Tag Archives: stonewall

Pride processions begin with portraits of Pulse victims

Rainbow flags were held high along with portraits of the dead as thousands of people marched on June 26 in gay Pride parades tempered by this month’s massacre at a Florida gay nightclub.

Crowds of onlookers stood a dozen deep along Fifth Avenue for New York City’s parade. Some spectators held up orange “We are Orlando” signs, and indications of increased security were everywhere, with armed officers standing by. An announcer introducing state officials and guests also shouted out, “Love is love! New York is Orlando!” in memory of the 49 people killed in Florida. Elected officials turned out in force, as did presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

She walked several blocks of the march, joining New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rev. Al Sharpton for a brief appearance at Stonewall Inn, the bar where a 1969 police raid helped catalyze the gay rights movement.

On June 26, with her Twitter handle appearing in rainbow colors, Clinton wrote: “One year ago, love triumphed in our highest court. Yet LGBT Americans still face too many barriers. Let’s keep marching until they don’t. -H”

Authorities had expected a larger-than-usual crowd, and 15-year-old Chelsea Restrepo, of Staten Island, was among the onlookers. She had brushed aside her father’s concerns about security to attend the march for the first time.

“What happened in Orlando made me want to come more,” said Restrepo, swathed in a multicolored scarf. She said she wanted to show her support.

Kenny Hillman, a 39-year-old Brooklyn filmmaker, was ready to roar his Triumph Bonneville down Fifth Avenue.

The transgender New Yorker said he hadn’t planned to come to the march.

“For me, I wasn’t going to ride because I have 17-month-old twins at home. But then Orlando happened, and seeing so many of my friends shrink in fear made me realize that coming here was more important,” said Hillman, wearing an anti-assault guns T-shirt.

New York’s parade was one of several being held Sunday across the country, along with San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis. They came two weeks after the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In Chicago, 49 marchers at the head of the parade each held aloft a poster-sized photograph of a different Orlando victim as the procession wound through the city. Above each photo were the words, “Never forget.”

Despite the somber start, parade-goers seemed as enthusiastic as ever once marchers and floats began moving, cheering and dancing along the route. Many participants said the tributes to the dead in Orlando didn’t dampen the energy and fun associated with the pride parade.

“It is another on a list of brutalities over the years (against gays),” said Joe Conklin, 74, of Chicago, as he sat on the back of a float waiting for the OK to move out. “We’re aware of Orlando but not overwhelmed by it.”

It was a similar feeling in San Francisco, where men in glittery white wings walked on stilts and women in leather pants rode motorcycles as the parade moved along.

Richel Desamparado, of Oakland, California, was marching and carrying a photo of Orlando victim Stanley Almodovar. She said she felt the need to remind people the fight for equality is not over. “A lot of my gay friends and relatives are still being shunned away by their families and communities,” said Desamparado, 31. “People need to remember we’re still fighting for equality.”

Sunday’s parades did have a new milestone to mark: President Barack Obama on Friday designated the site around New York City’s Stonewall Inn as the first national monument to gay rights.

Security was ramped up at the events. New York police deployed roving counterterrorism units and used bomb-sniffing dogs, rooftop observation posts, police helicopters and thousands of officers to provide extra layers of security at Sunday’s parade. Thousands of uniformed officers lined the route, supplemented by plainclothes officers in the crowd.

San Francisco spectators faced metal detectors for the first time, and more police than usual were keeping watch. Some participants didn’t welcoming the stepped-up security: Two honorary grand marshals and a health clinic that serves sex workers withdrew Friday from the parade to protest the heavy police presence.

Chicago police put 200 more officers than usual on duty for the city’s pride parade Sunday. Organizers nearly doubled their corps of private security agents, to 160.

At a gay street parade in Turkey, a prominent German lawmaker and outspoken gay rights advocate was temporarily detained Sunday when he wanted to speak publicly at the end of Pride Week. Turkish police have repeatedly in recent days prevented activists from participating in LGBT rallies.

For all the security and solemnity, some spectators at pride parades this month have made a point of making merry.

“We had fun. That is what gay people do,” comedian Guy Branum wrote in a New York Times essay after attending the West Hollywood parade. “Our answer to loss and indignity, it seems, is to give a party, have a parade and celebrate bits of happiness.”

Take our annual LGBT community quiz

The riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village are legendary, the symbolic start of the modern LGBT civil rights movement.

In June, with the focus in the LGBT community turned to commemorating the Stonewall uprising, we celebrate Pride — pride in ourselves, our community, our legends and our history.

Test your knowledge with WiG’s annual Pride pop quiz.

