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Pat Cordova-Goff Answers Questions About The Stonewall Boycott

By Autumn Sandeen
@AutumnSandeen

 

Pat Cordova-Goff, an 18-year-old college student and Trans Youth Justice Organizer for TRUTH (a position jointly funded by GSA Network and Transgender Law Center) started a petition on the GSA-Network’s website entitled Boycott 2015 “Stonewall” Movie. The petition, which currently has over 22,000 signatures, begins by stating:

To: the potential viewers of STONEWALL

To all considering watching the newest whitewashed version of queer history,

It is time that black and brown transwomyn and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation. From the preview alone, we know that will not be happening . Majority of characters casted are white actors, cis men play the role of transwomyn, and folks who began the riots do not seem to be credited with such revolutionary acts.

WE ARE CALLING A BOYCOTT OF STONEWALL. Do not throw money at the capitalistic industry that fails to recognize true s/heroes. Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall.

Tell your own history! Use social media to recall what you know to be true of Stonewall. Film your own short films. Make videos, write poems, sing songs. CONTINUE TO TEACH TRUE HISTORY.

The next section of the petition is entitled Why is this important?, and the all caps answer begins with “OUR HISTORY WILL NOT BE WHITE/CIS-WASHED.”

On behalf of The TransAdvocate, I asked Pat Cordova-Goff a series of questions about the petition, why she submitted it, and whether she’d see the film if the producers or distributors arranged for her to attend a screening in an attempt to change her mind about the film.

Autumn Sandeen: The movie Stonewall caught your attention prior to its general release, and you obviously you believe there are problems. Can you tell me what you believe the problems are with the film are?

Pat Cordova-Goff: The Stonewall movie caught my attention, like so many other folks, because I was excited to see a core piece of queer history finally hitting the silver screen. Visibility to so vital to our community (LGBTQ+), I was speechless and hopeful for the release. Yet, after watching the trailer, it held my attention for different reasons that I had first imagined. I was speechless (again, for a different reason) while watching the trailer. Instead of admiring the characters of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and other folks I was waiting to see… all I saw was a white cis gay character I had never heard of. The lack of focus on the trans folks and folks of color also set me off. I think I lost it however, during the trailer scene when Danny (the main character) is shown throwing the brick. Regardless of how actually threw the first item during Stonewall (since it’s still continuously debated), offering the role of a white character perpetrated the white savior complex I am too tired of seeing.

Image: Pat Cordova-Goff

Pat Cordova-Goff
(Photo: Facebook)

AS: Have you seen trailer for the film, and if you have what’s your impression of the trailer?

PCG: Yes, I’ve watched the trailer close to 20 times, always before talking to new folks about the petition. I want to make sure I know what I am speaking of every time. With that, every new time I watch the trailer, I am reminded of the white and cis-washing of this film. Regardless of the debate whether white cis gay men lead Stonewall… the mere fact that trailers are meant to highlight the best and most attractive parts of films, and this trailer highlighted a white cis gay man epitomizes the fact that in our society, we still jump to assume the standard of attraction is just that: white, cis.

In addition, the lack of focus on other characters brings the question up in my mind: why isn’t the highlighting of the trailer focusing on marginalized characters? Even the trans girl featured seemed to only be a supporting actress. I would hope that the powerful roles and stories of folks of color are only used as supporting pieces to the plot line.

AS: You started a petition on the GSA Network website where you called for a boycott of the film Stonewall, a fictionalized account of the Stonewall Riots. Over 20,000 people have signed the petition so far. What prompted you to post the petition, and did you expect such a large response?

PCG: While ranting on Facebook, since that’s my habitual action, I mentioned how angered I was to see this trailer. With the current social discussions of racial justice, trans erasure, and so on, this trailer was the last thing I wanted to see white/cis focused. A GSA Network co-worker jokingly commented on my status, “petition.” And well, that’s what I did. Of course, I hoped for this to begin discussion and gain support… and when we hit 1,000 I could not believe it. Then 2,000…. 5,000… 10…. 15… 20…. and tonight we are a little over 21,500 and I am amazed to see the support. Numbers speak, and this goes to show, 1) I am not the only angry person and 2) this needs to be a discussion. Folks refuse to see another privilege-centered narrative of our queer history.

