Tag Archives: Stonewall

LGBT History Month: Why We Need to Celebrate

3 Jun

Happy_Gay_Pride_MonthJune is recognized as LGBT History Month, a time for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community to come together and celebrate who we are and stand in solidarity with each other.  We celebrate in June because it was June of 1969 that jump-started the Gay Liberation Movement in our country’s history with the Stonewall Riots.

In 1969 it was illegal in the United States to be gay and we were targeted by police for raids and put in jail.  Sadly, the LGBT community is still policed disproportionately and there are still 14 states where it is still illegal to be gay, most of those states are in the South, despite Lawrence v. Texas. Yes, most states in the South have zero protections for LGBT folk, so one can be denied employment, denied housing, and denied healthcare just for their sexual orientation.

As much as we think It Gets Better, we still have a long way to go.  One wonders why we don’t have a better campaign that says; Make It Get Better, and put the onus on the dominant culture.  We know from the 2010 National Health Report that harassment and violence against the LGBT community have increased by 20% and the increase of violence is even greater for LGBT folks of color.

Sadly, this trend is international and shows no sign of abating. Look at the spike in protesting and violence in France that started as marriage equality began to work its way through the legislative process. Look at the violence in Russia and the Ukraine and the official indifference — or outright support — it receives. Nigeria just passed “All Gays to Be Jailed” law. Closer to home, look at the TEN anti-gay hate crimes in New York City in just the past month: bashings, beatings, assaults, and at least one murder. The closer we get to equal, the angrier — and more aggressive — our foes become.

Granted, our heterosexual brothers and sisters do have to live in fear of the Gay Agenda, but when are we going to have actual movement towards civil rights?  Will the Supreme Court do the right thing and send the message by overturning DOMA that we must treat all of our citizens equally and equitably? Will the Boy Scouts’ lame half-measure finally break them as the California legislature plans to strip them of any non-profit privileges for their incessant discrimination?

LGBT History Month provides a time and place for the community to celebrate and come together in “numbers too big to be ignored” (you I love me some Helen Reddy).  I ask all of our heterosexual brothers and sisters to stand in solidarity and support all LGBT folk in the many colors and lives we represent.

Obama’s Inspirational Inaugural

24 Jan
We the People

We the People

The inaugural speeches of U.S. Presidents are seldom very interesting. As part of a larger ceremony — admittedly a significant one in the operation of our government — they tend to be bland “what a great country” orations.  I must confess that I don’t usually pay much attention. This year, however, the presence of Myrlie Evers got me watching, and I’m truly glad that I did.

President Obama can be an inspiring speaker. This Monday he delivered what may be the finest speech of his career. The handful of great inaugurals — Lincoln’s call for healing in 1865, FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” in 1933, JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” in 1961 — have taken place at pivotal moments in our country’s history. It can be hard to spot such moments when you are living in them, but our President did just that and I don’t know that I have ever been prouder to identify as an American.

The divide between Americans — by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so much more — have been cast in such sharp relief by the politics and behavior of the past decade that too many of us wonder where we fit in. Obama’s theme, We the People, called out this problem and sought everyone’s participation in its solutions.

I was stunned and thrilled to hear him use the world “marginalized” in the speech. That barely prepared me for the next sentence.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.

Having the leader of the nation clearly show the path from the first feminists to the struggle for racial equality to the struggles for LGBT rights was stunning. The participation of gay poet Richard Blanco in the inaugural events was a welcome touch. The very real words of the President, calling for that march of justice to keep moving, was overwhelming. My husband and I were both in tears, caught off guard and astounded by his direct call for justice; this is probably the most hopeful I have felt in years.

The entire speech, only 15 minutes but packed with power, is worth reading. As a social worker, I found his very specific challenge to those who write the laws as well as those who rally for social justice particularly resonant.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

For the first time, a President actually explicitly used the word “gay” in an inaugural. I have seldom felt so accepted as a citizen of this nation.

It’s no wonder that days later pundits and journalists and Americans of all types are still marvelling at this speech. It wasn’t just a pale summoning of an America that might be. It was an invocation of what we say we are and a challenge to all of us to live up to that promise — not just for ourselves but generations to come. Let us celebrate this President, his words, and his intentions. Let us work together to help his vision come true.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 10, Judy Garland

10 Jun

Today would have been Judy Garland’s 90th birthday. We take the opportunity to celebrate one of the first and biggest icons of the gay community. Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, MI, she only lived 47 years and spent 45 of them singing, dancing and acting. She received a Juvenile Academy Award and won a Golden Globe Award, Grammy Awards, and a Special Tony Award. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the remake of A Star is Born and for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 1961 film, Judgment at Nuremberg. She was the youngest recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in motion pictures at the age of 39.

Judy performed vaudeville with her sisters in an act billed as the Gumm Sisters. They changed it to Garland (after a prominent critic) for more pizzazz. She was signed to MGM at the age of 13, getting her first big break working opposite Mickey Rooney in several Andy Hardy films. At 17, she starred in one of her most famous films, The Wizard of Oz. She continued in a number of musicals in the 40s, finding stardom but also facing weight problems and depression. She also married twice that decade, including  Vincente Minelli, father of her daughter Liza. She suffered her first major breakdown in 1947 and attempted suicide soon after.

She made her first comeback in 1954 with the help of third husband Sid Luft. She returned to the stage and starred in another iconic role in the remake of A Star Is Born. She acted in a number of other movies into the early 60s. Her biggest triumph in her (relatively) later life was her 1961 show at Carnegie Hall, considered one of the finest performances in the venue. She married twice more after Luft and continued to battle depression and addiction. On June 22, 1969 she was found dead in her London apartment, apparently of an accidental overdose of barbiturates and alcohol.

Judy Garland is iconic in gay culture. Her performance as Dorothy is so pitch perfect and so resonates with people who feel trapped (read Kansas as closet), that Friend of Dorothy has been code for gay for decades. Her status is so significant that Wikipedia has an entire entry on Judy Garland as Gay Icon. She was larger than life, glamorous and tragic, married gay men, and loved spending time in gay bars. While never actively courting the gay community (such as it was before her death), she was accepting of gay men simply for who they were, something very rare in her generation. Legend also associates Garland with the Stonewall Riots which kicked off the gay rights movement. According to some stories, the gathering at the Stonewall Inn on June 27, 1969 was to watch her funeral on television. While some dispute this claim, it is just one more thread weaving the bright and tragic life of the legendary Judy into the rainbow flag.

Today is also the birthday of Maurice Sendak, who died last month at the age of 83.

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