I wasn’t there for Stonewall, but I was there when N.W.A and gangsta rap took over Los Angeles and plunged the south bay area into warfare. The music genre and the group didn’t cause the plunge, the free fall was already happening. Reaganism brought the war on drugs, and combined with segregated neighborhoods and white flight, it left the city in shambles.
Gangsta rap was a genre of corporate-backed music that made popular the idea that the best defense for an impoverished neighborhood was a well-armed militia that placed importance on masculine values. This idea is, at its core, is a sort of cartoon-conservatism that left much of LA a bloody mess. The gangsta revolution placed importance on manly heterosexual men, and posited that all vestiges of the femme were weak and exclusively white. The west coast revolution didn’t feel like a revolution, it felt like a prison with hyper-masculine gangsters as guards.
I can speak at length about LA, but suffice to say that I wasn’t surprised to find most of the South Bay counties voting for Prop 8.
It’s important to understand this in the context of this new N.W.A movie, executive produced once again by corporate money, and with the help of Ice Cube who might have it in his best interest to not address the vile rape culture promoted by N.W.A.
Stonewall, as a counterpoint, is Gay Avatar (as someone on twitter described it) the tale of a white boy who runs away to New York to learn the ways of a few magical black/latino drag queens that inspire him to take part in an east coast revolution. It also seems like a bunch of bunk.
The Stonewall riots were an east-coast revolution, a real one. Not backed by corporate money, but by spontaneous human spirit. It was led by black and brown non-binary drag queens (the idea of a transgender person without the performative aspect of a “drag queen” wasn’t popular among the poor, who often find that every facet of their life must be able to generate money).
The Stonewall riots were led by heroes, black heroes and latina heroes. Marsha P Johnson, Silvia Rivera, and many others Several gay rights orgs were founded in its wake, but most importantly, it was the end result of a city that did make space for the femme. East Coast hip-hop has always been more pleasant personally, more daring. East Coast culture made room for its LGBT of color. Sure it isn’t a lot of room, but it is better than the dark void of nothing that was the South Bay area of Los Angeles.
Two movies are coming out then: One a West Coast myth of revolution that whitewashes the most damaging aspects of gangsta rap, and the other is an East Coast myth that robs the revolution from black and brown activists of the time. I’m sure the creators of both films don’t have bad intentions, but the net effect of their myth making on the popular culture will be an understanding that hyper-masculinity and whiteness always saves the day. It’s a a convenient myth to uphold for a couple of movies looking to be successful in America.