Friday, June 27, 2014

The Gayest Progress You'll See this Week (45 Years On)

Eep! I can't believe I've been away almost an entire month without posting. Of course, it's been a very busy month which included my 35th High School Reunion (yes, as I've repeatedly pointed out - I am old) and a long-planned garage sale in my continuing quest to purge my house of 50 years' worth of accumulated junk. It was successful enough to pay for the new bannister I need before I can move in my impending boarder and replace the sonic toothbrush that gave up the ghost last week. But enough about me.

I couldn't let June go without a post about Pride and the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising that inspired it. On June 28th, 1969, NYPD Vice raided the Stonewall Inn, a mafia-owned gay club in Greenwich Village. Apocryphal accounts say that many were gathered at the Stonewall that night to mourn the passing of gay icon Judy Garland. Others say it was just a regular Saturday night, where gay men and drag queens had come to be themselves, away from prying eyes in the windowless club. Whatever the reason, the police choose that night to raid and tired of the abuse, the Stonewall's patrons finally fought back and inspired three nights of demonstrations, riots and protests against those who still held that homosexuality was a mental disorder with sexually deviant practices that were illegal at the time. That weekend sissy boys; drag queens; bull dykes and leather daddies stood shoulder to shoulder in defiance of police and others who labeled them 'perverts' to say they weren't going to take it anymore. 

In the 45 years since, the LGBT Community has seen many advances in our civil rights struggle. 1973 saw the American Psychiatric Association remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, adding it to the spectrum (thanks in part to Dr. Robert Kinsey, Dr. Judd Marmor and Dr. Robert Spitzer) of normal sexual behavior. 1977 saw virulent homophobe (and former Miss America) Anita Bryant get pied by a gay activist (she responded "At least it was fruit pie"). 1977 also saw the election of Harvey Milk to the San Francisco City Council, making him the first openly gay man to hold elected office in the U.S. Milk was assassinated (along with S.F. Mayor George Moscone) a year later by Dan White, who claimed junk food made him crazy (the infamous "Twinkie Defense"). Not long after, horror was visited upon on us in the form of a virus which was first described as a "Gay Cancer." HIV/AIDS ravaged the community in the 1980's. President Reagan (a former film actor with many gay friends, including Rock Hudson) didn't utter the word "AIDS" until near the end of his second term in 1987, after millions had already perished. Over the next twenty years, more and more of us made our voices heard and acceptance slowly took hold across the nation and the world.

After many lawsuits, it wasn't until 2001 that The Netherlands became the first country to allow and recognize same-sex marriages. Belgium passed Marriage Equality in 2002, followed by Canada and Spain in 2005. Since then, South Africa;Sweden; Iceland; Argentina; Denmark; France and Brazil and five other countries have all made Marriage Equality law. Currently, 20 U.S. States have Marriage Equality on their books, including my own Pennsylvania (which happily took effect long before Uncle P thought it would). The remaining 30 states all have either had their anti-gay marriage laws challenged in court, or have been struck down pending appeal. Finally, I and most American LGBT advocates actually can envision Marriage Equality across the U.S. by 2016. 

Still, our fight for Equality is far from over. Many third-world countries have virulent anti-LGBT laws (particularly in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as well as the current Russian regime) and many still view LGBT people as sick and/or perverted, along with many right-winged religious and political factions in the U.S. But for every Fred Phelps or Rick Santorum, there are dozens of right-thinking young people who know that gay folks are far from the evil, perverse child-molesters that Conservatives would have you believe us to be.

Of course, this is hardly a definitive or fully inclusive detail of the struggle for for LGBT rights, but I am so happy that the very closeted 1970's teenager I used to be has become an Out and Proud 2014 gay middle-ager with hope for the future of our younger LGBTs. Visibility is the key. The more Str8 folks realize they know and love queer friends and family members (as well as celebrities and sports figures), the better off we are. I truly hope that some day, Pride events will no longer be necessary and sexual orientation is no longer an issue. Of course, given the state of racism in the modern South, that probably won't happen in my lifetime. 

Never forget the events of June 28th, 1969. Let them (and the others since) guide us to full Equality in the near future. Celebrate and support the LGBT people in your life. There are probably more of us, than you realize.

More, anon.

No comments: