Stonewall Turns 50 · Call Her Ganda · Indecent Advances
Plus: Your Pride reading list
|Best Evidence||Jun 28, 2019||1|
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event that alongside the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco marked a turning point for police harassment of the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, it wasn’t until earlier this month that the NYPD officially apologized for the “morality” raids the department routinely enacted on queer spaces like the Stonewall Inn.
The apology, which came after City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and groups associated with the city’s Pride march called for the NYPD to express contrition, was made by Commissioner James O’Neill in early June. “The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong — plain and simple,” he said at a press conference at police HQ. That simple phrase, however, was attacked by Sergeant Ed Mullins, the head of the department’s sergeants’ union. Mullins, who joined the force the same era as O’Neill (the 1980s), said the apology “blam[ed] the police officer in the street” as opposed to NYPD’s policies at city laws at the times. -- EB
For more on the events at Stonewall PBS’s American Experience has an episode called “Stonewall Uprising” you can watch here. There are also a couple fictionalized adaptations: a 1995 movie called Stonewall that stars Guillermo Diaz (who will always live in my heart as the “fuck you” guy, from Half-Baked, a scene I quote all the time), and Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall from 2015. Both movies have significant problems (outlined well here by PRI), but of the two, I’d pick the 1995 version. That is, if you still have a DVD player -- as of this writing, that’s the only format on which it is available. -- EB
An upcoming POV doc on the murder of Jennifer Laude tries to do too much. Call Her Ganda, directed by PJ Raval, might not necessarily work better as a longer-form limited series, but the film in its current iteration left me feeling unsatisfied. The description of the docu on PBS’s press site may give partial insight into the problem: “Three women pursue justice for Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transgender woman who was brutally murdered by a U.S. Marine. In galvanizing a political uprising, they take on hardened histories of U.S. imperialism.”
Laude’s murder alone is a layered narrative prospect, in that the humiliating horror of her last moments is all too familiar; Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, the 19-year-old Marine responsible, left her with her head in the toilet of the motel room where she was found (content warning: the film uses a crime-scene photo), and almost immediately reverted to a gay-panic defense that, if various tweets the film collages onscreen are to be believed, would have worked in a large portion of the court of public opinion. Then there is the fact that the murder occurred in the course of Laude’s sex work; evidently, trans women in the Philippines find their employment opportunities limited almost exclusively to sex work and beauty salons, a documentary series all by itself...but it’s the “U.S. imperialism” aspect of the film’s description that truly complicates matters. The U.S. and its military are colonizers of the Philippines, and what that still means legally for American servicepeople accused of crimes in or near Subic Bay is, while not particularly complex (we’ve all seen those Law & Order episodes in which our heroes tussle with the USAF over jurisdiction), another angle on the story that merits its own dedicated two hours.
As well, it becomes clear early on that we’ll see much of the film through the eyes of Buzzfeed reporter Meredith Talusan, also a trans Filipina who’s shown interviewing Laude’s family and friends...but also reading aloud from her reporting on Laude, and journaling at various empty piers, when drones and sidewalk cams aren’t also lingering on various street scenes in a documentary that’s 83 minutes long. It’s not that Call Her Ganda (“Ganda,” Laude’s nickname, means “beauty”) is poorly done; it’s that it has so many stories and histories to unpack: the hate crime itself; the grey-market existence of trans Filipinas that may have created the circumstances around the crime; sovereignty issues going back decades, and the U.S. military’s reluctance to punish its own for crimes committed against the occupied (op. cit. the Massie Affair); and Talusan, who goes by both “she” and “they,” grappling with her own journey with the case, and roads less traveled by. As it is, Call Her Ganda is too short to dig in to any one of these very far, and while there’s good, bracing material here, it mostly hints at potential other media -- Netflix series; podcasts -- that might give Laude’s death and its bitter implications a more thorough airing. Call Her Ganda airs next Monday 1 July in the POV timeslot; check your local listings, and if you do watch, let me know if you too wanted more. -- SDB
As we slide into the last weekend of Pride month, here’s a collection of other things you should read.
Genocide: There’s no better word for what Polchin describes. He details story after story of men who were killed because they were gay. The most shocking tales involve beheadings and torture, but worse are the monotonously similar accounts that fill most of the pages. Here’s how they go: A queer man brings a stranger home, or to a hotel, or to a park. They drink. They argue. The stranger kills the queer man, then later claims he was only acting in self-defense because the pervert made those titular indecent advances.
Then comes the kicker: The murderer gets a reduced sentence or even goes free, because the government and the church and the culture agree that normal fellows have the right to kill a pansy.
At Poynter, Tiffany Stevens has a history of The Washington Blade, the country’s longest-running gay paper. Here’s a snip:
The first issue of The Washington Blade, then called The Gay Blade, was released in October 1969, nearly four months after the riots against police violence at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York. Distributed through local gay bars, The Blade’s contents advertised basic amenities for the LGBT community, as well as warnings that might help readers avoid “the legal complications of being gay.” One entry warns frequenters of DuPont Circle that their license plates were being recorded and tracked for blackmail purposes.
Finally, here’s an oldie but goodie: For The Awl, Elon Green covered The Doodler, a serial killer active in 1970s SF whose crimes were poorly covered due to the SFPD’s disinterest in crimes that hit the gay community, in favor of morality entrapment stings. Here’s a snip:
By 1974, the Castro was for gay men a beautiful refuge from everywhere else. “A clarion call went out in the underground network that San Francisco was the place to be,” said Ron Huberman, the first openly gay investigator in San Francisco’s district attorney’s office, who arrived in 1975. The bar and bathhouse scenes were jumping. Harvey Milk had just opened his camera shop. It was a pre-AIDS wonderland. (While researching this, the astonishing ubiquity of bathhouse ads in the Advocate left me desensitized to microfilmed penises.)
But the San Francisco Police Department would not leave well enough alone. Officers Cornelius Lucy and William Gay, for example, practiced a creative form of entrapment. Officer Gay, as the Advocate put it, would “drive slowly through [Golden Gate Park] in a pickup truck and stop near a strolling male. Then he would stretch out…and show a bulging ‘basket’ in his tight Levis.” Once an advance was made, Officer Gay would make an arrest.
Next week on Best Evidence: Sarah’s off for the week, so we’ll be on a lighter publication schedule of Monday-Wednesday, off July 4 and 5. Have anything you want us to cover? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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