NYC’s Christopher Street Pier is just a few blocks from the Stonewall Inn, where, in 1969, the gay community staged the riots that are considered by many to be the birth of the gay rights movement. Back then, Stonewall was a haven and hangout for some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender individuals, prostitutes, and homeless youth – many of whom were people of color. But, although it was these very people who helped trigger the advocacy movement for LGBT rights that continues today, 40 years later their successors continue to struggle with many of the same challenges. New York City’s homeless queer youth of color can still be found near the Stonewall Inn, on the Christopher Street Piers, which they call home – a community caught in the crosshairs of where race, sexuality and class intersect.
It is this community that filmmaker and director Elegance Bratton portrays in his documentary Pier Kids: The Life. Many of those represented in the film have been in foster-care since birth, while others have had to flee their homes because their families cannot grasp their ‘lifestyle’. These are usually poor and working class families of color who have not had the resources to understand their transgender and homosexual children. With no place in our society to ‘fit in’, they have been forced into the shadows and have built a community at Christopher Street Pier. There, they are harassed by police and are considered an ongoing problem in the affluent area.
Although the stories are difficult and heartbreaking, Pier Kids: The Life still shows the vibrant, hopeful spirits of these latino and black LGBTQs. They play a big role in NYC ball culture, which not only provides a support system for members, but also allows for friendly competition in runway style walks, vogueing, twirling, dips and overall ‘realness’. The history of this underground music and dance scene can be seen in the legendary documentary Paris Is Burning, and the director of that film, Jennie Livingstone, acknowledges the kinship between her film and Pier Kids: “Here are the descendants of the people in Paris is Burning, depicted by someone who’s lived the madness and can relate, first-hand, why this is an important New York story and an important American story.”
Pier Kids: The Life and their incredibly dedicated team need your help to bring this story to light. With a small contribution you can help illuminate the world of a community that has been neglected and punished for being unable to adapt to society’s ‘norm’. A change is coming and you have a chance to be a part of it.
Click HERE to find out more about Pier Kids: The Life and how you can help.