You are welcome to engage with the selected materials and with each other in Our
House, a reading room and resource center.
Building on the interconnected networks of heritage and care in Nobody Promised You
Tomorrow, Our House presents a selection of texts and media about, around, and
beyond the Stonewall Uprising. On the occasion of the Uprising’s fiftieth anniversary,
and honoring the radical activism that occurred prior to and after the revolt, this
interactive archive and community space is intended to inspire visitor sand offer
continue learning for those who are new to LGBTQ+ history as well as those who are
deeply involved with queer and trans art, life, and culture. From poetry collections to
information on community groups actively organizing today, the selected resources here
illustrate narrative of the continued resistance of LGBTQ+ communities against state-
sanctioned police violence, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy, offering inspiration
for community care for future generations.
With the emergence of Black Power, Civil Rights, Women’s Movements, and anti-war and environmental activism, the 1960s are often remembered as a time of social progress. However, by the end of the decade, there was not a single law--local, state, or federal--protecting LGBTQ+ workplace or housing rights; under sodomy laws, oral and anal sex were illegal in all but one state; transgender and gender non-conforming people were policed for their gender presentation; and amorphous charges of indecency could upend lives at seemingly any moment. These constant threats, and widespread structural oppression, led many LGBTQ+ people to seek enclaves, notably New York’s Greenwich Village. There, community coalesced around organizing groups like the Mattachine Society; hubs like Christopher Park, the piers, and the Oscar Wilde Bookstore; and in restaurants and bars including the Stonewall Inn, Stewart’s Automat, the Snake Pit, and the Dutchess. Despite the ability to build visible community in the city, LGBTQ+ people were aggressively policed by bar raids by the State Liquor Authority and street arrests by New York Police Department vice squads.
In the early hours of Saturday, June 28, 1969, a routine police raid on the Stonewall Inn escalated into an uprising against police brutality and widespread oppression. Ignited and sustained by the experiences and actions of trans and gender non-conforming people, primarily of color, the protest extended into six days of conflicts and demonstrations in the neighboring streets of Greenwich Village as neighborhood residents, passersby, and patrons from nearby LGBTQ+ bars joined the revolt.
The initial clash that started the Stonewall Uprising is a contested history, only partially recorded in its day and dependent on divergent eye-witness accounts. After the police entered the bar, the crowd outside began to jeer, chant, and react to the actions of the officers. Eventually, stones and bottles were thrown at the police who barricaded themselves inside the bar. Once officers emerged and began moving mafia members, bar employees, and trans and gender non-conforming patrons into police vans, a collective resistance formed. People such as Stormé DeLarverie, Jackie Hormona, Miss Major, Marsha P. Johnson, and Zazu Nova are remembered for their lightning-rod incitements, while others recall a rain of pennies, thrown in an allusion to police corruption. When the Tactical Police Force arrived, the winding geography of the West Village gave demonstrators an upper hand. The crowd became impossible to control, encircling officers and moving towards the nearby Women’s House prison to rally in solidarity. By daybreak, the crowd had dispersed, only to reconvene later in the day in a demonstration in which they channeled their anger from the night before into public displays of affection and protest, including hand holding, kissing, and chanting. Throughout the following nights, intermittent bursts of action flared, escalating again on Wednesday following disparaging and insulting coverage in the local press.
The Stonewall Uprising was not the first collective action for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. In 1965, a demonstration and sit-in was staged at Dewey’s in Philadelphia, while the Compton’s Cafeteria revolt in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and the Mattachine Society sip-in at Julius’s bar in New York followed in 1966. The Stonewall Inn’s identity as a gay bar began in 1966 when the bar was run by members of the mafia criminal organization. At the time, the mafia controlled all LGBTQ+ nightlife in the city, and exploited patrons. As the Stonewall offered New York’s only space for intimate dancing for LGBTQ+ people, a scene was established, with economically stable and largely white patrons in the front bar room, while black and Latinx patrons — including transgender women, who at that time used a variety of terms ranging from “queen” to “transvestite”— danced in the back room. Homeless youth who lived in neighboring Christopher Park also visited the bar. In the late 1960s, raids on the Stonewall were a near-weekly occurrence, thereby making the Uprising an extraordinary moment of collective resistance.
For many, the Stonewall Uprising marked the birth of liberatory queer politics in the U.S. However, the Gay Rights movement that gained momentum in its wake has largely disregarded the concerns of LGBTQ+ people of color, especially trans and gender non-conforming people, instead favoring assimilationist goals of marriage equality and military inclusion. The history of the Uprising has also been frequently whitewashed, with the credit being erroneously given to white male patrons for leading the revolt. On the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary in 2019, the artists of Nobody Promised You Tomorrow call attention to and honor the lives of LGBTQ+ ancestors and imagine radical possibilities for more liberatory futures for queer and trans people today.
– Carmen Hermo
A Note on Language and Glossary
Identity markers are constantly shifting, as language evolves and current discourse on race, gender, ability, and sexuality shift. Ultimately, when signifying a person’s identity, the best practice is to use the identity language a person uses to describe their own experience when possible, so as not to replicate violent practices of historical classification, specifically for communities of color.
