Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reluctant Rebel Activist Days

My First Gay Disco
Going through some old photos yesterday and decided to scan some into digital.  They're from my rebel era.  It's sometimes good to see and recall where you've been and what paths you've taken to get where you are.  It was relatively late in life when I finally embraced my gay self (I've written before of my "Catholic" inhibitions - here, here, and here ).  But when I did come out, I did so every which way and without wasting any more time.  It was a multifaceted coming out - a real gay liberation movement for one - it was sexual, spiritual, political, social, personal.
Me, fourth from left - Pride Day
Within months I had gotten a boyfriend, gone to my first Gay Bar, joined Dignity, started volunteering at the local Gay Men's Health Clinic, joined the Gay Rights Coalition and was working as an HTLV-III (HIV)/AIDS Counselor; within the next five years I had gone to almost every Gay Pride Day event at home and in NYC, joined the Sexual Minorities Committee; was on the Board of the local Dignity Chapter, the Board  of the Gay Men's Health Clinic, on the Gay Bowling League, spoken at a Gay Pride Day rally, Marched on Washington, and resurrected the local Gay Youth Support Group.  I was too chicken to get arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court in 1987 but went to support those who did.


My Gay Pride speech, June 1987
Don't Hide Gay Pride - 1987

I am not entirely comfortable either as a leader or a follower.  I guess the most comfortable place for me is to be walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand, with others on this journey.  So standing up here alone is a bit scary.

I am privileged today to speak to this very special gathering of people who are courageous as well as proud.  We are a community of persons who will no longer "hide our pride", but who will stand together visibly, publicly, openly, proudly proclaiming our strength as well as our rights, our dignity as well as our political agenda.

This has been a year which has seen a tremendous growth in solidarity in the gay/lesbian communities throughout the state.  The tremendous efforts of a number of dedicated individuals, and the visible, financial and moral support of lesbians and gay men brought the cause of Civil Rights to the legislature and to the consciousness of the citizens of Connecticut.  The cooperation among our political, religious, health, social and business organizations continues to bring us together, whether to hold candles in the night or to celebrate our sense of gay Pride in ever increasing numbers.

If I had to choose one thing that opens the closets of fear and isolation and contributes to a sense of Lesbian and Gay Pride, it is sheer numbers.  I still remember the exhilaration I felt when I went to a Festival-sponsored event, "Putting on the Rizt" at (local) College, more than two years ago.  Being new to Gay life at the time, my reaction to that gathering of what had to be at least three-hundred beautiful men and women was: "My God, where did they all come from?"  I don't think I had ever felt less alone or more affirmed until I went to Gay Pride Day in New York City that summer.

So, our being here today is a powerful message to all our brothers and sisters who are hiding the pride that they may not have yet even experienced.  Our numbers, our presence here today loudly proclaims to all who are isolated and fearful: "You are not alone."

Our presence here today loudly proclaims our firm conviction that it is no longer OK to deny us employment, or housing,or public accommodation.  It has Never been OK.  It is no longer OK for local radio DJ's to tell offensive "gay jokes".  It has Never been OK.  It is no longer OK for our Church leaders to judge us "objectively disordered" or "intrinsically evil".  It has Never been OK.

These insults to our pride can no longer be tolerated.  These tactics designed to keep us in our closets will no longer work - because WE ARE OUT, WE ARE HERE, WE ARE PROUD and we are loudly proclaiming to all our sisters and brothers: "Don't Hide Gay Pride!"
Pride Day 198?
A mixed adult/youth excursion.  We took several members of the Youth Group to NYC Pride on a school bus that we rented and a with a 20 year-old "youth" bus driver. When I think of it now - no special insurance, no parents' signed permission slips, crossing state lines, no organizational sanction - how great it was!
I'm Sure Our Trip To NYC With
The Youth Group Came Close To Breaking
Laws In Two States
Me, Leon, Bob at AIDS Quilt in DC
Even activists had to cook and do the dishes
Stonewall
Me, left on the Gay Bowling Team
Hector, Me, Fr. R, Robin, Unknown, Fr. J,  and B. at March on Washington
Demonstrations come with Eye-Candy
March on Washington
I only lament what I see now as the relative apathy of our movement as we become more "mainstream".  Yet we should not be fooled;  we should not fall asleep while the waters are mostly calm.  We are still hated by many and even our straight "allies" mostly "don't get it".  Our lives and our rights are always in imminent danger and given the right circumstances either can be taken from us.

4 comments:

Trickle Down BS said...

I see...and you are not a rebel now?

however, you are right on the money on so many things.

This coming Monday I am posting the events of my "coming out" having to do with jury duty...which I am scheduled to go this Monday.

saludos,
raulito

FDeF said...

I will be watching...I have jury duty on Wednesday.

Russ Manley said...

Wow, great pics you stud. Wonderful that you and Leon have so many years of memories to look back on together.

Yes the fight still goes on and even our straight friends don't fucking get it half the time. Sigh.

Cubby said...

I didn't know this about you. I'm very impressed at your history.

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