Shawn Reilly

Shawn was a college mentor for the Students of Stonewall program, a high school queer and ally activism group, and resident advisor for the McGill project, a philosophy dorm at Vanderbilt University. They are the former Vice President of the Vanderbilt undergraduate queer organization, and volunteer student program coordinator of Engage, a week long queer-focused immersion trip to Chicago. They organized the gender inclusive housing initiative on Vanderbilt’s campus and worked to create dialogue around social justice issues through programming. A proud member of Sigma Lambda Gamma, they also focus their organizing efforts on worker’s rights, women’s issues, and public education advocacy.


    Issues Areas:
  • Trans* and Queer Liberation

Campus: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Fellowship Class Year: 2015

Featured Fellow Spotlight

What experiences/opportunities lead you to apply to the YP4 Fellowship program?

Shawn Reilly:  As a student organizer, I was looking for more structure and guidance for the work that i was doing on campus and in the community. Although I had gotten lots of training from being on the ground, I sought theoretical understandings behind the work I was doing, and mentorship within my own work. Searching for opportunities, YP4 shined through as a fellowship program that I felt could really support me in my work, and a community I wanted to be part of.


What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?

SR: Currently, I continue to fight for LGBTQI+ initatives on campus, including the expansion of gender inclusive bathrooms and housing, campaigns that were successfully run in the past few years. In Nashville, I am the facilitator of the only young adult LGBTQI support and social group in Nashville, where we participate in activism, cultural events, and workshops. I am helping to lead a promising campaign for justice for dining workers on campus, fighting for them to earn a living wage, as the rest of the campus workers have been promised. Also on campus, I help to run the Vanderbilt Community Garden, which seeks to teach students and the community around Vanderbilt about food and labor justice through gardening and community projects


What are you passionate about/what motivates you to public service?

SR: I’m passionate about love, truth, authenticity, and community. I think each of these things are interconnected, and cannot really happen with the other pieces. Most importantly, though, the common thread through all of my values is justice. I work to make sure that I live in alignment with my values, and for me, the combination of living my values and my skill set produces cultural and community organizing!


What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?

SR: I want to leave every environment I enter in a better state than it was when I got there. From classrooms, to states, to countries, to this world, I want to build a world in which all people are free to live their truth through their authentic selves, and are celebrated for that.


Can you give an example of how your YP4 Fellowship helped you accomplish something meaningful for your community?

SR: It was my piece in the YP4 Blog, An Open Letter to Vanderbilt, that really kicked off some major conversations on campus about LGBTQI liberation and other issues of diversity and inclusion. It was a real momentum point for the organizing I had been doing on campus. Since having the letter published, with follow up organizing, we were able to have major systemic changes that helped to better support transgender members of the Vanderbilt community, including the institutionalization of pronouns for staff, and the resurrection of popular education initiatives.


Tell us about a skill you learned through YP4 that you evoked when you were faced with a challenging situation.

SR: YP4 trainings were really a space to learn to hold my tongue. Before refining my skills through programs like YP4, all biting my tongue gave me was a mouth full of blood. However, YP4 has given me skills and modeled how to have inclusive conversations that allow others to grow and that allow space to reflect on my own areas for growth. This skill of being able to meet people where they are at, and to take up space intentionally, has been helpful in my organizing and general life.


What piece of advice would you give to a current YP4 Fellows?

SR: Give YP4 your all. You get what you give to this fellowship. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn to grow, and to connect. Most important is finding your people, those that you vibe with, that can help support you through your work. This work is hard, and it’s heartbreaking, and it’s overwhelming. Sometimes you need someone to pull you out of your hole. Everytime I find that I’ve fallen into one, or even actively digging one for myself, it’s a YP4 family member that reaches in and pulls me out, or at least jumps in and sits with me through it.


Can you summarize in one sentence the impact YP4 has had in your life?

SR: YP4 has given me the framework to understand, the people to lean on, the skills to act with, and the motivation to pull it all together.


Where do you think your YP4 training will take you in the future?

I think that YP4 has helped me become a more effective community organizer, and I see the lessons I have learned through and with YP4 staying embedded in my work throughout my life. I hope to always be an organizer in some capacity, and the foundation that YP4 has given me will help me do this.


What do you want to be remembered for?

SR: For remembering others.