A New York City police raid on the Stonewall Inn fueled riots, inspired marches and gave rise to the gay liberation movement. The riots occurred in:

A. 1999

B. 1969

C. 1889

D. 1949

The standard LGBT Pride flag contains how many colors?

A. 8

B. 5

C. 12

D. 6

Gay civil rights icon Harvey Milk was …

A. A San Francisco supervisor

B. The CEO of Borden Milk

C. Mayor of Los Angeles

D. A Broadway director

Playwright Oscar Wilde said …

A. “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

B. “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.”

C. “I am not young enough to know everything.”

D. All of the above.

True or false? k.d. lang publicly came out as a lesbian at a ball to celebrate Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993.

True or false? The International Bear Brotherhood flag was first flown at a Gentle Ben convention in 1969.

The Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in New York, opened in 1968 and featured top-notch entertainment. Which act did NOT perform at the club?

A. The Andrews Sisters

B. Sonny and Cher

C. Cab Calloway

D. Charles Nelson Reilly

Bayard Rustin was the chief organizer of …

A. The 1985 Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois.

B. The 1966 Delano Grape Strike and Boycott.

C. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

D. The Millennium March on Washington for Equality.

True or false? The Silence = Death Project originated on Tax Day in 1987, with an ACT UP protest at the New York City General Post Office.

The Greek letter lambda was selected as an LGBT symbol by the Gay Activists Alliance of New York in what year?

A. 1982

B. 1964

C. 1955

D. 1970


1: B

2: D

3: A

4: D

5: False (It was Melissa Etheridge who did so)

6: False (It was first flown at a “Bears of Summer” celebration in Chesapeake Bay in 1995)

7: B

8: C

9: True

10: D.

The bar where it all started is to become a National Monument

The Stonewall Inn is slated to become the first national monument dedicated to gay rights.

The monument would comprise the inn and land adjacent to the tavern, the site of a 1969 uprising that is viewed as the symbolic start of the modern-day gay rights movement.

“Stonewall was the spark that ignited the movement for LGBT civil rights, a spark which continues to burn around the world today,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat. “We must ensure that the events of Stonewall, the persecution of the LGBT community, and the brave individuals who fought — and continue to fight — to overcome it are given the place they deserve in our nation’s history.”

The bar in the Stonewall building closed in 1969, just months after patrons resisted the police raid. The space was occupied by other businesses, including a bagel shop and a Chinese restaurant, before it reopened as a bar in the 1990s. In Stonewall’s current incarnation, under new owners since 2006, half the original space occupied by the bar is now a nail salon.

Co-owner Stacy Lentz said she and her partners bought the bar “to preserve history and make sure it wasn’t made into a Starbucks.” She said she is thrilled by the national monument discussions.

“This solidifies everything we have worked for to keep the legacy alive for generations to come,” Lentz said.

Nadler, who has been pressing for a national monument at Stonewall for years, said the spot is worth recognizing because it would “tell the story of the United States,” as do park sites in Seneca Falls, New York, dedicated to the women’s rights movement, and Selma, Alabama, named for the civil rights movement.

U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand added, “The Stonewall Inn is an icon in American history and a national monument designation at this site would help tell the story of the equal rights movement in America for generations to come. Every recent victory for the community, from the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to the Supreme Court decision about the right to marry, is a result of the movement that began at Stonewall more than four decades ago.”

The Stonewall Inn already is already a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also, it was designated a New York City landmark last year, the first time a site had received the designation because of its significance to LGBT history.

Originally built as stables in the 1840s, adjoining buildings at 51 Christopher Street still have the brick-and-stucco facade that greeted bar-goers June 28, 1969, the night of the protests.

What began as a police raid escalated into days of street demonstrations that triggered an activist movement and prompted gay New Yorkers to stop hiding their identities and speak out publicly.

“The Stonewall Rebellion is a rarity — a tipping point in history where we know, with absolute clarity, that everything changed,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

Patrons at the Stonewall are ecstatic the area will be recognized as a national monument.

Jonathan Early called the Stonewall “the heart of the LGBT movement.”

And as he passed by the bar earlier this spring, Jesse Furman said, “It really says something. It is a place of so much happiness and acceptance. Think about it. This is America’s landmark for the gay community.”

To the register

The National Park Service in May announced that it would add two LGBT sites to the National Register of Historic Places:

• The Edificio Comunidad de Orgullo Gay de Puerto Rico in San Juan, which served as the meeting hall for the first LGBT organization in Puerto Rico.

• The Furies Collective house in Washington, D.C., which was home to a lesbian feminist collective in the early 1970s.

“The road to civil rights is a long one and adding these important places to the National Register will help recognize the LGBT communities’ fight for equality,” said Kristen Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association.

