Rainbow Theme Parks: Stonewall National Monument and the Depoliticization of Queer Urban Space

Authors: Joe Gallegos*, University of California, Irvine
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Gender
Keywords: queer, gentrification, urban geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Stonewall Inn bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village is credited as the site where the modern queer liberation movement began in the modern popular imagination, as it was the site of the Stonewall Uprising, where the bar’s patrons fought back against years of police harassment in 1969. Today, the bar is part of the Stonewall National Monument, established by President Obama in 2016. One can go inside to a recreation of the bar from that famous night in 1969 and have an expensive drink at the bar while watching semi-homoerotic classic films. Today, the bar is a symbol, part of a narrative of queer liberation in Greenwich Village while the surrounding area gentrifies more and more, to the exclusion of queer people of color. I argue that this monument is in effect a theme park, and that this was no accident. I argue that in gentrified spaces and places, there is an altering of discourse through symbolic landscapes and narrative creation that takes revolutionary symbols like the Stonewall Inn and turns them into depoliticized symbols of liberal acceptance, with an air of authenticity. This normalizes queer gentrification with a veneer of queer authenticity that effectively does the reverse of what a queer site like the Stonewall Inn claims to represent.

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