AS: What do you think about Sylvia Rivera being essentially combined with Ray Castro into a single composite character for the film?

PCG: Being that both Sylvia Rivera and Ray Castro are brown trans queer folks, I take much pride in knowing their involvement with the beginning of our revolution. As a brown trans queer girl, these essentially are my ancestors and my hero. To know they will basically be combined as one character however, is at the very least frustrating. I understand, “this is Hollywood,” but there needs to be a level of respect when considering who gets airtime. To essentially erase these brown folks and combine them is to say, their roles in this action are not significant enough, not deserving enough of individual parts. I would hope these were not the intentions and reasoning behind casting… but I cannot help but grow hurt and angry at this fact. Every brown life matters.

AS: Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. Given how much of the audience for the film probably will be white, gay, cisgender men, can’t one can say that having a young, white, cisgender gay man as a central character of this film may make the film more accessible for that gay audience? And since this is a fictionalized account, what’s wrong with adding that accessible character?

PCG: Let my try to explain my thoughts on this one. The initial reason why I was upset was because the story of Stonewall that I was told and learned of did not center around white cis gay men. Although they were present, I hadn’t learned of them having a leading role. So that’s the main reason. But as I discussed my issues, I grew upset for an additional reason. Realizing this IS Hollywood and Hollywood is here for entertainment and profit… I began to ask, WHY is it a fact that if white cis gay men are centered, the film becomes more attractive? Basically I am addressing the bigger picture of racism as a system. I grew angry because I knew no matter what I said, the reality is, this film is move mainstream supported because of the decision to center white men. So yes, I say they made a wise (PR and Profit) decision centering Danny. Was that respectful to our history? Hell no, it was not. Am I okay with it? Um, not at all. Do I understand why? Well, yes. Capitalism and white supremacy. As for the fictional character, again, I know why they did that. It’s about bringing in the viewers. I just wished if this story was going to be made up, it would’ve been done so with PoCs and trans folks.

AS: If the producers and distributers of the film invited you to a screening of the film in an attempt to show you your impression of the film was incorrect, and in an attempt to have you call for an end the boycott, would you accept?

PCG: Funny you ask this. I’ve already sent a message to the general Stonewall Facebook account with this proposition. With that, yes. I am willing, almost wanting, to view this film before the premiere. Please know, my intention was never to crush the work of my queer family. It sucks that that is happening as a result. With that, I would love if I was wrong and this is a great film. I would love to call off the boycott. But I cannot and will not do that unless I know this film is what they say it is. With that, if [Roland] Emmerich is reading this, send me an email. Allow me to watch this film and have the opportunity to trust your work. If you were right, I would be more than content to call this all off and promote your work. After all, we are in this together. If not, as activists dedicated to the liberation of our people, we will continue.

AS:: Thank you Pat, for your time.


Autumn Sandeen signed the petition because Sylvia Rivera wasn’t included as her own character in the film. Specifically, Sandeen didn’t believe a film with Rivera relegated to a portion of a composite character could rise to an adequate representation of the Stonewall Riots.


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7 Comments

  1. […] petition started by trans woman Pat Cordova-Goff to boycott the film has received nearly 25,000 signatures, referring to it as the “newest […]

  2. […] petition started by trans woman Pat Cordova-Goff to boycott the film has received nearly 25,000 signatures, referring to it as the “newest […]

  3. […] petition started by trans woman Pat Cordova-Goff to boycott the film has received nearly 25,000 signatures, referring to it as the “newest […]