— Lisa Neff

image pride stonewall plaque

Fall movie season brings a wealth of quality LGBT feature films

Ellen Page was first approached about the true-life gay rights drama Freeheld when she was 21, just coming off her breakthrough in Juno. It was seven years before the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a right, and six before Page, herself, came out.

“It really did align with an internal process I was going through with my own identity, with my own struggles of being closeted,” says Page of Freeheld. “It’s lovely to be part of a film that’s reflecting upon why we need the Supreme Court ruling and why we need to continue to strive to equality. I think the film is reflecting a time when that change is happening.”

As much as change is in the air in 2015, it’s also on the screen. Though Hollywood’s track record when it comes to telling the stories of LGBT lives is far from gleaming, this fall season boasts one of the richest and most varied batch of films yet to dramatize the struggles of gay and transgendered people.

Freeheld (in theaters Oct. 2) is about Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) and her domestic partner, Stacie Andree (Page). When Hester, an Ocean County, New Jersey, police officer, began dying of terminal lung cancer in 2005, she appealed to the county Board of Freeholders to allow her pension to go to Andree. Though it would have been automatic for a married couple, the board initially refused.

Eight years after a documentary short on Hester won an Oscar, screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) has penned the dramatization, directed by Peter Sollett and co-starring Steve Carell and Michael Shannon.

Todd Haynes’ Carol (out Nov. 20), based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel, is about the illicit love affair between two women (Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara) in the conservative 1950s. A lushly detailed period film, thick with an atmosphere of socially enforced repression, the film rides a wave of praise from the Cannes Film Festival, where Mara shared in the best actress award.

Blanchett, in an interview at Cannes, said that while love between two lesbians is of course central to Carol, it’s ultimately about love, regardless of gender.

“There’s something Romeo and Juliet-esque about it,” Blanchett said. “There’s a universality to the love story that moves it out of the niche. It’s about the perspective or the feeling of being in love for the first time. And, yes, it’s not immaterial that there are two women at the center of it. But at certain moments, it kind of is.”

Also in November is The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Based on the 1920s Copenhagen novel by David Ebershoff and starring Eddie Redmayne, it’s a fictionalized account of Lili Elbe, among the first to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

While that trio of films is expected to play major roles in awards season, there are others in the mix, too.

Roland Emmerich, taking a break from the disaster spectacles like White House Down and The Day After Tomorrow, depicts one of the most pivotal moments in the gay rights movement in Stonewall (Sept. 25), a drama set around the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in New York’s Greenwich Village.

And months after the celebrated transformation of Caitlyn Jenner, About Ray (Sept. 18) is about a teenager’s (Elle Fanning) transition from female to male, and how her family reacts.

It can be overly optimistic to take any seasonal trend as a sign of wider industry progress. Studies have confirmed that Hollywood continues to lag in representing the diversity of its audiences. Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school recently found that among the 4,610 speaking characters in the 100 top-grossing films in 2014, only 19 were lesbian, gay or bisexual. None were transgender.

Many of these films also struggled to make it to the big screen. It took Carol almost two decades to finally get made; screenwriter Phyllis Nagy wrote her first draft in 1996.

Equality for LGBT people also, of course, continues to be a divisive issue for some across the country. Page recently confronted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fair on his views on gay rights.

But in a year marked by significant advancement for gay rights, many, like Page, are buoyed by the upswing in this fall’s films — a crop of movies that add more lesbian and transgender stories to the indelible, but largely male movies (Philadelphia, Milk, Brokeback Mountain) that have come before.

“I wish there were more gay stories and I do think that that’s happening,” she says. “That does seem like something that’s getting a lot stronger, thankfully — a voice that’s getting stronger, a community that’s getting stronger.”

Preserving Pride: National LGBT Museum to open by 2019

For the past seven years, Tim Gold has collected more than 5,000 artifacts documenting the LGBT civil rights movement and the lives of LGBT people — enough items to fill a museum.

And that’s just what he and supporters of the National LGBT Museum plan.

Gold began thinking about an LGBT museum while working for the National Postal Museum and reading about James Smithson, for whom the Smithsonian Institution is named. 

In 2008, Gold co-founded the museum, which is dedicated to sharing the heritage of LGBT people. He is co-chair of the museum board and he and husband Mitchell Gold of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams make up the founder’s circle.

Earlier this spring, the board announced the selection of New York City as the site for the museum.

The board also announced longtime LGBT civil rights advocate Kevin Jennings agreed to serve as co-chair. Jennings, an educator, activist and author, has been involved in promoting, teaching and preserving LGBT history for decades. He founded the organization now known as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and established the first gay-straight alliance. He also worked with LGBT leaders to recognize LGBT History Month in October.

