The spark that ignited the flame…that led future GLBT generations out of the dark
Published Thursday, 07-Oct-2010 in issue 1189
What a list we have this year for the fifth anniversary of GLBT History Month. It would be impossible to cover all of those who have done so much for our community as every day we make history through our actions, even the smallest and simplest ones. Those who are honored this year are some of the more high profile GLBT’s that have, either in the past or present, found the strength, courage and will to help drive our rights forward. Each and every one of them should be honored and are worthy of our attention.
But without taking away from those we are honoring where is the sixteen year old who came out against all the odds and made something of himself giving back to his community at the same time? Is he not part of our history, or does he not count as much because he was never in front of a camera? Let us also remember all the unsung heroes who work so hard to drive our community forward; many individuals who will never have their names up in lights, but who have done and continue to do so much. Did Warhol really do all that much for GLBT rights, other than being a homosexual artist? It is important that our history is preserved and celebrated. We do not have very many books to tell us about our rich culture and history nor are we taught about GLBT people in schools. Seeing Leslie Fienberg on the list of icons was refreshing as she truly is a huge part of our history and future. Also honored was Mathew Shepard, as he should be, but where was Gwen Araujo on this list? Why was she not honored as well?
There were some names and places that were left out however, and they are the very foundation of why these folks are being honored and why we are able to have a GLBT History Month. The foundation and history of the GLBT rights movement really all started in Greenwich Village, particularly on and around Christopher St. 1969 was the year we could take no more. No more arrests, setups by cops, raids on Tearooms, loosing jobs, freedom and families. Living in fear and fed up The Stonewall Riots were the start of the movement towards gay rights and the first realization of “we are together in this.”
Those were the ones with courage who kicked off the doors for the rest of us, not the elite award-receiving types that we celebrate today. It just seems a contradiction that if we are celebrating our own history and those who are the foundation of our history why we do not start by honoring those who started our movement. Without them who would we honor today? They are our history.
Remember the drag queens and street walking bad asses who hustled for their dinner in the village. The street youth who were looked at by all of society as the lowest of the low. These are the ones who shouted the loudest for our rights in the front lines of it all. They were not popular, they did not receive awards and praise but they were at the heart of our rights and struggles. They sparked the match that lit a fire in the hearts of all around the country; they gave the first hope that change was coming.
Some forget that the first of the riots were kicked off by a lesbian who was struggling to escape after a raid by the cops. She was able to get away from the cops and this was what finally set the crowd of gays, transsexuals and drag queens off. Leo E. Laurence wrote, “Pigs were loading her into the wagon when she shouted to a big crowd of bystanders: ‘Why don’t you guys do something!’ and that’s what did it! The riots lasted for days and marked the start of the GLBT movement as we know it today. A year later it also marked the first gay pride parade, the Christopher St Liberation Day.
This is the real beginning of our history and the Stonewall Riots and those involved marked something far greater that day. It marked the beginning of “standing up for ourselves.” Best summed up by Beat Poet and resident of Greenwich Village Allen Ginsberg after he learned of the riots and went to check out The Stonewall Inn for the first time, “You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.”
Those who stood and fought and started the gay rights movement are as follows: Randy Wicker, John Timmons, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell of the Mattachine Society. The gay street youth that sparked the Stonewall Riots: Miss. New Orleans, Rodger Davis, Tommy Lanigan-Shmidt, Sissy, Sylvia, Black Twiggy, Betsy Mae Kulo, Martin Boyce, Birdie Rivera, Jackie Hormona to name a few. The seven founders of the Gay Activists Alliance, Arthur Evans, Fred Cabellero, Arthur Bell, Peter Marlaud, Kay Tobin Lahusen, Marty Robinson, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Doer, Rita Mae Brown, Del Martin, Elaine Noble, Phyllis Lyon, Jean O Leary, Barbara Gittings, Robin Tyler, Lilli Vincenz, Calpernia Addams and others whose names were never known.
They all should be honored and have our deepest respect this GLBT History Month.