In The Stonewall Generation, sexuality researcher Jane Fleishman shares the stories of fearless elders in the LGBTQ community who came of age around the time of the Stonewall Riots.

A 2020 Silver Nautilus Award Winner in the Social Change & Social Justice category

Product Code: 3140
ISBN: 9781558968530
Format: Paperback / softback
Publisher: Skinner House Books
Pages: 216
Size: 8.5 x 5.5
Published Date: 06/08/2020
Availability:In stock
Price: $20.00

A 2020 Nautilus Award Winner in the Social Change & Social Justice category

In The Stonewall Generation: LGBTQ Elders on Sex, Activism, and Aging, sexuality researcher Jane Fleishman shares the stories of fearless elders in the LGBTQ community who came of age around the time of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. In candid interviews, they lay bare their struggles, strengths, activism, and sexual liberation in the context of the political movements of the 1960s and 1970s and today. Each of these inspiring figures has spent a lifetime fighting for the right to live, love, and be free, facing challenges arising from their sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, disabilities, kinkiness, non-monogamy, and other identities. These are the stories of those whose lives were changed forever by Stonewall and who in turn became agents of change themselves.

A sex-positive and unapologetic depiction of LGBTQ culture and identity, The Stonewall Generation includes the voices of those frequently marginalized in mainstream tellings of LGBTQ history, lifting up the voices of people of color, transgender people, bisexual people, drag queens, and sex workers. We need to hear these voices, particularly at a time when our country is in the middle of a crisis that puts hard-won civil and human rights at risk, values we’ve fought for again and again in our nation’s history.

For anyone committed to intersectional activism and social justice, The Stonewall Generation provides a much-needed resource for empowerment, education, and renewal.

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Foreword by Kate Bornstein and Barbara Carrellas

A Note on Language

Chapter 1 Sex Workers Struggles
Chapter 2 Fighting Back
Chapter 3 The Power of One
Chapter 4 A Life in Leather
Chapter 5 Sex at a Later Age
Chapter 6 Love, Loss, and Laughter
Chapter 7 Finding Strength
Chapter 8 Postscript: Working With Elders in the Community
Chapter 9 Continuing Their Legacies

Acknowledgements Index


There’s an old joke about Woodstock that could just as easily apply to Stonewall. Basically, it says that if everyone who claims to have been there had really been there, the crowd size would be equal to the population of a not-so-small European country. Funny—and true. Why do so many of us who were alive and aware in 1969 feel like we were at Stonewall or Woodstock? Probably because both these events, which happened only two months apart, were such huge cultural milestones that they transcended a place or a date. They washed over us like a tsunami, changing the landscape of our lives forever. And although they were gatherings attended by relatively few, they changed everything for millions of people worldwide.

So it’s logical that the first question Jane asks all her interviewees in The Stonewall Generation is “Where were you on the night of June 28, 1969?” And this time everyone who’s asked tells the truth, including us:

On June 28, 1969, Kate was sitting quietly in their car, staring up at a moose who was standing in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway. She was going to San Francisco. Kate had missed 1967’s Summer of Love and was going in search of sloppy seconds. Surely, there would still be hippies and hippie chicks lining the sidewalks of Haight Ashbury. At the time, Kate was a hippie boy who wanted to be a hippie chick: twenty-one years old, just out of college, and about to start graduate school in the fall. The only trans people Kate’s age who were out of the closet were drag queens,street fairies and butch women who passed as men. Most of them lived on the streets; that was the cost of being a gender outlaw in 1969. Trans wasn’t even a word yet—the phenomenon of transsexuality was barely noticed by the mainstream media. Kate called themself a freak, but they didn’t want the rest of the world calling them a freak too. Hippie boys could grow their hair long and wear pretty headbands, bell bottoms, and flowered shirts. Kate would have to make do with her delight in that small piece of gender freedom for a while. Kate wouldn’t hear about Stonewall for another fifteen years.

Barbara was a teenager in Newport, Rhode Island, deeply mourning the death of Judy Garland while celebrating her first professional theater job as an apprentice with a local summer stock company. She doesn’t recall hearing about Stonewall in any meaningful way until the following winter when she became friends with Paul, a twenty-something gay sound designer at her community theatre. He was ecstatic about the possibilities that the Stonewall Riots and gay liberation, as they were called at the time, would bring, and his enthusiasm was infectious. Interestingly enough, the thing Barbara and Paul were most passionate about being liberated from was marriage. They were convinced that gay people would be able to model a lifestyle that would convince straight people that marriage was outmoded and anti-liberation. (Ah well . . . win some, lose some.)

Gay Liberation, Women’s Liberation, Black Liberation, Sexual Liberation. Liberation was the heart and soul of the years following June 28, 1969 for Barbara, as it was for so many others.

