by busting up their all-white middle class booze can.
Back in 1994, Bruce Bawer called for the de-mythologizing of Stonewall in a cover story for The New Republic:
Today, however, Stonewall is not only commemorated but mythologized. Many gay men and lesbians routinely speak of it as if it was a sacred event that lies beyond the reach of objective discourse. They talk as if there was no gay rights activism at all before Stonewall, or else they mock pre-Stonewall activists as Uncle Toms. They recite the name “Stonewall” itself with the same reverence that American politicians reserve for the names of Washington and Lincoln. And indeed the word is perfectly suited to the myth, conjuring as it does an image of a huge, solid barrier separating the dark ages prior to the day that Judy Garland died from the out-loud-and- proud present. Every year, on what has long since become an all-purpose gay holiday—a combination of Independence Day, May Day, Mardi Gras and, since the advent of HIV, Memorial Day as well—millions ritualistically revisit the raucous, defiant marginality of Stonewall in marches around the world. This year in New York, on the twenty-fifth anniversary, the ritual will reach a climax. For many, Stonewall has already become a Platonic model of gay activism—and, indeed, a touchstone of gay identity.
Second, the centrality of transgenders to Stonewall is probably exaggerated. Eyewitness accounts of what happened that night vary, as they usually do, and we have no videotape of the event and very few pictures.
But one thing is clear. It is wrong to characterize the Stonewall Inn as having been a sanctuary for genderqueers (unless that term encompasses non-transgendered gay men). Murray writes that “men familiar with the milieu then insist that the Stonewall clientele was middle-class white men and that very few drag queens or dykes or nonwhites were ever allowed admittance.”
But don’t take Murray’s word for it, consider what Sylvia Rivera herself told the historian Eric Marcus for his book, Making History: “The Stonewall wasn’t a bar for drag queens. Everybody keeps saying it was. … If you were a drag queen, you could get into the Stonewall if they knew you. And only a certain number of drag queens were allowed into the Stonewall at that time.” The night of the Stonewall riot was the first time Rivera had ever even been to the bar. (…)
If we learned the Stonewall police had busted up a meeting of gay white racists, instead of drag queens, we wouldn’t say that should make us more attentive to the concerns of racists. These matters rise or fall on their own merits, not on the relative role groups played in distant and disputed events.
Another myth is that the police raid on the Stonewall was part of a broader crackdown on gay bars in the summer of 1969, a mayoral election year. (…)
Deputy Inspector Pine had two stated reasons for the raid: the Stonewall was selling liquor without a license, which it was, and it was being used by a Mafia blackmail ring that was setting up gay patrons who worked on Wall Street, which also seems likely.