  4. Roland Emmerich (left) and Jeremy Irvine
    JB Lacroix/WireImage
    The Stonewall riots that occurred in Greenwich Village in 1969 have actually emerged as a watershed moment in the history of LGBT rights. However a brand-new movie that examines the origins of the historic moment is coming under fire for allegedly “whitewashing” events that critics say took a far a lot more diverse group of people compared to depicted in the film.
    In a controversial brand-new interview, Stonewall director Roland Emmerich defends the film, explaining that his decision to have actually the film focus about a young, white fictional male character seemed to be the most effective means to attract straight people to the story – and educate them regarding the event.
    “You have actually to know one thing: I didn’t make this movie only for gay people, I earned it additionally for straight people,” Emmerich, that previously helmed blockbusters enjoy Independence Day and White Estate Down, told Buzzfeed. “I type of found out, in the testing process, that actually, for straight people, [Danny] is a pretty simple in. Danny’s pretty straight-acting. He gets mistreated due to that. [Straight audiences] can easily feel for him.”
    Emmerich, that is openly gay and said he chose to make the film in section after volunteering at a Los Angeles LGBT center, additionally confessed he approached the film from his own perspective.
    “As a director you have actually to put on your own in your movies, and I’m white and gay,” he said.
    The film centers about a character named Danny (Jeremy Irvine) that travels to brand-new York City from Indiana, where he was ostracized by his family after obtaining caught fooling about along with the higher school football quarterback. Once in NYC, he is embraced by a non-white group of gender-queer street youngsters that spur him or her in to action, eventually inspiring him or her to hurl the very first brick to kick off the riots.The fictional retelling has actually angered certain members of LGBT community, that offer special credit to transgender and lesbian women of color for their role in the origins of the historic riots.
    In a recent interview along with Autostraddle, Skip Severe Griffin-Gracie, a black trans woman present at the time of the riots, said “I’m sorry, However the last time I checked, the only gay people I saw hanging about there were across the street cheering. They were not the ones obtaining slugged or having stones thrown at them. It’s merely aggravating. And hurtful! For all of the girls that are no longer here that can’t say anything, this movie merely acts enjoy they didn’t exist.”
    Emmerich told Buzzfeed he and screenwriter Jon Robin Baitz consulted along with historians and veterans that determined “there were only a couple of transgender women in the Stonewall ever. They were enjoy a minority.” Buzzfeed reports only one character in the film, real-life black trans leader Marsha P. Johnson (Otoja Abit), emerges as a discernible trans character.
    A petition started by trans woman Pat Cordova-Goff to boycott the film has actually received nearly 25,000 signatures, referring to it as the “newest whitewashed version of queer history.”Meanwhile, the star at the focus of the controversy – Jeremy Irvine – says he’s sensitive to the problems surrounding the film, and merely hopes the controversy only gets people talking regarding LGBT and diversity problems even more.
    “No minority has actually been treated worse that the black transgender community so I totally know that. However it’s nice for the movie to come out and say, ‘Look.’ This is a movie we’re all of genuinely truly proud of,” he told The Everyday Beast, after writing on social media that he “deeply honors” the diverse Stonewall activists.
    The British-born Irvine, 25, additionally says he’s aware this was a pretty personal project for Emmerich and writer Jon Robin Baitz: “I believe that’s why my character’s in there. I believe portions of them the 2 are in my character. So it’s type of enjoy we’re seeing it through his eyes.”
    And along with the controversy in full swing, he’s discovering to navigate his unofficial role as advocate for the film, the gay rights movement and more.
    “I discover it difficult to see it as my place,” he admitted. “I do grab a little bit of stick from people that are like, ‘that are you to say these things?’ You type of have actually to agree along with people on that. However at the exact same time I believe everyone can easily stand up for equality.”
    Stonewall opens in theaters Friday.

