How the United States' First LGBT National Memorial Gets It Wrong

Stonewall Inn during national monument designation ceremony on June 27, 2016.The Stonewall Inn during national monument designation ceremony on June 27, 2016. (Photo: NPCA)

On June 24, President Obama announced that a 49-year-old gay bar, the Stonewall Inn in New York City, would become “the first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights.” The news came at an awkward time for LGBTQ communities, which for years have been wracked by painful political differences.

Some gay rights activists celebrated the presidential acknowledgements, as well as the rainbow-emblazoned police SUVs that joined Pride parades this year in cities across the country. Others viewed these elements as contradictory and even harmful, given the ongoing targeting of LGBTQ people — especially those who are low-income or the “wrong” color — by the police. (In the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ latest annual report, from 2015, surveying victims of anti-LGBT hate violence who called the police, 80 percent said police were indifferent or hostile.) Meanwhile, queer and trans people of color are taking to the streets, protesting issues like deportations, the whitewashing of Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub massacre, and ongoing murders of trans women of color. This fragmentation within queer activism is increasingly apparent, even to those not under the LGBTQ umbrella.

For the Stonewall christening ceremony on June 27, the White House invited selected leaders from the community, as well as a slew of non-queer politicians and officials. The guest list included people like NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who has been consistently criticized by LGBTQ activists for supporting policies such as “stop-and-frisk” searches and “broken windows” policing — both of which target low-income trans and gender nonconforming people of color, as well as other people of color.

The monumentalizing of Stonewall calls attention to what is an increasing dissonance among those involved in LGBTQ activism: those who welcome the so-called protection offered by police and the…

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