida, has many parallels to the true life story of the first successful adoptive gay couple in that state.
  • An Ikea advert in Thailand has upset the trans* community through its use of the disgusting and tired trope of trans* panic for comedic effect.
  • If you're interested in supporting (very) indie LGBT filmmaking, have a look at the Indiegogo page for "Take Me Anywhere"
  • Tensions in London between the LGBT and Muslim community have risen after a series of Youtube videos by Muslim youth harassing people they perceived as gay became public.
  • Rhode Island's House Judiciary Committee voted 11-0 to send a marriage equality bill to state House of Representatives.
  • Brian Brown of NOM feels that his organization is doing the good work of MLK.
  • Finally, in his newest, and very catchy "Puppet Dreams" episode, Neil Patric Harris reveals the terrible truth of where the slippery slope of LGBT equality leads:

Stonewall Window by Flikr user "celesteh"

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