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Stonewall Survivor, Martin Boyce, Visits Nepean
Ollie Mazerolle /  Thu, 04 May 2023

On April 21st, the tables in the library were swept aside and rows of seats were constructed, all facing a pair of two, blue-backed armchairs. On this day, a guest speaker came to Nepean, an activist from the historic Stonewall Riots, Martin Boyce.

Starting as an event planned for Mr. Wallace’s Gender Studies class, the occasion was opened up to other students as well. In no time at all, the room was filled with students from all grades. It began just a little after the end of the end of lunch, taking up the entirety of third period.

The event started off calmly. Jeremy Dias, a representative from the Day of Pink gave an introduction for Boyce. Dias gave a disclaimer to the crowd about the social differences between American and Canadian terminology within the queer community. He talked about the event’s likely use of terms that, once upon a time, were perfectly commonplace, whereas nowadays they might be seen as offensive.

After introductions and expositions were made, Boyce began sharing his stories.

Boyce was a performer of scare drag, a form of drag that was more androgynous leaning in its bending of gender. It was meant to confuse its onlookers, Boyce explained. He continued further describing that at that time, transgender people and drag queens were lumped together.

When the question was asked to the crowd if anyone knew what drag was, there was a chorus of raised hands.

Boyce shared stories of what it was like to live in the gay subculture of late 20th century New York. One of the notable topics he made mention of was the police presence and the cops’ efforts to arrest gay people. Particularly, the male cops’ insidious method of tricking gay men into hitting on them so they could arrest them. He also shared a few anecdotes about his interactions with one of his friends, Marsha P. Johnson.

Throughout the event, Boyce showed his prowess as a storyteller. He enraptured the crowd with his narration and imagery in describing the Stonewall riots. The entire room was silent as he shared his tale. Silent except, of course, when he cracked a joke, to which the room grew filled with snickers.

Once he finished, the floor was opened up to questions from the crowd. There were a few hands raised and a decent amount of questions asked, but the audience’s silence in the room was made up for by Boyce’s resounding presence. Boyce responded charismatically to the questions asked of him, occasionally sharing comedic anecdotes within his answers.

One story he shared near the end of the event was one that had happened when his father, a cab driver, offered to drive him. Boyce that day had been wearing his fur coat and cloche, and his dad pulled up the cab and said he would drive him. Because the meter goes up when the passenger sits down, Boyce had to lie down in the back. Unfortunately, he got stuck, making the ride very awkward. It got worse when the cab stopped at a traffic light. Because the back seat looked empty, a lady came up to the vehicle and pulled open the door. Seeing Boyce, she screamed, which alerted cops to come over. They started harassing Boyce, to which his dad protested yelling, “That’s my son!”, And the cops let him go.

Another story that garnered quite a few chuckles from the room was Boyce describing when once a drag queen friend of his had one of her fake breasts start deflating. A hole had been poked into it, letting the grain inside spill out.

As the event wrapped up, everyone approached Boyce for pictures and to give him personal comments. At least one person started crying when thanking Boyce for the efforts of him and his friends. Just a little after the bell rang to signify the start of the next class, everyone gathered close and took a group photo with Boyce in the middle.

This guest speaker visit definitely held an impact on the students who attended. Many of those in the audience were members of the queer community, the community which sees a stronger movement nowadays in the fight for their rights thanks to the people like Boyce. To meet this kind of person in the flesh was nothing short of an empowering experience, especially in the wake of anti-trans bills currently happening in the United States.

Events like these are important as a means to encourage those not to lose hope, especially in the face of how far these movements have come. “It should definitely be done again next year,” 12th grade student Nyx Marshall said after the fact.

As Boyce put it when talking about the queer community, “We’re all Stonewall veterans.”