Shawn Reilly's Blog Posts

Dear Vanderbilt, Here’s Your Chance

To Vanderbilt Chancellor Zeppos and Vice Chancellor Hill,

In the wake of Orlando, I have felt reverberations of pain, anger, disbelief, sadness and hopelessness pulse through my queer and trans communities. Watching hours of news coverage of the horrific event, the rattle of the automatic weapon drums in my temples. Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed I shake, sometimes I’m overcome by tears. There are so many issues that this tragedy touches on, and it will take our community years if not decades to process and move through it. If the midst of all of this chaos, I find government officials, school administrators, community leaders, and a whole array of people commenting on moving forward, and healing, and praying.

This is all needed. We all need to give our positive energy to the healing of the queer and trans communities, Latinx communities, Muslim communities, and the Orlando community affected by this. But it’s time to move from words to action. Too many times, we have lost good people to mass shootings in this country. Too many times, queer and trans people (and many people of historically marginalized identities) are targeted for nothing other than whom they are.

To the dear leaders of Vanderbilt, it is time to put in the work. I’m over the press statements. I’m over the bureaucracy surrounding decisions that are affecting student’s everyday lives. It is time some changes are made to support the queer and trans people at Vanderbilt’s campus.

We need scholarships. So many of my queer peers are fighting to stay afloat at Vanderbilt. We should be implementing incentives to attract queer students to our campus. We need to show prospective students that there are structural supports in place for them, from the get-go. We need to inquire (but not require) about their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their pronouns on our school’s application. We need statistics. We need to know how many people are on campus, so we can give the appropriate time and energy to this vulnerable and potentially powerful group.

We need pronouns. Everywhere. In my opinion, they should be on nametags. Anchorlink forms. Bylines for the Hustler. First day of class surveys. RA rosters. Attendance forms. Everywhere. Let us normalize what has been deemed as bizarre by society, but which helps transgender and gender variant folk live more freely every day.

We need staff members. Since coming to Vanderbilt, the K.C. Potter Center has lost a program coordinator position. What I don’t think everyone realizes is, the employees at the K.C. Potter Center are some of the only people getting paid for full time work on queer issues in Nashville. Yes, they are working for the good of queer and trans Vanderbilt community members. But what isn’t fully appreciated, in my opinion, is how their work on our campus spreads to the entire community. The Out In Front conference attracts hundreds of people to learn more about topics related to gender and sexuality. In the past, Transgender Day of Remembrance has in large part been orchestrated by the office. Pride events, the Drag show (which donates proceeds to queer organizations), and keynote speakers are all things that impact our wider Nashville and even Tennessee community. When you employ someone to the K.C. Potter Center, you’re doing your job in carving your space into the progressive movement. You are helping our world heal from events like this and move forward. You are making real, institutional change. We need our program coordinator position reinstated. Even better, we should also be hiring some kind of counselor specific to our center (and the centers across campus) to help our students process through the very real and very present trauma that they face in our country and on our campus.

What we need is not another e-mail. We need real, proactive, tangible changes to the structure of Vanderbilt. What happens at Vanderbilt matters. We are setting an example for institutions in Nashville, institutions of higher education, and even the wider South. What we do is reported on and talked about across the country. Why not use this opportunity to show Vanderbilt students that you care about those of us who are queer, or trans, or an ally in any way? You have the power. Be the change.

Peace and Power,
Shawn Reilly

Originally published in Nashville’s LGBT newspaper website, Out and About Nashville.

Hello From YP4’s New Blog Coordinator, Shawn

Hello All!

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as the new YP4 Blog Coordinator!

My name is Shawn Reilly, I use they/them pronouns, I am a junior at Vanderbilt University and a current fellow with the Young People For (YP4) program. In addition to my fellowship with YP4, I also am a NASPA fellow, serve on my local GLSEN chapter‘s board, am the Transgender and Genderqueer Collective Liberation Co-chair for United Students Against Sweatshops, and am part of Youth+Tech+Health’s Youth Advisory Board. Besides these involvements, I also work as a senior mentor for LGBT programs at the Oasis Center in Nashville, and work as a Resident Advisor at Vanderbilt University. Importantly, I run creat(i)ve (resist)ance with my co-founder, JaQuan Beachem. It’s a project I’m really proud of.

I have been involved in journalism since middle school, when I attended a magnet middle school for journalism. I then moved onto high school, and eventually became the Editor-In-Chief of our award winning yearbook, Crosswinds. When I came to Vanderbilt, I began writing for my school newspaper’s opinion section, started casually writing for various blogs, and became a regular contributor for the YP4 blog. After writing for the blog for a few months myself, I was offered the amazing opportunity to move into a coordinator role.