“A New York City resident, a historian by training and a long-time leader in the LGBT movement, Kevin is the perfect partner to help lead the effort to establish this museum in New York City,” said Gold.

Jennings said, “Tim and the board have done significant work in envisioning what a national LGBT museum might look like and I am excited to join them in helping turn that vision into a reality.”

WiG recently asked Jennings about the board’s plans to open the museum in New York City, where 46 years ago this month, the modern gay civil rights movement began with the raid and the riots at the fabled Stonewall Inn.

What went into selecting the site?  The ideal site is a city with a deep LGBT history, supportive community and political leadership and a strong tourism sector.  New York has all three and we’re excited to be moving ahead with that as our home.

The goal is to open the museum for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in 2019? This will be such a momentous occasion and to have a museum open to commemorate it would be a dream come true. It would be a critical time to reflect on how far we have come and also on the work that remains to be done.

What needs to happen for you to achieve the 2019 goal?  Museums come down to three things: collections, space and money. Tim has built a wonderful collection of over 5,000 artifacts which, when combined with the fact that there are numerous other collections from which we hope to borrow, means we’ve cleared that hurdle. The next hurdle is finding the right space, which, in New York City’s highly competitive real estate market, will not be easy.

Once we have the space, we then need the money to design and build the exhibition.

So you are you at work collecting for the museum? Yes, we hope people will reach out to us if they have items they think may be of interest.

What will it cost to open the doors? Are you looking for major donors? We will need both public funding and are already discussing this with elected officials who are supportive of the project, as well as individual and corporate support to build the museum.

What are the museum’s most important artifacts or materials at this point? Among the cool things we already have are the military uniform of Frank Kameny, who organized the first picket of the White House for LGBT rights in 1965; a walking stick that belonged to Bayard Rustin, the openly gay African-American civil rights leader who organized the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King gave the “I have a dream” speech; and a T-shirt from the nation’s first gay-straight alliance, founded in Massachusetts in 1988.

Kevin, the first time I wrote about gay history was back in the early to mid-1990s. I was reporting in St. Louis and writing about you, Rodney Wilson and others working to establish Gay History Month, gay-straight alliances and GLSEN. You’ve been involved in this work for so long. Why is it so important? The black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey once said, “A people without a history is like a tree without roots.” To understand oneself as part of a historical tradition gives one a sense of place and belonging in the world, one all too often denied to LGBT people and especially LGBT youth, who learn next-to-nothing of our history while in school. Our museum intends to fill that void.

LGBT archives exist in a number of cities, including Milwaukee. Do you expect the museum will work with these institutions and organizations to bring their collections to New York for exhibition? Or do you see the museum providing traveling exhibits? I think both. In addition to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture opening in Washington, D.C., next year, there are multiple museums dedicated to the African-American civil rights movement — in Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, Jackson, Mississippi, and Greensboro, North Carolina, just to name a few. There’s no reason we can’t have local museums that speak to local stories in addition to a national museum.

Exploring your website, I came across this description of the museum: “The museum recognizes and presents the stories of the LGBT communities as a part of — not apart from — the American experience, where the intersections of diverse cultures, shared by diverse people, define us as individuals and as a nation.” Talk about this more, this idea of telling our story as a part of the American experience. The LGBT story is an amazing American story of diverse people coming together to fight for their rights and claim their rightful place in society. We think this is a story that should inspire people of all backgrounds who are eager to share it.

Imagine it is 2020 and the museum has been open for a year. The big issue of same-sex marriage was settled five years earlier, in June 2015. What’s taking place at the museum? What will people find when they walk through the doors? My hope is they will find exhibits that will challenge them to think about both how we have made the progress we have made so far, as well as the work that still remains to be done, exhibits that imbue them with a sense of pride in their heritage and a belief that every person has the power to make a difference.

On the Web …

Learn more about the pending National LGBT Museum at nationallgbtmuseum.org.

LGBT Pride celebrated around the world

After a year of numerous same-sex marriage victories, gay Pride parades and celebrations attracted millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their supporters.

New York’s Fifth Avenue became one giant rainbow on June 29 as thousands of participants waved multicolored flags while making their way down the street. Politicians including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were among those walking along a lavender line painted on the avenue from midtown Manhattan to the West Village.

The parade marked the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the 1969 uprising against police raids that were a catalyst for the gay rights movement. The parade route passes The Stonewall Inn, the site of the riots.

As many as 1 million people packed the streets of the Chicago’s North Side for the first gay pride parade since Illinois legalized gay marriage.

“I think there is definitely like an even more sense of pride now knowing that in Illinois you can legally get married now,” said Charlie Gurion, who with David Wilk in February became the first couple in Cook County to get a same-sex marriage license. “I think it is a huge thing, and everybody’s over the moon that they can do it now.”

