Film Review: Stonewall

Rebuild an active LGBT movement

Mary Finch, Leeds Socialist Party

Within a week of the trailer for the film Stonewall being released, 22,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be boycotted. Stonewall purports to tell the history of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) struggle for equality.

On the night of 27 June 1969 New York police, like they had so many times before across the USA, raided the Stonewall Inn LGBT bar, arresting some of the patrons. The local LGBT community immediately exploded in anger, ejecting the police from the area, and freeing the arrested. These protests sparked massive organisation of LGBT people to fight for their rights.

This new film wrote out some major characters – the people who led the Stonewall riots, and the subsequent movement for liberation and equality, but are less palatable to the whitewashed image Hollywood wants to present.

The film is based around a fictional white, gay man. But Marsha Johnson, a black transgender woman, appears in the film with only a minor role. Historically she is credited with instigating the riots. Sylvia Rivera, a Latina transgender woman and another key figure in the riots, was replaced with a fictional male character.


Petitioners say those ‘who began the riots do not seem to be credited with such revolutionary acts’. Stonewall was revolutionary. Before the riots, and the mass liberation movement, police raids and arrests in LGBT bars was commonplace, as were attacks and murders that were rarely prosecuted.

After Stonewall the LGBT community demanded the same rights, safety, and freedom from harassment and violence that everyone else enjoys. We should reclaim our history.

Ultimately, the LGBT movement of the 1970s failed to make the necessary conclusions that class society, where a tiny elite hoard wealth at the expense of the rest, will always be one of divide and rule.

Meanwhile, young people kicked out of their homes by homophobic or transphobic parents often have nowhere to go, and end up homeless. Asylum seekers are often deported to their home countries, back to persecution. LGBT people are disproportionately more likely to suffer mental health problems. The working class majority were left to keep suffering capitalism’s devastating effects.

We need to rebuild an active movement, demanding whatever steps towards equality we can win under capitalism, but ultimately fighting for a democratic socialist society.

By nationalising the wealth of the 1%, and democratically planning its use, we can harness vast resources to provide jobs, homes and services for LGBT people.

We can render divide and rule tactics obsolete. With no ruling class, there is no longer a need for oppression. Only a decisive break with capitalism can win genuine liberation!