Fred Sargeant has lost his appeal against his Twitter suspension, to the great glee of children who neither know who he is, nor why they owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
Like most gender-crtical veterans of the struggle for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, Fred makes for an unlikely bigot. In fact, his impeccable credentials are what make him such a threat to gender ideologists. Not only was Fred at the Stonewall Inn on that fateful night in the Summer of 1969; but he has also devoted his whole life to gay liberation. Co-founder of the first Pride March in New York City, he’s watched with horror as a movement for acceptance of same-sex attraction has been distorted into misogynistic, homophobic, male sexual rights activism.
Anyone interested in learning more about Fred’s enormous contribution should watch his fascinating interview with Bev Jackson from the LGB Alliance. In it, he describes how he became involved in the movement after moving to New York and meeting his partner Craig Rodwell, who started the Philadelphia Annual Reminder and organised the picketing of the White House in the early ‘60s.
Fred talks movingly about a world that today’s children can barely begin to imagine, including how the NYPD demanded protection money from gay-run businesses (he and Craig refused). And, of course, he remembers 28th June 1969. Fred and Craig weren’t regular patrons of the Stonewall Inn, but as they strolled through Greenwich Village that night they saw a large crowd outside the venue and went to investigate.
“The situation was very confused,” explains Fred. “People inside the bar were isolated from us, we couldn’t see what was going on in there, and they couldn’t see us out in the street, what we were doing. Then Inspector Pine and the other officers arrived with the paddywagon, and the police inside began to bring out prisoners. Some went quietly, but I remember one woman - a very butch lesbian, whom I now know to be Stormé DeLarverie - as she was dragged out, she cried ‘Why don’t you guys do something?’. And that’s when all the yelling started: ‘Gay Power!’, ‘Cops and the Mafia!’, all that sort of thing. Then people started throwing coins at the cops, shouting ‘Here’s your pay-off’. So that was the start of things: it turned into a melee, driving the police back.”
The story of Stonewall has been recounted many times. It is undeniably thrilling to read about it half a century afterwards, and you can understand why people wish they were there. But they should be thankful they were born at a time when they never had to face - like Fred, Stormé and so many others - police brutality and busted heads, being spat at in the street and having “faggot”, “dyke” and “queer” snarled at them.
Fred’s inconvenient testimony isn’t the only reason he’s viewed as a threat by gender ideologists. As an activist of more than half a century’s standing, he’s been vocal about the historic and current missteps of the movement. These include lesbian erasure, with leading figures like Ellen Broidy, Flavia Rando, Martha Shelley, Susan Dey and Linda Rhodes airbrushed from history. Perhaps most significantly, he has been critical about the pivot towards gender ideology. Here’s Fred again:
“I started seeing the narrative change; I kept hearing about drag queens and transgender people who had played a central role in the events at the Stonewall Inn that night. But for me, they had no role. There were a dozen drag queens on the first night at the most - and I’m not the only one who says that, every historian says that. I was seeing everything becoming centred on drag queens and even more so on transgender people. So I dug deeper and became more disturbed at what the narrative was becoming. The myth has taken on a life of its own online, promoted by organisations like Stonewall. But the facts of Stonewall the riot are there for all to see.”
“Women have provided leadership throughout these 50 years. That’s not what I see with what I call the ‘T operation’ of the LGBT movement. With them, there is no sense of standing up for the rest of the LGB. The story has been re-written so that transgender people paved the way, were on the frontlines, created the modern LGBT movement. But I never saw them at any meetings.”
Thanks to Fred and his fellow pioneers, no one needs to throw bricks any longer - at least, not in the US or the UK. The next battle should be to support the millions of gay, lesbian and bisexual people who still face oppression, including the death penalty, because of their sexuality.
Or perhaps the battle in the UK and the US isn’t quite over. Try and find a woman-only lesbian space in California, for example, and try and find Fred, who faces attacks from those too young and too historically illiterate to understand how the bravery of a few gay and lesbian men and women helped bring about the acceptance they take for granted.