- All Power to the People:A Gay Liberation Triptych
The person in the photograph looks Native to me. I stare at the black and white photo for a long time, trying to pick up clues to their identity. They look light brown, and have long dark hair pulled into a partial ponytail. They stare directly at the camera, holding a poster board that reads, "GAY POWER/BLACK POWER/WOMEN POWER/STUDENT POWER/ALL POWER/to the/PEOPLE."1 They are wearing a floor-length prairie-style dress, with a ruffle a few inches above the hem, with rickrack trim. It looks like they are also wearing a high-collared, long sleeved blouse, but it's hard to tell because the protest sign covers them from their shoulders to below their waist. They wear what looks like metal earrings in some kind of sunburst design. I imagine them as sliver. In their right hand, they hold a cigarette. Police are gathered on the right side background of the picture, and in the distant background is a presumably white man with a beard. I don't imagine any of them as Native.
The photograph was taken by Diana Davies in 1970 as part of her documentation of the Gay Liberation movement. For years, while researching the photo off and on, I believed it was from a protest at Weinstein Hall at NYU in 1970, because of the caption on the New York Public Library's digital archive label. While writing and researching this article, however, I realize that this is incorrect, and that it a photograph of a protester at an action organized by Sylvia Rivera as part of what was "Street Transvestites for Gay Power," which would become STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. The October 5, 1970 [End Page 44] event was a "roving rally beginning at NYU's Loeb Student Center at noon, proceeding to Bellevue Hospital, and concluding at Loeb that night."2 Sylvia and others were protesting both NYU's treatment of queer/trans folks as well as Bellevue Hospital's (affiliated with NYU) psychiatric torture and imprisonment of queer and trans people.3
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I'm not sure where I first saw this photograph, but I've seen it for years. And I've always wondered if this person is Native, if they're a Two-Spirit person, [End Page 45] and what their name is. They look Native to me, even though I find my own reading of Indigeniety here problematic. I don't know their ethnicity—they could be Latinx, and may or may not identify as Indigenous, and they may not be transfeminine and/or Two-Spirit, but I deeply want them to be.
I want to recover the memory of this person, perhaps contact them and talk with them if they're still alive. I've emailed authors, organizers with the Gay Liberation Front, people who were at the Weinstein Hall protest, and archives, but nobody can identify them. Antoniette Bebe Scarpinato writes me to say that she recognizes them, but doesn't remember anything about them, and that "She didn't stick around in the movement long."4 Karla Jay responds to an email and says, "No one seems to remember the woman in the photo—one woman vaguely knew her, thinks she went to NYU, but does not recall her name."5
Stonewall was certainly a major rupture in systems of power that gave rise to queer and trans movements. But it wasn't just the Stonewall uprising, it was the intentional organizing afterwards that was just as important to our movements. The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was instrumental in building the LGBTQ+ movement. After Stonewall, members traveled across the United States and into Canada to help start GLF chapters. Organizations such as Third World Gay Revolution and Red Butterfly emerged out of GLF. The Gay Activists Alliance split from GLF because of GLF's support for the Black Panthers, forming a much more conservative, white, middle-class movement dominated by...