In San Francisco, hundreds of motorcyclists of the lesbian group Dykes on Bikes took their traditional spot at the head of the 44th annual parade and loudly kicked off the festivities with a combined roar. Apple Inc. had one of the largest corporate presences, and chief executive Tim Cook greeted the estimated 4,000 employees and family members who participated. The parade drew more than 100,000 spectators and participants.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and assorted state and local politicians rolled along Market Street along with gay city police officers holding hands with their significant others as their children skipped ahead.

Actor George Takei, who played in the “Star Trek” TV show and movies and is now an activist for gay and civil rights, was celebrity grand marshal of Seattle’s 40th annual Pride Parade.

Thousands of people attended the Seattle parade. This year’s theme — “Generations of Pride,” honored civil rights battles in the city that elected its first openly gay mayor last November.

A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of landmark rulings, one striking down the statute that denied federal recognition to same-sex marriages and the other clearing the way for gay couples to wed legally in California.

In the 12 months since then, the ripple effects of those rulings has transformed the national debate over same-sex marriage, convincing many people on both sides of the contentious issue that its spread nationwide is inevitable.

From the East Coast to the Midwest and the Pacific, seven more states legalized same-sex marriage, boosting the total to 19, plus Washington, D.C. The Obama administration moved vigorously to extend federal benefits to married gay couples. And in 17 consecutive court decisions, federal and state judges have upheld the right of gays to marry. Not a single ruling has gone the other way.

Other parades were held Sunday across the U.S., including in Minneapolis and Houston. On Saturday, festivals were in held France, Spain, Mexico and Peru.

About 10,000 people attended a festival Saturday in Augusta, Georgia, the fifth year it has been held here. Activities included an outdoor dance party and musical performances, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

“My hometown wasn’t very open. So when I moved to Augusta last year, I made a promise to be more open and to be more accepting of myself,” said Matt Rivera, a college student who came out in December. “Coming to the festival is a special way to keep that promise.”

Among the marchers in New York were cousins Yaseena Oatis, 20, and Shayna Melendez, 22, from Plainfield, New Jersey.

“We’re walking to celebrate, to be embraced being who we are around people who are like us, free to express ourselves,” Oatis said. “Everybody has a different story about how they came out as gay, but we’re all here.”

Milwaukee celebrated Pride earlier in June. Several other Wisconsin citities will celebrate in July.

President Barack Obama and the first lady will close Pride Month today, June 30, with a celebration at the White House.

Revisiting ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Pride is bustin’ out all over this June with LGBT Pride celebrations stretching from Milwaukee to cities around the world.

The marches and festivals mark the 45th anniversary of the June 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York, when dragsters and other “fringe” elements of the queer community fought back against police oppression. The two days of near riots that followed the routine bust of a gay bar launched the beginning of the gay liberation movement, which has evolved into the LGBT movement today.

Enhancing this year’s celebration is the amazing progress of marriage equality across the U.S. Citing last year’s Supreme Court ruling, federal judges are finding anti-marriage statutes unconstitutional infringements of due process and equal protection. 

As I write, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. Judges in 11 more states have issued rulings supportive of marriage equality, although those decisions must go through the appellate process. 

A federal judge will rule soon on Wisconsin’s anti-gay marriage ban. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is so worried about the outcome that he’s asked the judge to issue an immediate stay if the ban is overturned. What an ogre! Who doesn’t love all the media coverage of loving couples jamming courthouses, crying tears of joy? Who doesn’t love happy endings?

There’s almost a sense of triumph among some gay people, as if the battles are all won and we can tweak our opponents with a collective “Nanner-nanner!” Is the love that dared not speak its name becoming the love that won’t shut-up? What is the right tone for a Pride celebration in these days of seeming victory?

I turned for advice to the woman who wrote the book on pride and prejudice — literally. Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice is now 200 years old but it remains delightfully readable and oh-so-wise. 

Early on, Austen has Mary, one of the five Bennet daughters, speculate: “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

The concept of “gay pride” grew from the black power and black pride slogans that energized the African-American civil rights movement. The pride invoked was not the overweening pride of the “seven deadly sins” variety or the tragic pride that brought down the kings of classic literature. 

Like black pride, gay pride was an expression of identity and community meant to empower a people oppressed by church, state and custom. There are still many gay people, especially kids, who are isolated and treated abominably. Promoting pride saves lives.

Austen has more to say. When Elizabeth, Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy banter about pride, Darcy declares: “Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.” Here, I read “superiority of mind” not as arrogance but as nobility and generosity of spirit. There is a lesson in this for the queer community.

