This evening I had the opportunity to hear stories from people that lived through a time of fear, humiliation and discrimination in American history. The people sharing their stories are part of the LGBTQ community and lived during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
These women were professionals that constantly feared for their jobs.
The only place for many gays to socialize during that era were bars. But the bars were not safe. The local newspaper would list license plate numbers of the cars parked near a gay bar. The women tonight also spoke of the raids that would occur at the bars. People could be arrested for dancing if the bar didn’t have a “dancing permit.” If the police walked in and all the people at one table were the same gender they could be arrested. They could also be arrested for vagrancy if they didn’t have cash in their pocket.
The most horrifying story I heard was about a building that housed a Metropolitan Community Church downstairs and a gay bar upstairs. Sunday after church the members gathered upstairs in the bar for a covered-dish luncheon. The building was torched and everyone attending died in the fire.
Many brave men and women have lived through dangerous and frightful times.
Last summer the United States Supreme Court handed down a motion giving individuals in the LGBTQ community the right to marry.
We have come a long way from the era discussed tonight but the dance of two steps forward one step back continues.
Today we are fighting to use public bathrooms in peace, without judgement. Today there are still pastors preaching hatred of gays from the pulpit. Today people are still bullied for being different. But thanks to the drag queens that fought back at Stonewall, the individuals brave enough to walk in the early pride parades and the community that took care of itself during the AIDS crisis when everyone else turned their backs, we are better off.
I am grateful for those that blazed the trail, those that stood up for their friends that shivered in the closet and those that fought back against the hate.