40 years later, is it time for a new Stonewall?

Posted on 19 Jun 2009 at 12:22am
By Hardy Haberman Contributing Writer

In the summer of 1969, I was still coming to terms with my sexuality. I had yet to visit a gay bar, since the drinking age was 21, and most of my sexual experience was limited to fooling around with high school and college friends.

That summer, I remember seeing a small news article in the local paper about homosexuals rioting in New York City. There had been numerous protests over the war and for various other causes that summer, so another march or another riot only garnered minor attention in Dallas.

A few days after the Stonewall riots, a young man crashed the doors at NBC and interrupted the newscast of "Today" show announcer Frank Blair. The brief scuffle was quickly brushed aside and a commercial hastily filled the screen.

Later, Blair explained that the person was a member of something called the Gay Liberation Front and was protesting the treatment of homosexuals by police in New York.

The exact details of the events are fuzzy in my mind, and seeing how it was the 1960s, that isn’t surprising.

Later, I saw a pamphlet from the Gay Liberation Front that both amused and excited me. On the face was the slogan, "Do You Think Homosexuals Are Revolting? You Bet Your Sweet Ass We Are!"

From that day forward, gay Americans would never be looked on again as a bunch of passive, limp-wristed sissies. From that point on, I found the idea of identifying as gay less of a problem.

In 1969, gays took to the streets. It was rowdy; it was even sometimes silly. Imagine a line of guys facing police in riot gear doing high kicks and singing, "We are the Stonewall girls; we wear our hair in curls; we don’t wear underwear; we show our pubic hair."

But whatever it was, it had an effect, and the authorities, politicians and the news media took notice.

Ten years later, in October 1979, I marched in the first "National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights." Thousands of lesbians and gay men marched and rallied on the national mall.

That too, had an effect but it didn’t get the job done.

Now, 40 years after Stonewall, we still find ourselves without full rights as American citizens, and though we have achieved a great deal in those years, it’s time to finish the job.

Today the media, the politicians and most of America have grown to accept our existence. In this "post ‘Will & Grace’ world," most Americans believe LGBT people deserve equal rights.

The problem is they forget that we still don’t have those rights. They see our celebrations and forget that we are still denied full access to all that our country offers.

And we forget it, too. We are comfortable in our lives and often forget that we are second-class citizens — until we’re faced with the realities of discrimination in a crisis.

"Don’t ask, don’t tell" and same-sex marriage are just two issues that must be remedied. There are a host of others, including hate crimes, workplace discrimination and immigration issues.

Maybe it’s time to take to the streets again — not in our yearly celebration of our identity, but for something far different. Perhaps we need to take to the streets again and, whether it is with bullhorns or high-kicks, demand our rights as American citizens.

I am waiting for an answer.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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