Elizabeth says about Darcy: “I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine.” LGBT people should behave in such a way that we do not mortify others, especially those who oppose us. The challenge for us, according to the old liberal icon Hubert Humphrey, “is not to march alone but to march in such a way that others will wish to join us.

PrideFest workshop focuses on ‘feminine gender’ presentation

PrideFest, at 4 p.m. on June 7, will feature a presentation on the Stonewall Stage about “feminine gender” presentation. Led by local filmmaker and transwoman Ashley Altadonna and Tool Shed owner Laura Stuart, the presentation will explore “options in make-up, clothing choices, body language, transition-related products, and more.”

WiG recently connected with Altadonna to learn more about the program.

You’ll be presenting on the Stonewall Stage, one of the more intimate settings at PrideFest. What can people who attend expect from the talk? We’ll be hosting an honest conversation about the challenges of female presentation. We’ll have useful tips for the participants on clothing choices, hair styling, voice modification and products like gaffs and breast forms.

Do you do these presentations on a regular basis, or is this event a one-of-a-kind experience for PrideFest goers? I have done several presentations on trans issues before, but this is my first time presenting on this particular topic. I’ll be doing another presentation on transgender sex topics at The Tool Shed later, in the fall.

It seems there has been an increase, at least online, in resources and retailers catering to LGBT customers and our fashion preferences and styles. Still a relatively small number, but an increase. Are there some resources you’d like to recommend? One of the best ways to find out about fashion resources is to connect with other members of the community. One of my goals with this event is to help facilitate those connections. For local transition-related needs, The Tool Shed has a wide selection of products and an LGBT-positive setting

The PrideFest promotion for the program says the targeted audience will be people assigned male at birth who are exploring feminine and/or female presentation, but everyone is welcome. What would you like the “others” in the audience to take away from the presentation? I hope others take away a great appreciation for the challenges facing those beginning their transitions and that they can be an additional source of support for the trans community.

You’ll be presenting the program after a drag makeover involving the Miltown Kings and before a performance by Funkin Wassels comedy troupe. Do you plan on catching these shows? What’s your favorite element of PrideFest? I’m certainly hoping to catch the Miltown Kings. My favorite activity at PrideFest is people watching. 

Besides preparing for this presentation, what are you working on these days? I’m finishing my documentary Making the Cut, which looks at trans health issues and the insurance industry and what it means to be trans and male or female bodied in our culture. More about the film can be found at www.tallladypictures.com.

Legendary LGBT activist Vernita Gray, famed gay hater Fred Phelps leave starkly different legacies

When Vernita Gray died in her home in Chicago on March 18, family members knew no traditional memorial service could accommodate all those who’d want to share their love, express their thanks and honor the legendary gay rights activist.

And so, on March 31, Gray, who was an equality advocate before most of America had heard about Stonewall or gay liberation, was remembered in a “celebration of extraordinary life” at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.

When the Rev. Fred Phelps, Sr., died in hospice in Shawnee County, Kan., on March 19, it seemed there was no space large enough to accommodate the number of people who wanted to protest his funeral and then dance on his grave.

Phelps was as despised as Gray was revered. 

If justice is served, in time, Gray, who was 65 when she died of cancer, will be remembered as a vital author of the story of equality and Phelps but a footnote.

Phelps was 84 when he died of an undisclosed illness. He’d been sick for months, but remained estranged from family and, according to a son, cut off from the Westboro Baptist Church, the right-wing church he founded in Topeka, Kan.

Phelps was widely known for his vulgar “God hates fags” campaign, which sent him and a small band of worshippers around the country to protest at military funerals, government buildings, corporate headquarters and celebrity events. With their street-style crusade, they claimed terrorist attacks, war, natural disasters and diseases were God’s punishment for America’s increasing tolerance for homosexuality and abortion.

Phelps was born in Mississippi in 1929. He was a drop-out from Bob Jones University in 1947, but he eventually earned a law degree from Washburn University and was a civil rights lawyer until he was disbarred in 1979 for perjury.

He was making headlines as a street preacher as early as 1951 and was arrested multiple times over the years for “assault, battery, threats, trespassing, disorderly conduct and contempt of court,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies Westboro as a hate organization.

In the 1980s, Phelps launched his anti-gay crusade, focusing on AIDS-related deaths. He came to widespread national attention when he and his followers — mostly family members — picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming college student who died after a savage beating by two young men in 1998.

After Phelps announced his intention to picket Shepard’s funeral, LGBT activists organized to protect the Shepard family and mourners — they dressed as angels and served as a shield from the protesters in Laramie, Wyo.

Shepard’s mother, Judy, released a statement on March 20: “Regarding the passing of Fred Phelps, (husband) Dennis and I know how solemn these moments are for anyone who loses a loved one. Out of respect for all people and our desire to erase hate, we’ve decided not to comment further.”