I am so lucky to have such a wonderful team of brilliant writers to work with, and I am excited to get started on the blog, as another vehicle for community building within and outside of the YP4 family.

Excited for the coming months!


Making the World Safe for Trans* People Like Me

Graphic art by Micah Bazant for the Audre Lorde Project

Last Friday the queer community marked Transgender Day of Remembrance — also known as Trans Day of Resilience. This day, which seeks to memorialize and honor those we have lost to anti-transgender violence, was created in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, and is now held every year around the world on November 20th.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is always difficult for me. As a transgender person, I know the everyday realities of potential violence that I face. But it is not until I sit and scroll through the numerous names of people we have lost this year that that the depths of my community’s trauma truly hit me. It is not until I’m wiping tears from my eyes and snot from my nose that I realize how scared I am to simply live and operate in this world as my true, authentic self.

I am very privileged in the transgender community. I am white, transmasculine (as opposed to transfeminine, which is an infinitely more dangerous identity to hold), a college student, employed, and in stable housing. I hold all of these privileges with me wherever I go. However, although these things may inform the way I experience transness, and although they certainly serve as a buffer for a lot of anti-transgender violence, I am not immune from structural and interpersonal violence. The everyday realities for transgender people are slim. Transgender people have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered. An even darker reality, transwomen of color have a 1 in 8 chance of being murdered. On top of this violence, transgender people are also much more likely to attempt suicide, with 41% of transgender people attempting to take their own lives.

We need to start building a world that is safe for all people, including our gender expansive siblings. I often hear that people, and the world, are not ready for this conversation. “They’ pronouns are so difficult,” folks have said to me. “Is there anything else I can call you?,” they pipe or, “We can’t force everyone to try and be politically correct.”

Last weekend, I had the privilege to hang out with some amazing high school students during a weekend retreat that really tackled issues of stereotypes, bias, socialization, and oppression. I was able to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance with this awesome community. The ceremony was organized and led by an activist group called Students of Stonewall, comprised of LGBT high school students and college mentors.  I sat and watched as these students mourned the lives of the people lost to anti-transgender violence just hours after they learned about the concept of correct gender pronouns. After a quick, ten minute conversation with these young people, they were able to respect my pronouns, and in turn, my personhood. It’s difficult for me to understand professors who claim respecting my pronouns is just ‘too complicated’ when high schools can grasp the concept in less than one class period.

Transgender Day of Remembrance provides me with an opportunity to mourn my fallen transgender siblings. However, it also gives us all a way to start having the important conversations with loved ones that will make it safer for transgender people to merely exist in the world. We must take time to remember those we have lost. But we also must stop avoiding the real issues of misogyny, racism, classism, and transphobia that are at the root of this violence, and work in the name of those fallen for a better world.

2007 Alumna Jess Klein trains on self-care

Self Care and Sustainability: Avoiding Burnout on College Campuses

We all know the struggle. As student activists, we can have five classes, two jobs, five meetings, three protests, and about a million other engagements in any given week. While balancing school and activism, it can be hard to create and implement strategies of sustainability. The important practice of self-care is an often talked about in progressive spaces, but often largely put on the back burner by the activists within them. Here, I wanted to share some strategies that I have used that help me stay grounded even in my busiest times.

  1. Fall Into Fitness!

Many universities offer group fitness classes at their recreation center. These can be a fun way to blow off steam and to connect to folks that you normally wouldn’t. And it relieves the stress of looking absolutely ridiculous at the gym (A reality I at least face)

  1. Connect to Spirituality

Although not for everyone, spiritual and religious communities can offer a lot of solace and support, especially when going through a rough time. I myself am part of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which is a space that allows me to be spiritual in whatever way I find most fulfilling.

  1. Write it Out

Although it may seem cliche, journaling can be a useful tool in helping us process events of the day, personal dilemmas, and our general obligations. Every night, I try journal about at least one positive thing that happened during my day. It’s super fun to look back at all the fun times you’ve had in the past, even if they are super minute (which I find are usually the best)

  1. Eat Well

When we’re not feeling our best, we often times rely on comfort food. For me, that Vanilla Coke and nutella. If you find yourself eating badly when you’re burnt out, try to  identify the foods that you go to when you’re feeling down. Then, make a conscious effort to avoid them. Remind yourself, “That coke never feels good once my body tries to process it. I should probably get water (in my environmentally friendly reusable water bottle) instead.”

  1. Sex and Masturbation

Although often overlooked, sex and masturbation can be a powerful way to relieve stress. If sex is something you’re into, try seeing if there are any demonstrations or workshops on your campus or in your community to help improve these aspects of your life.

