Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Gayjacking and Whitewashing Philadelphia Trans History?

When we talk about erasure and gayjacking of trans history, this is how it happens.  

The Dewey's Lunch Counter Sit-In that occurred in April-May 1965 was the first protest organized around specifically trans issues, and it was done so predominately by Black trans people.  There have been attempts to whitewash this FUBU protest organized around African-American Civil Rights Movement principles as a Clark Polak-Janus Society production.    

Cei Bell wrote this letter to the editor in the Philadelphia Gay News concerning a story that the city is considering naming a section of Locust Street between 12th and 13th Streets for Barbara Gittings, who is considered the mother of the gay and lesbian movement. 

Last week, PGN published an article about Locust Street between 12th and 13th being renamed Barbara Gittings Way [“‘Gittings Way’ in the works,” June 22-28]. Malcolm Lazin, who proposed the renaming, referred to Gittings as the mother of the LGBT movement.

Just because something (or someone) is lesbian and gay doesn’t make it LGBT.

In the ’60s, when Gittings was one of the organizers of the Annual Reminders protest at Independence Hall, the point of the men dressing in suits and the women wearing dresses and carrying pocketbooks was they did not want drag queens, effeminate males and butch dykes — the homosexual stereotypes — at the protest. The reason effeminate males, drag queens and butch dykes were the stereotype is because they were the only people who were out of the closet. Rock Hudson certainly wouldn’t turn from kissing Doris Day and say, “I really want to suck tonsils with Troy Donahue!” That may have been the official moment that the movement began intentionally excluding and harassing gender-variant people out of the movement.

On the other hand, the earlier successful May 1965 sit-in demonstration by drag queens at Dewey’s (a restaurant at 17th and Chancellor streets where Little Pete’s is located) allowed straight-appearing gay men such as Clark Polak from the Janus Society and lesbians to join them. Social class may be the reason why the Independence Hall demonstrations by Gittings and others are promoted as historic while the earlier sit-in demonstration by drag queens at Dewey’s to be served has been ignored.

Bell asserts that in the 60's and 70's, 13th and Locust streets were multicultural hangouts for Philadelphia drag queens and transsexuals and suggests that the more apropos sections of Philadelphia streets for honoring Gittings would be Spruce between 13th and Juniper where the William Way GLBT Center sits, not the ones they are considering.

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