Director Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall—a take on the 1969 rebellion considered a watershed moment in the LGBTQ civil rights movement—doesn’t hit theaters until next Friday, Sept. 25, but it’s been weathering criticism for weeks now over the perception, encouraged by an early trailer, that the film features a fictional white, gay male protagonist when in fact the riots were led by a diverse group of transgender, lesbian, and gay individuals from across the ethnic spectrum. Critics’ screenings are coming up, so we’ll presumably have some clarity on the fairness of that characterization shortly. But in the meantime, Stonewall distributor Roadside Attractions is doing its best to answer the accusations: A clip featuring trans pioneer Marsha P. Johnson (Otoja Abit) appeared last week, and this week the company released a new featurette focused on gender-fluid character of color “Ray/Ramona.”
Actor Jonny Beauchamp describes his role as a composite character that draws on the true stories of Stonewallers Raymond Castro and Silvia Rivera. (The wisdom of conflating these two independently remarkable individuals will undoubtedly be a subject of intense debate.) Beuchamp’s passion for the role is clear: “To me it’s a really interesting moment of American history—it’s ferocity, it’s defiance, it’s gay power!” He also emphasizes the collective nature of the uprising—“It wasn’t one specific person. It was a collective. It was a group”—perhaps in an effort to push back against criticism focused on the historically murky (and perhaps ultimately irrelevant) question of who threw the first brick. In any case, Stonewall is shaping up to be a catalyst for contentious and important discussions about the making and telling of LGBTQ history—stay tuned for more.