  1. Take a Hike

I’m a firm believer that connecting with nature is the best way to connect with oneself. Taking a hike (alone or with a loved one) can create space to really reflect on yourself, and your relationship with the Earth. Take time for yourself and let the connection of your own energy and the energy of this beautiful world create balance for you.

  1. Art Therapy

Finger painting isn’t only for children! When I’m down and out, one of the most therapeutic experiences in my healing is art therapy. Allowing yourself to let go and make some art allows us to express ourselves and decompress. Try your hand at something you’ve never done before. I recommend collaging and painting.

  1. Meditate

It can be really hard. It is. When life is throwing a million curve balls at you, it might seem like a waste of time to sit and focus on one or two things. However, meditation helps calm the mind and helps prioritize our life. If you’ve never meditated before, try finding some guided meditations online, or look for some spaces in your communities where meditation is practiced.

  1. Read

Often times, we forget how much we like to read because of the overwhelming amount we have to do for our coursework. I love reading. But one thing I have to do is be more intentional about setting time aside to get through that mountain of books I have at the foot of my bed. Remember you can decompress through some literature once in awhile, and that you don’t always have to go straight to netflix.

  1. Be Mindful

Mindfulness can be tricky. But I think it is powerful in helping us be present. Being present with ourselves, our emotions, and our surroundings is important in all work, but even more so in the progressive movement. Practicing mindfulness can help us be more intentional, help us understand our surroundings, and understand our own internal stresses, in order to better deal with them. You can find some mindfulness techniques online.

There are hundreds of ways in which we can keep ourselves going while fighting the good fight. Take time to put some of these activities into your schedule, and protect those times in which you are going to be with yourself.  It’s up to each of us to create a real sustainability plan, in which we build in these activities throughout our life, so we’re not scrambling to use them as healing once the burnout hits. For the progressive movement to keep moving forward, we need progressive folks sticking around for the long haul. We will not be able to do this without reflecting on our own needs, vices, and self-care techniques, and I urge you to think intentionally about what your own self care looks like.

10 MORE Tips for Building an Accessible Movement

10 MORE Tips for Building an Accessible Movement

In my previous article, I provided ten tips on creating accessible social justice spaces. But I wasn’t done! Here are then more strategies to add to your accessibility warrior toolkit:

  1. Create accessible leadership positions, create representation in leadership

When creating executive boards or leadership positions, make sure to institute specific jobs that anyone, regardless of ability, can fill. Further, create support structures to give strength to team members that have hit a wall, whether it’s from having a panic attack or from a particularly stressful week. It is also important to make sure to elevate people with different ability levels to leadership positions, in order to offer positive representation to general body members.

  1. Keep spaces scent-free

Certain folks have particular sensitivity to various scents, chemicals, and fragrances. For some people, these things can create real challenges for well-being. Asking people to ditch the perfume for a few hours or days is way easier than having to address the negative health reactions to those fragrances.

  1. On Facebook event pages, outline the accessibility details

Is your protest going to include a long march? Say it. Will the space be accessible to wheelchairs and walking aids? Say it. Outlining all of the accessibility details of an event will help people with disabilities plan, stay informed, and make the best and safest decision for themselves.

  1. Offer maps beforehand that map out where an action is taking place

If you are planning on having a march or some action with a lot of movement, consider offering a map that outlines the route of the action. This way, people can plan beforehand where they can take breaks on the route, or if they need to meet the crowd at a certain point.

  1. Create a resource list of translators for actions, meetings, etc.

Language can be a difficult barrier to overcome in many spaces. For people that use sign language and don’t have a personal translator, social justice spaces can be incredibly inaccessible. Try to create a proactive contact list of people who would be willing to volunteer time translating meetings, conferences, or other spaces. Try contacting local schools that have American Sign Language programs to see if there are any students or community members they know that would be willing to donate their time.

  1. Create An Access Point Person

At every action, especially disruptive ones, make sure to appoint an access person. This person can assist participants in finding calm spaces or help them process through emotional triggers. Additionally, offer people an email or contact to reach out to in order to set up accessibility measures before the action/meeting/conference/retreat.

  1. Ensure accessible bathrooms.

One thing all humans have in common? Everybody uses the bathroom in some way or another. Make sure that there are accessible (and if possible, gender inclusive) bathrooms available as close as possible to the meeting space.