Like us, not all the people who share their stories in The Stonewall Generation were “in the room where it happened”—that is, on the front lines resisting the police. Many did not pick up the activist baton until several years later, yet their contribution is just as important to the history of the Stonewall phenomenon as if they’d been loaded into the police vans on June 28. Many of the people interviewed for this book were marginalized not only by the mainstream culture but also by folks within their already marginalized culture for various reasons: for being too effeminate, too butch, too kinky, too bisexual, or for being people of color, sex workers, or drag queens. Our biggest delight and immense gratitude for this book rests in the choice of people who were included. Because the vast majority of us were not at Stonewall (or Woodstock), we have tended to interpret the event through the narrow historic lens of the dominant culture. Until relatively recently, most people thought of Stonewall as a primarily white, middle class, gay male event. The Stonewall Generation strips away this whitewashed, classist, sexist, and sex-negative veneer.

We also celebrate the author’s decision not to edit the voices of these elders. We all spoke a different language of liberation fifty years ago, particularly those of us in hyper-marginalized communities, and it’s important for us to remember what our struggles and victories sounded like in the original language.

It is equally important for young people today to hear how differently things looked and sounded in 1969, while still being able to appreciate the common yearnings for love, identity, and human rights that they are still fighting for today. As the saying goes, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Social change is never a straight line. What goes down comes around in a spiral—not circling back to the same spot, but with each revolution, reaching a point a bit further away from the center as we expand our awareness and ability to include and connect with others.

Most importantly, The Stonewall Generation is a love story. In the midst of all the fights for our rights over the past decades, we were then and are still fighting to be loved for who we are, and to be able to love whomever we choose in the way we choose.

Perhaps you picked up this book because you remember life before and after Stonewall. Maybe you even know one of the people interviewed. Or maybe you’ve only just heard about Stonewall from a teacher at your school and you’d like to learn more about it from someone who was there. Welcome to the Time Capsule of Love that is The Stonewall Generation. The brave, youthful activists who have become our LGBTQ+ elders will inspire you—whatever your age#&8212;with the spirit and perseverance to shape your own LGBTQ+ future.

—Kate Bornstein & Barbara Carrellas

Kate Bornstein is a nonbinary author, performance artist and gender theorist. Their books include Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws.

Barbara Carrellas is the founder of Urban Tantra® an approach to sacred sexuality that adapts and blends a wide variety of conscious sexuality practices from Tantra to BDSM. Her books include Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century and Ecstasy is Necessary: A Practical Guide to Sex, Relationships and Oh, So Much More.

The Stonewall Generation is a critical addition to LGBTQ history and sociology. Generous, thoughtful, diverse—these stories brought on many memories. Reading this book reminds me how glad I am I came out and got to be part of our history.”
—Kate Clinton, comedian and author of Don’t Get Me Started and I Told You So

The Stonewall Generation is a gem of a book, with interviews that illuminate different aspects of LGBTQ life in the United States and how aging intersects with identity, activism, and sex. Jane Fleishman’s thoughtful commentary and historical notes make it perfect for people who may be less familiar with LGBTQ history, and I think everyone will find something surprising or inspiring in these pages.”
—Tim Johnston, Senior Director of National Projects at SAGE, author of Welcoming LGBT Residents: A Practical Guide for Senior Living Staff

“Jane Fleishman’s The Stonewall Generation captures the thoughts, voices, and experiences of older folks across the LGBTQIAA+ spectrum in a way that both humanizes and glorifies them, honoring their lives and their legacies, who they are and how they fought for the freedoms we might not otherwise have today. In particular, Fleishman is adept at candidly discussing elder LGBTQIAA+ ,sex, not just sexual identity. Too often, what we identify as is given primacy, and what we do in the bedroom is glossed over—particularly when discussing the lives of elders. This creates different, but no less destructive silences. The Stonewall Generation fills these gaps in our collective knowledge with the joyful, tearful, and always heartfelt reminiscences of a group of brave—and unflappable—elders.”
—Hugh Ryan, author of When Brooklyn Was Queer

The Stonewall Generation is a wonderful read, full of the vibrant and distinct life experiences of these LGBT older adults and Jane Fleishman anchors them all with the question ‘where were you on June 28, 1969?’ This is living history—from a few who were in the Stonewall Bar that evening to those who weren’t even aware of it. Each voice tells a unique story that blends together with the others and offers us the history of our oppression and the resiliency of our community. What better way to honor and appreciate this generation of LGBT older adults?”
—Lisa Krinsky, Director of the LGBT Aging Project, The Fenway Institute

“Jane Fleishman’s intimate and uncensored personal histories provide unique accounts of LGBTQ life in the sixties and seventies. The dynamic personal reflections expand understanding and empathy and are a welcome and much-needed resource.”
—Melanie Davis, PhD, Co-President, Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University

The Stonewall Generation offers a compelling intervention to two facets of anti-LGBTQ oppression that have been ignored for too long: the erasure of our elders and the dispossession of our history. These oral histories offer candor, charisma, and caution to illuminate hidden pasts and inform our movement’s future. A must read.”
—Alok Vaid-Menon, Trans Writer & Performance Artist

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