Actually, it was the first time that I had been to the friggin’ Stonewall. The Stonewall wasn’t a bar for drag queens. Everybody keeps saying it was. The drag queen spot was the Washington Square Bar, at Third Street and Broadway. This is where I get into arguments with people. They say, “Oh, no, it was a drag queen bar, it was a black bar.” No, Washington Square Bar was the drag queen bar.
If you were a drag queen, you could get into the Stonewall if they knew you. And only a certain number of drag queens were allowed into the Stonewall at that time. I wasn’t in full drag that night anyway. I was dressed very pleasantly. When I dressed up, I always tried to pretend that I was a white woman. I always like to say that, but really I’m Puerto Rican and Venezuelan.
I don’t know if it was the customers or if it was the police, but that night everything just clicked. Everybody was like, “Why the fuck are we doing all this for? Why should be chastised? Why do we have to pay the Mafia all this kind of money to drink in a lousy fuckin’ bar? And still be harassed by the police?” It didn’t make any sense. The people at them bars, especially at the Stonewall, were involved in other movements. And everybody was like, “We got to do our thing. We’re gonna go for it!”
Suddenly, the nickels, dimes, pennies, and quarters started flying. I threw quarters, and pennies, and whatnot. “You already got the payoff, and here’s some more!”
- Sylvia Rivera, Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights, 2002