1969 Mother Stonewall and the Golden Rats
(c) 1989 by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt
We sat on the curb-gutter around the corner from a Dance-Bar called the STONEWALL. He had wounds sutured up and down his arms. The army had rejected him for being “a queer.” HIs father had thrown him out of the house through a glass door. I’d left home forthe last time too. I was supposed to be on a ditch-digging road repair, summer job crew with a bunch of jerks I’d gone to school with (they would’ve buried me alive, just for the fun of it). So, I up and went to New York City with just the clothes on my back. One Queen had an enormous burn-scar covering her face and most of her body. Her mother didn’t want men to be “tempted” by her son’s beauty. We lived in cheap hotels, broken down apartments, abandoned buildings or on the streets. Home was where the heart is. Soem wehre able to get menial jobs. Some of us were on welfare. Some of us hustled. Adn some of us pan-handled (begged formoney in the streets). Food was where you found it. Many of us had gotten thrown out of home before finishing high school. WE WERE STREET RATS. Puerto Rican, BLACK, Northern and Southern whites. “Debby the Dyke” and a Chinese queen named “JADE EAST.” The sons and daughters of postal workers, welfare mothers, cab drivers, mechanics and NURSES Aids (just to name a few). Until properly introduced it was de rigeur argot to call everybody “Miss THING” (after this, it was discretionary USAGE). I strongly objected when a queen called “Opera Jean” called me “Mary” (but I’m a man!?) “MARY, GRACE, Alice, what’s the Difference. Afterall, we’re all sisters? Aren’t we?” (One in Essence and undivided). She* was head-strong so I stopped complaining. I ended up being named “VIOLET” by a black queen named NOVA. WE ALL ENDED UP TOGETHER AT A PLACE CALLED THE STONEWALL. SAFE and sound. All you had to do was find an empty bear can so the waiter would think you bought a drink, and the night was yours. A replica of wishing well stood near the back bar of one of the two large rooms painted black. The juke box played a lot of Motown music. We DANCED. THE air conditioners seemed not to work at all because the place was ALWAYS so crowded. We were happy. This place was the “ART” that gave form to the feelings of our heartbeats. Here the consciousness of knowing you “belonged” nestled into that WARM feeling of finally being HOME. And Home engenders Love-and-Loyalty quite naturally. So, We loved the Stonewall.
The cops (singular and plural) were generically known as “Lily Law,” “Betty Badge,” “Patty Pig” or “The Devil with the Blue Dress on.” That night Betty Badge got carried away. It was not only a raid but a bust. Mother STONEWALL was being VIOLATED. They forcibly entered her with nightsticks. The lights went on It wasn’t a pretty sight (How would children feel seeing their mother raped right before their eyes? Their home broken into and looted!? The Music Box Broken. The DANCING stopped. The replicated WISHING Well SMASHED?). No, this wasn’t a 1960s Student Riot. Out there were the streets. There wer eno Nice Dorms for sleeping. No SCHOOL CAFETERIA for certain food. No affluent parents to send us checks. The was a ghetto riot on home turf. We already had our WAR WOUNDS. So this was just another battle. Nobody thought of it as History, Herstory, MY-story, Your-story our our-story. We were being denied a place to dance togheter. 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. Non-existence (or PART existence) was coming into being, and being into becoming. Our Mother Stonewall was giving birth to a new ERA and we were the midwives
THAT NIGHT the (STREET) “Gutter Rats” shone like the brightest Gold! And like that baby born in a feed-troft (a manger) or found by Pharoes daughter in a basket floating down the river NILE, the mystery of history happened again in the Least likely of Places.
*Queen argot, generic pronoun, in this case refers to a male person.
Please Xerox a few copies and give to friends.