thumbnail of American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Virgina Apuzzo, 1 of 3
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
just generally there is a child there i am thinking about them my childhood growing up in the bronx in nineteen forties nineteen fifties i knew that i was in love with my best girlfriend when i was ten and i knew that that wasn't a great idea because what i propose to work she stopping my best friend there were there was nothing to look to walk no no place to put a hook until and i don't know what year this was until i'm christine jorgensen canavan the first trance transgendered person that hit the newspaper she happened to come from so rico avenue in the bronx which was not far from where i lived and i would walk by that street
and wonder is that what my destiny is when they set what i am is that what i have to become of course you can imagine how the newspapers treated the story is christine jorgensen who was a male army person i believe army soldier end and get this operation in denmark of course the church became you know going to denmark so epic growing up in those years you had no hope you had no home base to look for you had no place to try to find an identity when you've got a word the word was homosexuality and you looked it up it said the most dreadful things it said nothing about being a person it was as if they were going to fine thing and that that was my experience growing up of course being catholic being italian catholic it
had all kinds of overlays about sinful and hell and all of the baggage that comes with religion and homosexuality is the un i as a child my experiences thinking about who why was the word becomes the latest raid are in a word that comes to mind when i think of how i felt about myself and how i felt the ballot what i would become like i was filled with dread and trade is something that's children should not live with dread it saying it's a kick to greater weight too heavy burden to think about that and no place to find a sense of
words yourself no matter how good you try to be you have this sense of theory is something that his band about me because the only places you know to look for church and some book with a definition and it wasn't easy so what did you do it became a really good tomboy i could play ball better than that but i was always picked for the caine i became a really good time when it became a kind of social pariah to bomb for the study of girls in the neighborhood nobody nobody's mother wanted to play with me and then i am i became really good in school because it occurred to me that the only way out from having to get married being italian daughter of the older son was to make sure that i get to go to college
and so i worked in school as it and said it would have a new escape for me well you know when you grow up an italian catholic and the bronx you weren't you begin going to church your grandmother takes a seven o'clock mass and really only ladies handed out screech the priest a recent through the mess i grew up with that i grew up in a very catholic household in the un and the conflict of issues of redemption is that possible
if you're this thing called a homosexual is it possible to be redeemed is that conceivable and that that was a very haunting issue for me i mean what kind of existence is it to be born into something and no matter what you do you are condemned to hell and pursuing the question lasted for me into my late twenties i had to the company twenty six to pursue that question i studied theology at manhattan college and pursued that question and i was convinced that i would either stay until i got an answer or fighting units are just a and then i did get an answer on and left stonewall was a very big piece of the answer that i got stonewalled gave me the courage to say is good
i was yes and them and i thought well if i i was in the convent in nineteen sixty nine and tom was very we're of what was going on and very curious about it and subsequent to the actual riot went down to the village just to be in the presence of that activity to be weird energy wants to some help me get a piece of my audience of the family and left the company not too long after that end immediately so it started out where things were happening in the year in the gay movement and went to ella fell the gay academic union and began that that whole journey let's listen
the am the issue of redemption i mean it's a fundamental issue in literature and everything you know it's about what happens to life what is a life about and i saw every institution saying that my life was not a worthy one that if i were this person that i felt i had to be that i was a singer and a sinner goes to hell you learn that the baltimore catechism so pursuing that question and finding i'd answered that somehow reflected goodness back to me was a critical journey for me and i can't believe that i'm alone and in searching for an answer to that because no child should really feel it drain your childhood you
really feel that their life planned have that glorious redemptive quality that i think comes about when you feel good about yourself well i am like my parents where my parents were afraid that i would become pregnant so they insisted that i don't have school so they sent me to a cathedral high school we are a four thousand girls it's kind of a little bit of heaven when i want it all when i am well into the current and i took it very seriously i played but it rolls it on and i found some very heart wrenching kinds of experiences that women have when they have never come to grips with their sexuality and here i was in a struggle about my sexuality so it was reflected back to me and i was experiencing some like my time incumbent is something that i think contributed greatly to
to my microbes so in the nineteen fifties and sixties the price of being alone is an extraordinary prices it deprives you of your dignity it deprives you of of ever being a wee of ever feeling like there's someone with whom you can be in us the amount of energy you put in hiding it never gives you a sense of worthiness you always feeling as if you're
lying is if the truth doesn't matter anymore i'm sorry this year ok yeah right good day rosa parks
grier you will be at the helm the question of isolation the question of loneliness the question of not finding your place not hearing your niche guests a piece of me could could be elicited from the women's movement at peace at me could be responsive to the black civil rights movement and certainly the war movement called forth a piece of of us but the fact that the memories we could never bring our whole selves to anything we were never able to be the year as who we were we were never able to make coalition giving coup we are a name and having embraced by those people with whom we were happy to be allies
one well back before stonewall they were gay people before stonewall they were they were people who went to bars people who dressed up of people who saw it to protect themselves in and remain a part of it was as if you talk off your clothes at the end of a day and could briefly be yourself and the next morning you put the lights back on and went out into the world that's not an authentic life that's not a life that they're from which you can join that's not a person is no one with whom you can share who you really are that suppression that's why she's from rural should get i
think i think what we felt in isolation wasn't growing pressure a growing sense of their ration fury particularly because we've looked around and saw so many avenues of rebellion of expression of demanding to be seen and to be heard or to have a perspective seen or heard and yet it's the wasn't possible to claim a name to claim a place to get to join in as to your yeah well we're here to tell you that it was insufficient in the press box
