Stonewall: 20,000 people sign petition to boycott 'whitewashed' gay rights movie

Jeremy Irvine has defended the film against anger over alleged trans-erasure

Jess Denham
Monday 10 August 2015 09:43
Jeremy Irvine as lead character Danny in Stonewall
Jeremy Irvine as lead character Danny in Stonewall

It's supposed to be an inspiring movie about the start of the gay rights movement but instead, anger has been rising over Stonewall, with more than 20,000 people signing an online petition to boycott it.

Roland Emmerich's fictionalised take on the 1969 riots between police and the harassed LGBT community has been accused of 'whitewashing' and trans-erasure by those who watched the first trailer last week.

The petition argues that white cisgender gay man Danny (Jeremy Irvine) is presented as the hero while other transgender and ethnic minority cast members appear secondary, despite being a crucial part of Stonewall's history.

"It is time that black and brown transwomen and drag queens are recognised for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation," creator Pat Cordova-Goff, who describes herself as a "transwoman of colour", writes. "From the preview alone, we know that will not be happening.

"Majority of characters are white actors, cis men play the role of transwomen and folks who began the riots do not seem to be credited with such revolutionary acts. Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall."

Lead star Irvine has responded to this criticism, releasing a statement on his Instagram page defending Stonewall and promising that it "represents almost every race and section of society".

It is, however, Irvine's character who is seen throwing the first brick through a window in the two-minute teaser clip, with the official synopsis crediting him with birthing "a crusade for equality".

Those signing the petition have taken issue with the presumed editing of the likes of Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera from the film's central narrative.

Irvine saw Stonewall for the first time last week and has attempted to reassure fans that Johnson is a "major part" of the storyline, despite admitting that he felt "incredible nervous" about taking on his role.

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"Although first hand accounts of who threw the first brick in the riots vary wildly, it is a fictional black transvestite character played by the very talented Vlad Alexis who pulls out the first brick in the riot scenes," he wrote.

"My character is adopted by a group of street kids whilst sleeping rough in New York. In my opinion, the story is driven by the leader of this gang, played by Jonny Beauchamp, who gives an extrordinary performance as a Puerto Rican transvestite struggling to survive on the streets."

Irvine added that Jonathan Rhys Meyers' character respresents the mostly white, middle class LGBT activists group the Mattachine Society, "who stood against violence and radicalism" at the time.

Director Emmerich has also addressed the petition, insisting in a Facebook post that when critics see Stonewall in full, they will see that it "deeply honours real-life activists who were there and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day".

Cordova-Goff has said she will "support Stonewall with the same passion [she's] used to criticise it", should the trailer prove "wildly misleading" upon the film's release in September.

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