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Gay History, One Man's Memory
#1
Hi folks,
I know I haven't posted much here but I'd like to share something with you and maybe get some thoughts/advice.

I wrote the following the same day Prop 8 was overturned. This is mostly exactly one happened but I did take a few liberties. I am in the process of writing a book and I'd like some input as to what you think of the following. I plan on including it in my book in some form.

I hope you find it interesting and thought provoking.

Thanks in advance.

Quote:I saw some incredible things this evening. I heard some speeches, saw lots of hugging, laughing and basic party your butt off. The thing that struck me was that most of the crowd was very young. I realized they had no clue how long this had taken and what roads had been traveled to get to this day. They seemed to be under the delusion that this was a new phenomena. That this was a new movement. I had the great pleasure and opportunity to give a little history lesson to a few of these youngsters as we set up for the evenings festivities. I was shocked they had such little understanding or knowledge of how and when this movement came to be.

They had no comprehension of the sacrifices made over decades to build and solidify a foundation that would enable us to arrive at this glorious day.

One of the three that I was speaking with had never even heard of Stonewall Inn. Two had, they just couldn't tell me what it was about or what actually happened there. I was dumbfounded. You really need to learn your history. Us old foggies are going to be gone in the not too distant future and someone needs to tell the story. People need to remember. They must remember.

I told them that I lived through a time when being gay meant you were mentally defective. Homosexuality wasn't declassified as a mental disorder until 1973.

I lived through a time when people believed all homosexuals were pedophiles and had no qualms about telling you so.

I lived through a time when it was unheard of for a gay man or lesbian woman to have a child. Should a homosexual couple actually have a child, the court would step in and remove the child from their home. Homosexuals were not fit to raise children.

I lived through a time when police officers would regularly raid gay bars and arrest and beat gay men and lesbian women. All for sport. These gay establishments had to be hidden from public view as well. Otherwise additional violence would be bestowed on these establishments and their patrons. It really wasn't all that uncommon for someone to come into a gay establishment, open fire and kill or severely wound the patrons in these establishments. It wasn't uncommon for these establishments to be burnt to the ground. The main stream media (we simply called it the news back in the day) didn't see these attacks and murders worthy of coverage.

I lived through a time when leaving a gay establishment meant the police were probably waiting for you. They would pull you over, break your tail light or head lamp and then issue you a ticket for that broken light all the while snickering at you and calling you the most vile of names.

I remember those incredibly strong and wonderful drag queens who finally started the gay rights movement by screaming "ENOUGH", "We're not going to take this anymore" and they literally fought back. They fought back out of anger and frustration. They fought the police officers who had come to beat them yet again. The police retreated; the drag queens won.

On that one single day we learned we didn't have to be passive and put up with the beatings, the unwarranted arrests. We did NOT have to be ashamed. All over the country gay men and lesbian women began to rise up and fight back. Stonewall Unions began to spring up in all major cities across the country. We began to fight. We began to feel proud. For some of us it was the first time in our lives that we began to see ourselves as worthy.

I told them that I had lived through a time when homosexuals could be arrested and jailed for sodomy. The police would break down your door, wake you out of your sleep, arrest you and drag you off to jail.

I lived through a time when you could not rent or buy a home in certain neighborhoods because you were a gay man or lesbian woman. If you did attempt to move into one of these 'good' neighborhoods, they would force you to move out. One way or another. They would use intimidation, vandalism, and/or beatings. If those tactics didn't work, they simply burnt your house down. Sometimes they simply murdered you. All in the name of God.

I lived through a time that if you dare stand up and try to march to get your rights, you had rocks, bricks and garbage thrown at you. You were spit on and even pissed on. I told these young guys that they needed to remember that this horrendous treatment was done by good people. People of God who held their bibles high in the air while savagely attacking us. Verbally and physically. I choose to believe these were good people that just didn't know any better. Believing anything else is just too painful.

I lived through a time when the police didn't care if you had rocks and garbage thrown at you. They didn't care if you were spit on or pissed on. And if you dared to fight back, the police were more than happy to arrest you.

Today's Pride looks nothing like the Pride of the 70s and 80s. Now it's more like a big party. You leave your home with the anticipation and expectation of having a wonderful time with friends and family. You no longer leave your home wondering if you will ever see that home again. You no longer worry that some bible thumper might kill you if given the smallest chance. God hates fags. That's something they took great pride in telling us and it was also their justification for the violence they committed against us.