  1. Create identity caucuses

Creating space for people to talk about their experiences with disabilities is important in building power. Having these spaces be peer support groups can help folks decompress, express discontent, and strategize for more inclusive spaces.

  1. Have conversations about certified help animals

When holding get-togethers in unfamiliar spaces, it is best to check with the staff to ensure they understand the importance of service animals. Checking to make sure that they are aware of people with disabilities’ rights to have a service animal can help avoid conflict and possibly triggering situations for folks that use them.

  1. Be intentional with recruitment

Make sure you are including people of all ability levels when recruiting for general body members and leadership. Do not tokenize people with disabilities, but work to create real, authentic relationships with people to allow them the space to empower themselves.

Bonus: For reiteration, I believe the most important rule for creating an inclusive space for any and all identities, is to practice grace. From my previous article:

“What I believe is the most important tenet of accessibility. Not everyone learns the same way, not everyone experiences situations the same way. People may have reactions to things that you may not understand but may be the result of prior experience, various disabilities, and/or challenges with mental health. Allow people space to make mistakes, and to take time to take care of themselves. Offer support in whatever way they ask you for it, and grant grace whenever possible.“

It may be difficult to incorporate all of these strategies at once. However, creating an action plan to phase in these initiatives, or a committee that is in charge of accessibility initiatives for your event/program/conference might be good ways to approach integrating the needs of all folks. Again, please feel free to add to or criticize this list, and use it to build your toolkit of serving all people equitably.

10 Tips for Building an Accessible Movement

10 Tips for Building an Accessible Movement

Accessibility has become a buzzword for many in the progressive movement. Many organizations, groups, and clubs boast about their own high levels of accessibility for folks with disabilities. I have worked within, through, and for many social justice spaces. But in my own experience, I have not found very many that have lived up to the accessibility that they so heavily preach. Many times as activists, we talk about self care, often setting it as a community guideline at the beginning of a retreat, conference, or training. But more often than not, these spaces don’t offer activists the mechanisms they need to practice that self care.

During my time at the United Students Against Sweatshops Summer Convention, I was inspired to brainstorm ways in which we can build an inclusive movement for people with disabilities. Here are some ways in which we can work to build a more accessible movement:

  1. Offer hospitality rooms

Hosting a training, conference, convention, or retreat? A super beneficial mechanism to put in place is the use of hospitality rooms. Hospitality rooms are typically quiet, dark rooms that are removed from the conference space. Creating a space for people to decompress, especially in spaces where you’re talking about difficult and triggering things is super helpful to foster positive mental health. These accommodations can be super helpful for people who experience anxiety, emotional triggers, and so on.

  1. Offer alternatives to protests and actions, particularly those that are loud or include a lot of people

Direct actions are not everybody’s thing! Loud noises, and crowded spaces can be tricky for many people. For those with social anxiety, and other challenges with mental health, being in these disruptive spaces can do more harm than good. In order to make actions accessible, make sure to create tasks that may be easier for folks that don’t feel comfortable being on the ground. Having someone manage social media, or be on standby for calls are some ways to include folks that don’t feel comfortable participating in actions.

  1. Snaps over claps

Claps, like other loud noises, can be triggering and debilitating for people with audio sensitivity. In many progressive spaces, participants will snap when messages resonate with them. Why not make this the all around indication of affirmation? Make sure to be cognizant of participants that are unable to snap in normative ways, and perhaps communally create a way to affirm speakers in the room.

  1. Offer print versions of talking points

Some folks cannot learn best through listening. Making sure you have printed version of major highlights will help different learning styles understand your presentation and content.

  1. Don’t over-rely on reading materials

On the flip side, some folks cannot learn best through reading! Providing graphs, visuals, and experiential aids can help people with learning disabilities and various learning styles digest your ideas!

  1. Utilize trigger warnings

People with PTSD, anxiety, history with suicide, or other challenges with mental illness can be triggered by various conversations or experiences. Make sure to warn folks when difficult conversations are going to come up, and allow them the space to leave areas whenever they need to make them feel comfortable and safe.

  1. Ensure accessible buildings

Even though there has been policies and laws passed that are supposed to ensure that buildings are accessible to people with physical disabilities, this isn’t always the case. Make sure any buildings you’re using are accessible to wheelchairs, folks with visual disabilities, and ultimately people with all ability levels.

  1. Monitor your language

Many words, including stupid, lame, and dumb, have been used to disenfranchise people with disabilities since the beginning of time. Encouraging people to monitor their language and making sure they are not isolating anyone through linguistics is one of the easiest ways to make a space accessible. Consider handing out a reference sheet of commonly used words and possible replacement for them with the materials you make available to the group.

