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The ALL in Stonewall

Sasha Van Bon Bon gives us the scoop on Stonewall TO.

Stonewall Inn 1969

Stonewall Inn 1969

On June 28, 1969, during what was supposed to be a standard police raid – queers fought back. A butch woman was dragged by force from the now infamous Stonewall Inn. When she complained that her cuffs were too tight, she was hit over the head with a baton. She looked to the restless crowd in front of the bar and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” This unknown woman has been cited by some as the spark that ignited the Stonewall rebellion.

This year, on Sunday, June 26 (12pm at Queen’s Park), TO folks will have the opportunity to remember, honour and celebrate the brave queers who did something that night (and in the week that followed), by doing something meaningful ourselves.

Last year, Take Back the Dyke (TBTD) was an empowering group strut that left everybody buzzing with pride, in the truest meaning of the word. TBTD was a reminder that we can step away from the city and corporate funding and gather on our own terms, with meaningful intention. Some of the key players of TBTD were Jess Dobkin and Sasha Van Bon Bon. This year Dobkin and Van Bon Bon are at it again, hard at work with lots of other amazing volunteers to bring us Stonewall TO – a chance for all of us to reclaim a piece of Pride and its origins.

Excited to bring more awareness to this event, I asked Van Bon Bon a few questions about what inspired Stonewall TO and how we can all take part.

QueeriesMag: How did the idea/motivation for Stonewall TO come together?

Sasha Van Bon Bon: To a great extent TBTD inspired Stonewall TO, but more than anything, Stonewall inspired Stonewall TO. At that time there was a big push for gay people to fit in neatly and quietly so as not to make anyone uncomfortable.

For queers of colour, transsexuals, drag queens, butches, hookers, hustlers and other highly visible “outsiders,” how could this have possibly ever been an option? And why the fuck should it have been? It would have meant psychic death. The bravery and self-determination those at Stonewall showed in the face of deadly scorn, both from gay communities meekly adopting heteronormative traditions and heterosexuals themselves, is not to be taken lightly.

It is our responsibility to honour these people and those who continue to fight for queer liberation universally with due respect. What that means to me, right here and now in Toronto, is that rather than squabble with our city to give us funding for a festival that it makes millions off (one that doesn’t really speak to many of our needs and experiences, anyway), we act with the same radical and stunning self-determination our fore-faggots, dykes and trans people showed. Their dignity, voices, politics and needs were not up for barter, and ours shouldn’t be either. End of story.

QM: What kind of response have you received from the community surrounding Stonewall TO?

Sasha: Most of the organizing and sweat-work is being done by women from various grassroots, political and independent communities. I have so much respect for and trust in all of these people. Sisters are seriously doing it (along with a couple of fags and transmen).

Cis men didn’t seem to be so inclined to get on board with the organizing, but luckily that Grid article came out. It gave us something to wave in their faces and tsk-tsk them with (well, actually, we have Doug Kerr to thank for being head of the Tsk-Tsk Cis Committee). Additionally, that was precisely the kind of apathy those at Stonewall were fighting against.

QM: How can people volunteer and get involved in the prep and planning?

Sasha: Thank you for asking! They can reach us through the Facebook page if they want to poster, marshal, medic, make signs or create their own messages and spectacles on the day of. People can also get involved by researching Stonewall and its meaning and importance.

Stonewall TO posters on wall

QM: Speaking of postering, who is responsible for the great poster?

Sasha: Zab, who created the Take Back the Dyke media as well! She is a brilliant, iconic and completely intuitive designer. I have heard Zab has been hard at work in her button factory creating Stonewall buttons, too. She is a marvel of industry and a credit to her immaculately attired butch fore-sisters.

TBTD and Stonewall TO posters

QM: Another artist hard at work has been the amazing Secretagent KR. I notice she is silk-screening T-shirts like crazy for this event. How can people get their little queer hands on one?

Sasha: During the march we will be selling them for a mere $5. We need to pay for the sound truck and posters out of pocket, so we’re using some funds from T-shirt sales to do this! Secretagent is a blessing. Have you seen her “Fuck Ford Let’s Ride” T-shirts? I could have made her 300 bucks the other day, I had so many people asking about mine!

Stonewall TO Tees

QM: For those who weren’t there, how would you describe the great energy and events that occurred at last year’s Take Back the Dyke march?

It was highly organized spontaneity, thanks to an incredibly dedicated group of women and trans people. In the preceding weeks, it was so exciting to watch women and trans people come together with such joyful and urgent purpose. And the march itself I still cannot believe. It was something we couldn’t have anticipated. Did it really happen?

All I remember thinking was how awful my hair looked because I was in such a tizzy that morning that I conditioned it with body lotion.

QM: I know this event hasn’t happened before, but can you speak to what people might expect from Stonewall TO?

Sasha: Who can say? We had no idea how TBTD would go, and it was a wonder. I can promise you will not be slapped on the arm with a semi-permanent tattoo. That’s the best I can do.

QM: I was personally upset that Pride was moved away from the significant date of the Stonewall rebellion. I’m assuming your choice to have this event on the 26th is to have it on a day that will be accessible to most people’s schedules, while being as close to the actual anniversary of Stonewall as possible.

Sasha: Exactly! We were both upset about this shift, too. Stonewall was the last weekend in June, not the first weekend in July. I won’t make any groan-inducing analogies, but just imagine if other sacred dates were so glibly moved around.

QM: Do you have any intentions of making Stonewall TO an annual event?

Sasha: Ask me this in two weeks. Right now, I would just like to sit in a dark theatre, eating a bag of popcorn mixed with Score Bites and watching Bridesmaids over and over again.

*On June 26 at noon, join your fellow queers by assembling at Queen’s Park. Volunteer marshals will guide everybody joyously through a (yet-to-be revealed) route to The 519.

The Stonewall TO crew encourage you to “BYOMS (BRING YOUR OWN MISSION STATEMENT)”.

Here is the one they have on their Facebook page:
“We will gather. We will march, roll, stroll and dance. We will scream, sing, chant and chat. We will break stereotypes. We will break the city and corporate stronghold. And then we will meet at the 519 and share loving revolution with BACK TO OUR ROOTS!”

To learn more about Stonewall TO, to keep up on the event or to find out about volunteering, check out the Stonewall TO Facebook page.

To see what else Sasha has been busy with, check out The Scandelles site.

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