In this special series, LGBT celebrities and public figures talk to Tim Teeman about the Stonewall Riots and their legacy—see more here.
Joey Arias is a performance artist, cabaret singer, drag artist, author, and comedian.
How and when did you hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of them?
Well, I was quite young when I heard of the Stonewall Riots. The ’60s were a time of people standing up for justice. I’m from North Carolina originally. So of course I was still learning about my feelings. I would read all the magazines and thought how amazing it was that the gay revolution had also begun: standing up to police and demanding the rights of the gay way, and actually coming out of the closet. I never really knew what it meant to be in the closet ’cause I grew up just being me and I was as gay as could be!
What significance do the Stonewall Riots have for you now?
That everyone is created equal and everyone should treat each other with dignity. We only have a short time in life to respect the life force. Of course, throughout history certain people want to squash a lifestyle that is not in a box.
When everyone finally wakes up, they will realize there’s more than being told what you can and can’t do. The conscience shines a light to make—or let—you push ahead. So the Stonewall Riots was an amazing push for gay rights. And that means everyone under that umbrella: Drag, Butch, Lesbian, F/M, Trans, Sissy, etc.
How far have LGBT people come since 1969?
The LGBT community has propelled itself like a meteorite in a world of narrow-mindedness. It’s as though alien technology had some hand in it. From being gay as a taboo, it’s all now really part of the norm. I have to say I think it was the drag community that had a major hand in it! For me, Suzanne Bartsch played a huge role. At her Copa parties, she showcased the artistry and magic of drag. Time will tell where it all evolves from here. Most importantly, we should be proud.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
Plain and simple: We should leave Planet Earth and start to colonize Mars, and there heterosexuals would be the minority. They would be called ‘homosensuals.’ Haha. Everyone should come out of the closet, especially Hollywood actors. The stars belong to us: the LGBT community.