  1. Allow time for internal processing

Many folks that are internal processors, have slower processing styles, or learning disabilities, need time to digest content. Scheduling workshops back to back (to back) is not helpful for some of these people as they are unable to process what is given to them effectively. Make sure to schedule in break times or individual reflection time, to help cater to all learning and processing styles.

  1. Practice grace

What I believe is the most important tenet of accessibility. Not everyone learns the same way, not everyone experiences situations the same way. People may have reactions to things that you may not understand but may be the result of prior experience, various disabilities, and/or challenges with mental health. Allow people space to make mistakes, and to take time to take care of themselves. Offer support in whatever way they ask you for it, and grant grace whenever possible.

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, I hope it helps move us all in the right direction. While there are more to come, please feel free to add to or criticize the list.

The Realities of Stonewall

If you google “Stonewall Riots,” your search will result in hundreds of photos of white men with banners and signs, defying police and fighting for their rights at the Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar in Greenwich Village. While this may seem all well and good, there is something amiss. White men were not the prime movers of the Stonewall Riots.

In fact, trans women and queer women of color were at the forefront of the fight. With three trans women of color, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major, leading the charge, the Stonewall Riots lasted for three nights, successfully resisting the police brutality that the queer community had been continuously facing since the beginning of time.

So why don’t we hear of these women?

  • The quick and dirty answer: The whitewashing and erasure of transgender people and women (as well as transmisogyny) in our history is a reality not many of us are aware of. For many people in the American education system, it is possible to go through highschool without studying people that share their own identities. People of color, people with disabilities, queer people, and all historically marginalized groups have been erased from our textbooks and classrooms. When history is written by the winners, those that have been historically disenfranchised lose their place in the narratives we are taught about America and the world at large.

What else is erased about Stonewall?

  • Many people don’t know that it was a reaction to police brutality. Although Stonewall was a spontaneous reaction to police, it was not at random. Queer and trans people that frequented the establishment were used to the routine police raids and violent treatment from cops for a long time before the fateful day of June 28, 1969.
  • The Stonewall Inn was frequented by “street (homeless) kids.” Who were offered shelter there during the night for the equivalent of modern day twenty dollars. These street kids played a major role in the resistance of police.
  • The Stonewall Inn was run by the mafia, who routinely paid off police to allow queer and trans people to gather at the Stonewall. This helped businesses capitalize and exploit the reality of serious lack of LGBTQIA+ affirming public spaces.
  • The huge numbers of people at Stonewall were gathered there in order to celebrate Marsha P. Johnson’s (one of those rockstar transwomen) birthday! Even though so many people were there for her birthday, she, along with so many others, are often erased from the story we’re told about Stonewall.

This Is All So Interesting! I Can’t Wait to Learn More By Watching Stonewall!

  • No. No, no, no, no and no.
  • Like most mediums of teaching American history, the soon to be released Stonewall Movie is inaccurate in its storytelling. In the recently released trailer, the three pioneers of the movement, (those wonderful transwomen we talked about earlier), are only pictured being beaten by police in the film. There is no evidence of their crucial resistance to the oppressive police force throughout the piece (Although director Roland Emmerich has officially responded to these critiques).
  • At the center of the film is a white, cisgender man. Centering the narratives of the most privileged in the LGBTQIA+ community helps further the horizontal hostility and violence that trans women and people of color face from within and without the queer community.
  • Further, key players of color from the Stonewall Riots are portrayed by white actors, including Storme DeLarverie’s character. DeLarverie, a multiracial lesbian is portrayed by a white actress in the film.
  • All of these issues and more make the film beyond problematic.

Alright. So What Can I Do About It?

  • The GSA Network has organized a boycott of the Stonewall Film, advising those that are aware of the issues inherent in the film “to not throw money at the capitalistic industry that fails to recognize true s/heros. Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall.” You can learn more about the boycott and sign the petition here
  • The GSA Network also encourages people to “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.” See what some folks are saying here
  • Know any teachers? Are you a teacher yourself? Encourage teachers that you have relationships with to include everyone in their teachings. By offering representation of all people, teachers can allow students to make deeper connections to their understanding of history and modern realities.
  • Question what you know. Thanks to institutions such as the media and our education systems, we very often take the stories we hear as fact. The Stonewall Riots is not the only whitewashed story we’re told. Take time to relearn your own history. Some books that are good starting points are A People’s History of the United States and Lies My Teacher Told Me.