To acknowledge the exhibition’s historical and intergenerational scope, we use the term LGBTQ+, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, with a plus sign as a marker of ever-expanding terminology for sexual and gender identities. We also use queer, trans, and gender non-conforming as signifiers when referring to LGBTQ+ individuals and communities in the present day and as inclusive words for those who identify beyond, across, or outside of binary understandings of sex and gender. Where relevant, the term cisgender is used to indicated when an individual’s gender identity corresponds to the biological sex assigned at birth. Our use of these terms in the gallery and publication texts is intended to respect the words chosen by individuals as well as the diversity of identity across time, place, and culture, and to recognize that terms popular today were not similarly embraced in various historical moments.
A note on gender inclusive language: Avoid using binary gendered language when referring to large groups, such as “guys, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen.” Common inclusive terms include folk/folks/folx, community/communities, y’all, everyone, etc. The inclusion of the “x” in historically gendered language, such as folx, womxn, Latinx, is becoming more common, however it, like all identity markers, is not accepted by all.
Sex (Birth Sex/Biological Sex): A specific set of biological, anatomical, or physiological sexual markers of the body’s sexual differentiation. Sex is assigned at birth based on chromosomes, hormones, primary sex characteristics, secondary sex characteristics, and/or sex related developmental milestones (menstruation, menopause…). Types of birth/biological sex include female, male and intersex.
Cisgender: A person who identifies with the biological sex they were assigned at birth. For example, if you were told you were “male” at birth and still identify that way, you would be cisgender. A simple way to think about it is if a person is not trans*, they are cisgender. Cisgender is a normative gender identity as it conforms to mainstream, non-queer ways of understanding sex and gender.
Gender Expression: The external display of one’s gender, through a combination of dress, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally measured on scales of masculinity and femininity. However, there are countless combinations that may incorporate both masculine and feminine expressions—or neither—through androgynous expressions. Gender expression may or may not conform to gender stereotypes, norms, and expectations in a given culture or historical period. Also referred to as “gender presentation.”
Gender Identity: The internal perception of one’s gender, and how they describe themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be. Common identity labels include man, woman, genderqueer, trans, non-binary, two-spirit, agender, and more. Our internal, personal sense of what our gender is. Everyone has a gender identity.
LGBT / LGBTQ / TGNC/ +: Acronyms used as shorthand or umbrella terms for all folks who have a non-normative (or queer) gender and/or sexuality. There are many different initialisms people prefer. LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (sometimes a “+” is added at the end in an effort to be more inclusive, and/or an “I” for intersex, “A” for asexual [or allied], and a additional “T” or “TS” or “2” for two-spirit); GSM is gender and sexual minorities; DSG is diverse genders and sexualities; TGNC is transgender, gender nonconforming. Other popular options include the initialism GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) and the acronym QUILTBAG (queer [or questioning], undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, asexual [or allied], and gay [or genderqueer]). Some may prefer to list the acronym as TBLG to place transpeople in a position of importance and to rectify the way trans has historically been omitted, devalued or excluded.
Queer: A term that has been reclaimed by members of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities to describe people who transgress culturally imposed norms of heterosexuality and gender traditionalism. Although still often used an abusive epithet, many queer-identified people have taken back the word to use it as a symbol of pride and affirmation of difference and diversity.
Sexuality / Sexual Orientation: The nature of an individual's physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Trans and gender-variant people may identify with any sexual orientation, and their sexual orientation may or may not change before, during or after gender transition. Words to describe sexuality include heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, gay, lesbian, queer, pansexual, sapiosexual, asexual, etc.
Transgender (Trans, Trans*): An umbrella term used to describe people whose true gender identity does not “match” the sex or gender they were assigned at birth. Many identities fall under the transgender umbrella, which are often designated with an asterisk after the abbreviation, “trans.” However, not all genderqueer, non-binary, or gender nonconforming people identify as transgender – and some people who have transitioned to their true gender choose to identify as just a “man” or “woman” instead of transgender. Always be respectful of how someone chooses to identify, and use their preferred identity, name, and pronouns.
Gender binary: The concept that there are only two genders, male and female, and that everyone must be one or the other. Usually believed in conjunction with the concept that these two genders must align with the sex one is assigned at birth.
Woman/women/womxn/girls/femmes: When referring to a specific person, woman (or however else they identify) is appropriate. When referring to the gender and the experiences of the gender, a more inclusive term such as “women, girls and femmes” should be used in order to encompase gender-based experiences shared by all, such as gender based violence and discrimination.
Femme: An expansive way to decribe a person who identifies themselves as feminine, whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or otherwise. Femme-identified people can be of any gender identity, and femme identity is inherently queer due its subversion of normative understandings of gender. Femme is a reclamation of queerness and subverts traditional, heterosexist proscriptions and expectations of femininity.
Faggot (Fag): Terms that have been reclaimed by some gay men and gender expansive people to describe, and take pleasure in, a range of gender presentations, queer social relations, and sexual practices that are considered “deviant” within heterosexist and transphobic culture. Although still often used an abusive epithet, some gay- and queer-identified people have taken back the words to use as symbols of reveling in queer gender expressions, identities, and sexual practices.