20 August 2015

The LGBTQ Community Is Lost Without Its History and Culture

In 1985, +Bernie Sanders, then mayor of the City of Burlington, Vermont, granted protections to its citizens, including LGBTQ persons. This bold move was deemed to be political suicide and the end of his career in politics.

But it wasn't the first time Sanders has supported LGBTQ rights. His 1970 letter advocating the repeal of laws against "deviant behavior" implies support for marriage equality

Sanders's support for civil rights and of LGBTQ communities extends to the beginning of his career. Unlike others, he never had to "evolve" on his positions to support basic human and civil rights; it has been a part of his basic code of morals and philosophies from the moment his work in activism, civil rights, social justice, and ultimately, his career in politics, began.

There are few individuals even in our own community who were fighting for LGBTQ equality in 1970 -- the risk for prosecution of homosexuality and imprisonment was far too great for most to take. So it is even more significant that an ally stuck his neck out for us at a time when even _mentioning_ things such as homosexuality could land one with an accusation of being a homosexual and a conviction for sexual deviancy, with a 20-year (or in some cases, longer!) prison sentence.

It is even more important for our youth to understand that a scant 12 years ago, it was still a crime in some states to be gay and if convicted, you could get up 20 years in prison. 

Let me repeat this: In 2002, It Was Still A CRIME To Be Gay in some parts of the USA, and you could be sentenced for up to 20 years upon conviction.
Our history -- our struggle -- is all too often not spoken of in these terms. We need to educate our youth as to why we struggle, why we hold pride events, what our culture is and why it was created. Without education and repeating our histories, our community won't know who it is, where we've come from, or where we're headed or should be going.

Bernie Sanders is, as a matter of fact, part of our unique history, as are countless others whose stories are not being told. It's time to put an end to that practice and give credit to those whose names have all but been forgotten:

Bayard Rustin, Sylvia Rivera, Audrey Lorde, Stormé DeLarverie, Brenda Howard, +Reverend Magora Kenndy, +Sabrina Sojourner, Christine Jorgensen, Matt Foreman, +Evan Wolfson, Margarethe Cammermeyer, Stephen Donaldson, Steve Endean, Aaron Fricke, Barbara Gittings, James Gruber, Essex Hemphill, Cleve Jones, Frank Kameny, Larry Kramer, Marsha H. Levine, Phyllis Lyon & Del Martin, Edie Windsor, Harvey Milk, Troy Perry, Geena Rocero, José Sarria, Ruth Simpson, Andy Thayer, Urvashi Vaid, Phill Wilson, and countless, countless others.
How many of these names do you know? Starting with Mr. Donaldson, I took them off a list (the ones before him I was able to recall from memory -- and this list is far from being complete by any means). 

If we are to succeed as a community -- as a people with a unique history and culture -- then we need to know where we've been and figure out where we are now, before we can even begin to discuss where we're going or even want to go.

Part of that process includes remembering who has been there for us, and who was out on the front lines of battle. Let's not forget who we are, so we can figure out where we are now and map out a bright, positive future as a united community that has influenced the world over millennia.