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The Gifts of Stonewall – 40 Years Later

It was the evening of June 27, 1969 – the NYC Police Department raided the Stonewall Inn – and Greenwich Village was turned upside down. These raids were common and people were arrested for being homosexual. Gay men were beaten, dragged onto the streets, and arrested because of their sexuality. But on this night, gays had enough, and fought back in what has been called the Stonewall Riots. For many nights, protestors stood outside the Stonewall Inn and fought off the cops. This is what history has deemed as the beginning of the Gay Movement. And, yes, we have moved forward in so many ways, and yet, not enough in some areas.

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This is an opportunity to look back with gratitude for all who stood outside the Stonewall Inn and stood up for GLBT rights and say thank you. It is also an opportunity to make sure that all the sacrifices by those who came before us were not made in vain. They prepared the way for greater liberation for all. We can thank them by our continued efforts to educate, advocate, and bring our ideas and visions forward.

At a time when our President announces benefits for same-sex federal employees, we still have a military policy of, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” At a time when couples are rushing to Iowa (yes, Iowa!) to get married, many states are telling us that civil unions are enough or worse yet, reversing same-sex marriage.

People have told me to wait until the right time to speak about marriage equality, adoptions, and medical protections. “When is the right time for civil rights?” asked Lance Black, screen writer for the movie Milk. He went on to say that this country historically has worked on civil rights issues during times of unrest. Was it good timing when Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus? Every movement has its time and I believe this is our time to open up the conversation for equality for the GLBT community. If we think back to the time of prosperity during the Clinton presidency, we walked away with two terrible policies, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

Everyone has their views and I respect that. What I really desire is a society that honors love between adults. I dream of a day when it is not a matter of straight marriage and gay marriage, but honoring love. I have been with my partner for 15 wonderful years. We are present in the lives of our families during both times of joy and pain. We have lost loved ones and have been there for each other through sickness and health. Yet, I have to consciously decide when and to whom to share my life’s story and how. I have to choose how to answer medical forms which often leave my relationship out when I am asked to circle, “married, single or divorced.” I have had to accept being introduced (after 15 years) as my partners “friend.” I accept that change is slow and I accept that change is possible – because on a personal level, I have changed how I show up in the world and live my life with openness and vulnerability.

The best part of my life is the fact that I share it with everyone – men, women, gay, straight, bi-sexual, African American, Indian, white, social workers, city workers, life coaches, shamans, writers, nuns, nurses, business owners etc…I love that we are all of it. We are woven into the fabric of society.

The gift of Stonewall is that we stood up and said we are here – see us. I didn’t “come out” because I wanted people to tolerate me. I came out because I wanted folks to know I love and hurt like everyone else. This is a time of celebrating 40 years of a rich and diverse community. This year, I invite you to stand alongside a gay or lesbian friend or family member. Stand alongside and thank them for the gift of love and courage they give to the world. Stonewall lives on.

I am grateful for all the men and women who went before me and stood up for their right to be loved and love others – no matter their sexual orientation. I am grateful for all those in the Stonewall Rebellion. I am grateful for my loving life partner, Lorene, for 15 wonderful years.

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