or this what's so big event that being yourself questions what's so bad about that being yourself at sea if you perceive that being yourself areas a luxury as a as a kind of an l little luxury human being yourself as a legit be yourself is essential it's part of the essence of being the person is to be able to bring your old self to someone to something it yesterday with the authenticity of your life and to deprive people of their authenticity is to deprive them of the real the most important part of their life and to have people high depression their dignity and to have images that are ridiculed that you know really are about you
that impression well i've made the problems of suicide of finding refuge in alcohol and substance abuse they were they were monumental i mean our community continues to reel from problems alcoholism and substance abuse and much of it it goes back to the fact that we could only socializing in dark dingy places and drink water down to alcohol and that was supposed to be your social environment what is that say a bad call you or how you see yourself very decorative very deadly virus well the purpose of the bars in the village from my point of view was to support the mafia the purpose of the bars for more pointedly was where could we go to find an
other it's really have been very pivotal point in our history most of us grew up as a i i i am i am we really didn't discover oh we for a long time it was when we could reach out and see another go to a place and find another that we really began to see that we are we when i just when i was very important hot in terms of your social understanding and endure years sense of yourself in a place among others sober though the bars had that and that day that opportunity but quite frankly they they knew it was what i would consider to be an optimal social opportunity for young person there was a necessary evil not at all
not at all there was a very exploitative relationship between the clientele i can remember the first time i went to war stewart stood at the door and said due date and for the first time i went no one's ever asked me that question say yeah i'm gay and you know i looked around the room nobody seemed happy nobody seemed uplifted and to have the very first experience you have walking into what should be a social environment being at a question that almost sounded like an accusation that was my experience and it was not something that i thought was warm loving or are any way entertaining what i have found that it's like spirits of the gay bar scene in the early years were basically a necessary evil fate they were the only place we could go they were expletive places and they were run by and large by a criminal elements
yup the message is this is the but this is only worth you know it wasn't it wasn't just the ball are spending the entire environment if you look politically dead in an executive order issued by eisenhower and basically said that that the federal government didn't have to hire you have the federal government wouldn't hire you do have to say that the federal government is the largest single employer in the nation if the federal government says we don't have to hire those people what are the business owners say if you can get insurance if you're considered less than credit worthy suitor can't buy a house with an fha loan if you are hiding yourself in order to serve in the military how many messages do you need to be told you're not valued he wanted a church person so
in every message in society was one that said you're not good enough and so clearly all opera i do think these three major institutions in any culture our religion and medicine and medical institutions all three institutions in our society came out with a greater sanctions against homosexuals to the law were still felons in over a dozen states to the church we were centers and to the medical establishment treated as sick so when you have those three major institutions coming together and essentially identifying your worthlessness that's that's a clear message
no i mean that you know that the va and i am that comfortable are weighing whose repression is worse but i think the african american community always was able to take refuge in church are they in david what little little latitude they and society the church became a refuge for them the church's the refuge to gay people it was one more institution wagging a finger at and what does the world well but the medical establishment considered you sick and so i have friends who was parents sent them to mental institutions and you
know that they were you were six you all wanted what it what it meant to be considered sick was your parents felt perfectly fine about pain you over to a doctor in effect after believed that that homosexuality was a mental illness you you could be sent to a mental institution and indeed i have friends who spent time in mental institutions who was subjected to shock treatment this was not this was not something that should be ever forgotten we've we've we've been sorely treated by three major institutions and we carry those scores or was the
what we got to try to do they were trying to cure you know they were trying to somehow change your behavior to make you more docile more it easy get easier to handle a because you know the american psychiatric association said you were ill and what cures were available if you go back to those days you wanted to find out let's you want to find a gay something it was a workday so you look in the telephone book for homosexual who was no homosexual act as a matter of fact if there was an organization that would've listed in the telephone book so they invaded me a conspiracy to keep you isolated was very broad and they're real yeah
yeah well you know you have you still had men and women wanted in it in the newspaper the new york times would have you know mail want to implement women what employment and it was so it was such a different time from where we are today
American Experience
Stonewall Uprising
Raw Footage
Interview with Virgina Apuzzo, 1 of 3
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-z60bv7c42w).
Episode Description
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Such raids were not unusual in the late 1960s, an era when homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. That night, however, the street erupted into violent protests and street demonstrations that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Raw Footage Description
In this interview, Virginia Apuzzo talks about reconciling faith and sexuality; LGBTQ oppression from political, religious, and medical institutions; the civil rights movement; and the role of bars for the gay community in New York.
Asset type
Raw Footage
Copyright 2011 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Interviewee: Apuzzo, Virginia
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings

Identifier: cpb-aacip-15-z60bv7c42w.mp4 (mediainfo)
Format: video/mp4
Generation: Proxy
Duration: 00:25:09
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Virgina Apuzzo, 1 of 3,” 2011-00-00, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 8, 2023,
MLA: “American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Virgina Apuzzo, 1 of 3.” 2011-00-00. American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 8, 2023. <>.
APA: American Experience; Stonewall Uprising; Interview with Virgina Apuzzo, 1 of 3. Boston, MA: American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from