44 years ago last month, the gay liberation movement began in earnest with the Stonewall riots, when patrons of Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn refused to stand down to police during one of their frequent raids on gay bars. The riots had a galvanizing effect on the fledgling gay rights movement in the U.S. In his inaugural address earlier this year, President Obama listed it as a significant moment in the history of civil rights.
To share the story with today’s audience, writer Michael Troy has launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance the comic book The Stonewall Riots for Bluewater Productions. We had the opportunity to ask Troy about Stonewall’s impact, Indiegogo, and how the comics industry can be more inclusive to readers of all sexual orientations.
For those who might not know about the Stonewall riots, why do they hold an important place in the history of gay rights?
Michael Troy: The Stonewall riots are what people largely credit as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, although there were certainly others before it. But as Stonewall is the most well-known, it seemed like the place to start in order to get people’s attention. It certainly had a lot of fascinating aspects.
Over the decades, the riots have been featured in numerous films and TV documentaries. What advantage is there to telling the story through comics?
Troy: The advantage to comics is always an “unlimited budget.” There’s a chance to educate a young LGBTQ audience that may not know “where they came from.” Comics are a great wealth of entertainment, as apparently Hollywood has discovered.
There are certainly exceptions, but American comics largely tend to portray white heteronormative experiences. Do you think there’s anything the industry can do to be more inclusive?
Troy: I think that’s hard to answer. You would like to say Hollywood is story-driven, gay or not — but sadly, recent years have proved them to be even more money-driven. Brokeback Mountain was a good story that happened to be about two gay cowboys; now, the major studios wouldn’t touch Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra as it was deemed “too gay.” I suppose they could be more inclusive by not using that phrase, for starters.
With the Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, the public’s acceptance of the gay community seems to be at a record high. Did that play a role in your decision to crowdfound the project via Indiegogo?
Troy: I wish we were calculated enough to use the death of DOMA as a huge P.R. advantage, but our campaign was already in place when the ruling was announced. I don’t think it could hurt.
What has the reaction to the Indiegogo campaign been like?
Troy: I think it’s been mostly positive. People seem to not know that much about Stonewall, which makes it seem more important [that] we’re doing it. Stonewall strikes a nerve with people and it should.
I think I’d enjoy the project more if people who don’t really need it weren’t jumping on the bandwagon–like known celebrities–and watering down the concept and edging out the smaller guys like us. HELP! We still really need it!
What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Troy: I want people to know being gay isn’t just “my two moms.” It’s been an American struggle. Not just an LGBTQ one. I want it to be part of American history because it is.
The Indiegogo campaign for The Stonewall Riots runs through August 2. You can check it out here.