There were others in the LGBT community who, trying to give substance to his obituary, said Phelps and his circus ironically helped drive equality. 

“He has brought along allies who are horrified by the hate,” said longtime activist Cathy Renna, who helped organize the response to Westboro in Laramie. “So his legacy will be exactly the opposite of what he dreamed.”

James Esseks, director of the LGBT Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “He would show up with his extreme anti-gay views and a bunch of people in the middle would think, ‘If that’s what it means to be anti-gay, I want no part of it.’”

Others offered far less tempered remarks after Phelps’ death.

In the end, there was no funeral for the preacher but instead, an ambiguous tweet from the church Phelps founded and made infamous: “Westboro Baptist Church thanks God for Fred Phelps Sr.’s passing.” 

Gray’s life intersected with Phelps’ in Chicago, where she celebrated with pride in 1998 and he picketed, shouting obscenities through a bullhorn in Boystown.

By then, Gray was an inductee into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and had spent decades working for equality. 

Gray, according to her Hall of Fame biography, attended Woodstock and returned to Chicago ready to organize. She hosted support groups for lesbians in her home, where she also installed a hotline — the number was FBI-LIST — for gay youth.

“Interest in the support groups and hotline was so intense that Gray eventually had to vacate her apartment to obtain a modicum of privacy and peace of mind,” the biography read.

In the early 1970s, she was active in organizing the first Lesbian Caucus of the Gay Liberation group and helped launch the first Chicago lesbian newspaper.

For a time, she ran the Sol Sands restaurant and a company that created audio-visual materials for children, but much of her professional work was with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, where she worked 18 years assisting victims and witnesses.

Gray advocated for marriage equality long before many other activists saw it as a possibility. Last October, she wed longtime partner Patricia Ewert, and they became the first same-sex couple to marry in Illinois.

In a remembrance, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called Gray a “passionate and driven advocate for equality in Illinois.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said she was “an inspiration to all who crossed her path, from President Obama, who knew her by name, to the victims of violence she comforted and the young people for whom she was a fierce advocate. Her legacy can be felt in the many institutions she supported and by every LGBT couple in Illinois who is now free to marry the person they love.”

Flashback 2013: A year of sweeping change in the United States for LGBT Americans

UPDATE: In late December, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, making the state the 17th in the nation to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians. The next day, a federal judge overturned Utah’s anti-gay marriage law and the state became the 18th in the nation where same-sex couples could marry. There also was a federal ruling – much more narrow – in Ohio, requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates.

One sun. One light. One ground. One sky. After a bruising, blistering election season, Richard Blanco helped to usher in a new year with those words in his inaugural poem, “One Today,” and in his renewed optimism and hope for one country.

“One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies . . . ” Blanco recited shortly after Barack Obama took his second presidential oath of office on Jan. 21.

A novelist, if not a poet, would see foreshadowing: The first openly gay and the first Latino inaugural poet offering a sweeping telling of one day in American life to begin a year of sweeping change.

Marriage Equality

Before the November 2012 election, same-sex couples could marry in only six states plus the District of Columbia, and the federal government, under the Defense of Marriage Act, banned recognition of gay marriages, denying more than 100,000 couples more than 1,100 rights and benefits.

In the year that followed, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the discriminatory definition of marriage in DOMA and cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California. Meanwhile, the number of marriage equality states grew to 16 and, with the New Mexico Supreme Court expected to rule soon on the issue, the number could reach 17 before the first notes of “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve.

“I guess history will put 2013 in its place, but today, to me, it is the greatest, gayest year ever,” said P. Judy McAfree of Minneapolis, who married her partner of 36 years in September, after Minnesota enacted its marriage equality bill.

“I grew up and lived most of my life thinking I’d always be excluded from an ordinary American life,” McAfree said. “Little girls today, they won’t grow up that way.”

For McAfree and many, many others, the year began with promise. Voters in her state had defeated an anti-gay constitutional amendment at the polls in November 2012, gay couples began marrying in Maine and Washington in December 2012 and in Maryland on New Year’s Day 2013.

And then the president, in his inaugural address, said the nation’s journey for justice and equality will not be 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.”

Americans, the president said, must follow the star that guided the civil rights pioneers of “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”

And so many did, rising up in 2013 to march again for civil rights 50 years after the big march; to demand justice for an unarmed black teenager shot to death in Florida; to seek an end to right-wing assaults on women’s reproductive freedoms; to press for comprehensive immigration reform; to strike for living wages and fair benefits; to block further degradation of the environment; to protest corporate influence on elections and government interference with the right to vote; and to rally for LGBT equality.

