Stonewall: History of a Rebellion

Audio of speech June 2009 by Dana Cloud.


Why Marry at all? A poem by Marge Piercy

Why marry at all?

By Marge Piercy

Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?

Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?

Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.

Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.

But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.

Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.

This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

Speech by Silky Shoemaker to Queerbomb (alternative pride gathering) June 4

Loved this–political, funny, celebratory all at once.

This night has been a long time coming. Im so glad we’re all here to celebrate our wild and beautiful queer identities. Tonight we proclaim who we are and what we love, without shame or apology or beer commercials.

Pride is strength in what we love and it is what we make it, together. And now we show Austin that we can make it without money or corporate sponsors or exclusionary tactics or billboards. Without fear of sex or bodies, of filth or poor people, without fear of speaking the truth.

As “the Gays”, we have an incredible lineage of radical, courageous ancestors who literally put their lives on the line to exist in this world. To exist in flaming, exuberant queerness. Their struggles have paved the road we walk tonight. And when we take to the streets for pride, we carry their torches in honor of the work they have done, the lives we have lost, and the work we still have left to do!

41 years ago when Stonewall Riots lit up the lower east side of Manhattan, no one apologized to their board of trustees afterwards.
They did not consider themselves “too freaky” or “too vulgar” or “unsuitable for families”. Even though that is exactly what the world wanted them to think. They were queers of color, they were trannies, they were activists and organizers. They were sex workers and drag queens and passing butches. They were backroom cocksuckers and bitter old queens and underage twinks. They were drunks, loudmouths, and perverts— tired, disappointed, and angry. And they fought for their right to exist in just these ways, and more! (So every time you see a bitter old queen at Charlie’s, you can thank Sylvia Rivera.) They fought to be unapologetically extravagant in their queerness and irrepressible in their demands!

We will be told again and again to make ourselves presentable, to hide behind closed doors, to button up, butch up, hush up, pay up— to sell out our values for mainstream acceptance. BUT this is wrong! and its also BORING!

They will say we should do it in the name of normalcy or decency or that its the only way to get it done. And especially they will say “Do it in the name of families.”

But my family is right here. Im reclaiming that word. (Again!) Because my family is built around respecting and honoring each other in our many facets, in the beauty and dignity of our varied experiences. And in this shared family we inherit a responsibility from the faggots and bulldaggers of yore, our flaming foremothers and forefathers:
To remember that the freedoms we have were built on the radical activism of others. When they took to the streets with broken bottles and high heels in hand they made room for pissed off transsexuals in bad wigs, (and more!)

When ACTUP members chained themselves to the walls of the NYStock Exchange they demanded the world see us: as living, breathing, fucking, dying human beings in need of affordable medicine and basic compassion.

When we pass out free condoms its not just to say “Be safe,” its also saying “We’re not ashamed” “We will still find power in how we make love.”
When i think of Queerbomb, I think of us all making love. BIG GAY LOVE out on the streets! And i think its heroic. Im so proud to march with you all tonight. To honor our history and build a future. To bridge and overlap movements for freedom and justice and good looks.

In the words of Sylvester, “You make me feel mighty real!”
Lets march!!