PRINT Summer 2019

Letter from the Editor


Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Allegory of the Stonewall Riot (Statue of Liberty Fighting for Drag Queen, Husband, and Home), 1969, foil, plastic wrap, pipe cleaners, linoleum, glitter, acrylic paint, acrylic floor shine, food coloring, staples, wire, printed material, found objects, mixed-media, 12 × 7 × 4“. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, Golden Rats, 2018, aluminum foil, pins, mylar, marker, each 3 × 2 × 9”. Conceived late 1960s.

MY FIRST NEW YORK JOB was at the Stonewall Inn. I entered one quiet summer afternoon and convinced the manager I could run the bar. I was lucky. They were not. I was terrible, and by the end of my second shift they had recruited another bartender and put me to mopping up the groaning toilets.

I’d arrived looking for “my people.” I needed them as much as I needed work to survive. Queers are born to be orphans, or changelings. We set out to unearth ancestors, sparking new myths that alter the meaning of our lives.

One common myth is sacrosanct: On Christopher Street, around 1:30 am on the morning of Saturday, June 28, 1969, hundreds of dykes, fags, trans folk, queens, hustlers, cross-dressers, and assorted deviants and malcontents—a beautiful mess—decided they’d had enough. When the police showed up for a routine raid, the queers snapped. Thousands joined the protests and riotous clashes that continued through Thursday, July 3. “Disorder” was the criminal charge in those days for being homosexual in a bar, and from disorder we were born. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, cofounders in 1970 of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, were among the nights’ paladins. There, too, was legendary butch guardian angel Stormé DeLarverie, whose standoff with the cops early in the crackdown is often credited with sparking the greater rebellion.

That it was mostly street kids who resisted, people with nothing and so everything to lose, is sometimes obscured in the historical dustup. Our cover artist, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, a genius slyboots and garbage flaneur who was also there those magic nights, makes this clear in his 1989 prose poem “Mother Stonewall and the Golden Rats,” reprinted forthwith. “We were being denied a place to dance together,” he writes. “That’s ALL. The total charisma of a revolution in our CONSCIOUSNESS rising from the gutter to the gutt to the heart and the mind was here.”

Of course the revolution, because a revolution is people, had been around for some time. Gay identity was once a commie idea. Harry Hay was a leader in the US Communist Party when he posited “Androgynes” as an oppressed cultural minority. In 1950, he enlisted the first members of the Mattachine Society, the pioneering gay rights group, from his Marxist education class. Hay couldn’t be a communist and a homosexual, so he left the Party. Eventually, he found he couldn’t be a homosexual and a communist, either, and he left the Mattachine Society, too.

My in-box is full of announcements for honorable exhibitions commemorating the Stonewall uprisings. What could we, the magazine, offer? More history. Chloe Wyma excavating modernism’s queer foundations. William E. Jones illuminating the great fabulist James Bidgood, while Andrea Long Chu revisits Jill Johnston’s lesbian separatism. In a portfolio of Philip Van Aver’s inspired gouache-and-ink admixtures of arcadian pastures and ephebes ripped from gay-nightlife glossies, desire is a virtue. We could have chased queer theory, that voluptuous hiccup in the library, but its gradual codification has left me cool. (We need a new term, I suggested to Gregg Bordowitz over lunch. His response: “Maybe we should just call it ‘fancy.’”) Instead, we struck in on Stonewall’s unique nerve: that it was a jolt from a bunch of kids defending their right to dance, to carry on, to have a night of their own. The witchy, historically contingent serendipity of the gay bar is one of the great inventions of modern life. We’re celebrating that.

This issue coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall saturnalia. It also completes a cycle, my first full season as editor: Lined up, with spines facing out, the ten issues form a variation of Daniel Quasar’s 2018 Progress Pride flag, which builds on Gilbert Baker’s 1978 Pride flag, incorporating elements of Monica Helms’s 1999 Transgender Pride flag and black and brown to highlight the specific struggles of people of color. Now every serious collector has an inclusive Pride flag on their shelves. The homosexual agenda is real.