“When you filter out the viral debris … and see the year with clarity. Well, it’s been a monumental year,” said civil rights activist Maria Gomez of Baltimore. “And most monumental has been the progress for gay people and our families.”

Gomez married her same-sex partner of eight years in June, the same month their son completed kindergarten and they began talking about his becoming a Cub Scout, an interest Gomez said she could support after the Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on gay youth.

“My life will never be the same after this year,” she said. “You have no idea how many news events made me cry for joy.”

The first gay couples said “I do” and legally wed in Delaware on July 1, in Rhode Island and Minnesota on Aug. 1, in New Jersey on Oct. 21 and in Hawaii on Dec. 2. 

In Illinois on Nov. 20, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law the state’s marriage equality bill. It takes effect in June 2014, but one lesbian couple, with an emergency order from a federal court because of an illness, has exchanged vows.

Same-sex couples also married in New Mexico, where county clerks issued licenses with the question still before the state Supreme Court, and in Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court also is considering marriage equality.

Meanwhile, lawsuits seeking marriage equality were filed or advanced in 18 other states in 2013 — Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

Some of those suits were filed in late summer while others were revised following two widely anticipated rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, justices allowed a lower court ruling against California’s Proposition 8 to stand and cleared the way for legal same-sex marriages in that state. In the epic United States v. Windsor decision, the justices overturned Section 3 of DOMA, removing many barriers to the federal government recognizing gay marriages and extending full marriage benefits to same-sex couples and their families.

Out U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, elected to Congress in November 2012 from Dane County, said the Court’s rulings left him “more confident than ever that full marriage equality is a question not of if, but when.”

“The nation’s highest court reaffirmed our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the Wisconsin Democrat who in January became the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. “The court made a strong statement for equality and freedom, overturning discrimination against gay and lesbian American citizens simply because of who they love.”

The legal and political victories followed polls showing a clear majority of Americans now support marriage equality and revealing increasing support among Catholic and Republican voters. One poll by the Pew Research Center showed a majority of gay marriage opponents think legal recognition across the nation is inevitable.

Even so, the journey the president spoke about in his inaugural address is far from complete.

Reforming employment, immigration

In November, the Senate, in a bipartisan 64-32 vote, passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

An overwhelming majority of Americans support the bill and momentum is building even among conservatives. “LGBT workers need this law, and employers want it too — because clear and uniform rules help everyone,” said Greg Nevins, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal.

But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, repeatedly indicated the GOP-controlled House would not take up ENDA, just as the House failed to take up the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June. 

“If we can vote 45 times to gut Obamacare and have another vote scheduled this week, why can the Republican Leadership not find the time to schedule one vote on immigration?” asked U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, who has led the push for immigration reform in the House.

Many LGBT civil rights groups joined the progressive coalition campaigning for the Senate bill, and several community leaders were among those arrested in demonstrations in the capital.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who was arrested protesting inaction on immigration reform in September. “The House must act now and do the right thing for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, over a quarter of a million of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. These people need a real pathway to citizenship and the American Dream now — not the nightmare of gridlock.”

A couple of weeks later, on Oct. 1, congressional gridlock temporarily shut down many parts of the federal government. The shutdown was driven by Republicans’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which in 2014 will prohibit insurers from denying coverage or charging a higher premium based on a pre-existing condition, including HIV or AIDS. It also prohibits insurers from charging someone more because of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Protecting women, transgendered

Federal lawmakers did come together to pass the LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act, with the victory in the House driven by Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore. After the bill passed, Moore said, “Today, the majority of this body stood up for all women — including Native, LGBT and immigrant women. We answered their clarion call and declared that we will protect the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking.”

Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality said the inclusive legislation will prove significant and life-saving: “This is so important to the many transgender people who experience violence and abuse almost daily. VAWA will give all of our communities —LGBT, immigrant and Native American — the access we need to services that protect us from abuse.”

In another victory, California Gov. Jerry Brown in August signed legislation intended to protect the rights of transgender students to equal access to school facilities, such as bathrooms, and school programs, such as sports teams.

The same forces that fought for Proposition 8 in the state want to repeal the new law at the ballot box. Still, the California legislation may become a model for other states, just as California’s groundbreaking statute banning so-called “ex-gay” therapy for minors inspired legislation in New Jersey in 2013 and could inspire new laws in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin and Ohio.

“There is no greater achievement than helping to stop the abuse of our youth,” said Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s statewide LGBT civil rights group.

And so, as the sun sets on 2013, the journey continues.

Eleven months ago, at the inaugural celebration, Blanco brought “One Today” to a close:

. . . We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always — home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country — all of us — facing the stars
hope — a new constellation waiting for us to map it,  waiting for us to name it — together.