  5. emmapodolsky says:

    As of recent, the new Stonewall film by Roland Emmerich has been placed under the erasure spotlight among queer and trans communities across the States at large. With scathing reviews on major media outlets citing its inaccuracy, among many other points of whitewashing, ciswashing (cisgender meaning to identify with the gender one was assigned at birth, therefore ciswashing to mean the erasure of figures whom identify as transgender and to wrongfully present them as cisgender), and homogenizing the entire cast to look as though the grit and pain of the Riots was as clean as Sesame Street, the Stonewall film has unearthed something much more than just tension from within LGBT media. Stonewall is symptomatic of a much larger set of issues that stem from the power dynamic between marginalized people and the willingness of Hollywood (among other modes of visibility) to accurately present the historic moments in which those who are trans and people of color, to larger audiences. In the case of Stonewall, I aim to use this film as a point of entry into a larger discussion of the erasure of people of color and trans folks, and how our modes of power affect the visibility that is allowed and acceptable in a culture that ultimately, does not wish for the figure of the invert to be seen at all in an established and conservative atmosphere.
    Pat Cordova-Goff, a college student and trans activist, spoke in depth about the pitfalls of the Stonewall film with The Transadvocate, highlighting the true severity of the erasure in the movie. Even when speaking only of the trailer, Cordova-Goff points to the lack of accuracy in the portrayal, saying “this trailer highlighted a white cis gay man epitomizes the fact that in our society, we still jump to assume the standard of attraction is just that: white, cis. In addition, the lack of focus on other characters brings the question up in my mind: why isn’t the highlighting of the trailer focusing on marginalized characters?” [1] The lack of highlighting of the trailer to focus on marginalized characters is a tactic to avoid exposure of the trans folks of color who were leading the Stonewall Riots, as to offer them the exposure they deserve would be to present trans people of color as human and heroic, two associations big media does not wish to have attached to those who should be relegated to the margins of society. Before it seems as though I’m jumping to conclusions about the erasure tactics employed by big media such as Hollywood, I would like to take an excerpt from Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law by Dean Spade. In Normal Life, Spade takes a focus on laws and why some rights are systemically doing trans people wrong. Specifically, Spade’s description of the modes of power (power being the ability to influence people or institutions) that inform laws and rights, from microagressions to those on a macro scale, shed light on how films such as Stonewall utilize these modes of power to perpetuate a cycle of erasure in big media.
    Disciplinary power, as described by Spade, is sued in reference to how racism, transphobia, sexism, ableism, and homophobia operate through norms that produce ideas about types of people and proper ways to be..[2] These norms become injected into all institutional outlets, from medicine to the social sciences to education and beyond, we in turn begin to internalize these norms and accept them as what is “ideal” in our society. This disciplinary power is exemplified through the erasure of trans people of color in Stonewall, as well as the omittance of non-normative bodies or figures in a history that aims to humanize only those who fit the ideal archetype. With this dispersal of power comes the privilege that is afforded to those who are positively influenced by such power; with privilege comes access and advantages granted to a particular group of people, in the case of Stonewall, that privilege comes to white, able-bodied, cisgender gay men who have the most institutional power and visibility out of anyone aligned with the LGBT acronym, and therefore the most screen time in a movie that, historically speaking, shouldn’t be focused on them.
    So what can be gathered from the erasure of the trans people of color who should very well have been spotlighted in Stonewall? Big media, among other institutions in our country favor those who are as close to the ideal archetype as possible, even if it means at the expense of historical accuracy and more importantly, the exclusionary violence of trans people of color from their own narratives. Stonewall is only one incident in a much larger web of issues that pervade our many avenues of information from the rich and varied cultures within communities too often on the margins.
    [1] Cordova-Goff, Pat. Interview by Autumn Sandeen. The Transadvocate. The Transadvocate, 2015. Web. September 25, 2015.
    http://www.transadvocate.com/pat-cordova-goff-answers-questions-about-the-stonewall-boycott_n_15364.htm
    [2] Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. New York: South End Press, 2011. Electronic.
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    Stonewall Director and Star Defend Film Against Critics Who Claim It … – People Magazine

  7. […] the riots gives that brick to a white man who finds out his lover cheated on him. But an organizer for the Gay Straight Alliance Network has started a petition against the scene because she says it whitewashes a political moment, leaving […]

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