We began talking about Pride and how it came to be. What the true purpose and meaning of Pride was and why Pride was celebrated in June. They didn't know that the first Pride march was in June of 1970. Of course it wasn't called Pride back in the 70s. That name came much later. The first Pride was held on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Each and every year from 1970 a Pride march and rally has been done in most major cities across the country. In the beginning, only a handful of people were brave enough to come out and march. I marched in Detroit my very first time. I think there were less than 25 people that marched. No floats, no parade. Just a few crudely made signs and an agenda. You know, that gay agenda that everyone talks about. I know you're young, but surely you've heard talk of the gay agenda.

Every year more and more people attend Pride. It's a wonderful thing to witness even though I sometimes think the true meaning of Pride and our message gets a little lost in the celebrations. It sometimes makes me a little sad and even angry when I see the way Pride has morphed into something it was not originally meant to be. Some cities have even moved their Pride rallies/marches to May. It's cooler in May. It makes my head want to burst. I'm all for having a good time and celebrating our victories, but some things need to be remembered. Old school thinking I guess.

I explained to them that Pride is celebrated on the last Saturday in June to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots which was the beginning of the gay rights movement. I explained that Pride is a way for gay men and lesbian women to pay homage and offer appreciation and love to those incredible drag queens who in those early morning hours set the course for change. I would expect and hope that Pride will continue even after we have achieved true equality. We should always remember and celebrate how these drag queens started a movement that couldn't be stopped.

We also talked about the Pride flag and what each color signified. I was pleased that these young folks were pretty well versed on the colors of the flag and what those colors represented.

I told these young men that I lived through a time when so many of our friends wasted away and died from a horrible disease and the government mantra was "It's killing all the right people"

I was shocked to find out these young folk had no true understanding of the AIDS quilt and what it signified. How it came to be. Has it been that long since AIDS became passe? Have we forgotten so soon? Maybe it's just a part of our past that is simply too painful to talk about. Too painful to remember. I myself rarely speak of that time but I have not forgotten the first faces of AIDS.

I lived through a time when because of AIDS, if you dare tell anyone you were gay, you were immediately assumed to have AIDS. Health insurance companies dropped you.

I remember not being able to find a dentist to treat you.

In a lot of cases, you lost your family who had literally become terrified of you. People were afraid to touch you and would literally cross the street to get away from you. You didn't have to have AIDS, you simply had to be gay. People you had always considered friends, deserted you, refused to even speak to you. The really sad part? In the very beginning, some of this pain was visited upon us by our own community.

It was hard to find a doctor who would even treat you for a head cold, much less that horrible disease. I remember watching people being poorly treated in unimaginable ways by our health care providers when they would show up at hospitals for medical treatment and usually to just die. I remember the face masks, the gloves, the rooms that were quarantined. I remember how you had to fight to get a nurse to come into those quarantined rooms. Attempting to get a doctor to come into one of those rooms was sometimes futile.

I lived through a time when it was not uncommon to see two or three of your friends die within the same week. Memorials you didn't get to go to because you had already moved on to the next friend who was about to die and needed your support.

I lived through a time when it was difficult if not impossible to find a funeral home or a cemetery that would take a person who had died of AIDS.

I told these young folks that I (and many others) had lived through all of that and survived. I believe living through those difficult times made our community stronger, more determined, and more compassionate.

I told them I was proud to have done my part to make things better for them and the generations to come

I also gave them what I hope is advice they won't forget. You must stay ever vigilant with the do-gooders.

I told them about a conversation I had with a do-gooder the other day. This do-gooder was honestly trying to be supportive and offer what they saw as advice. The do-gooder said that if we behaved better and didn't cause a fuss, that maybe we might get some rights. We were just too in your face to be taken seriously. We just needed to behave and calm down.

I told these young guys to NEVER accept or buy into that thinking. Some people will always try and find a way to place the blame with you. The do-gooders won't even realize what they are actually saying. They won't realize how offensive they are. Now some of those do-gooders know exactly what they're saying and they know perfectly well that they are being offensive. Those folks are not really the do-gooders, and I personally have other names for them.

The do-gooders will tell you that if you meet their expectations and/or requirements, be good little gay boys, they just might give you a little something for you and your family. NEVER let anyone get away with putting this on you. It is not YOUR fault you are being treated like 2nd class citizens.

Your rights have nothing to do with behavior, making a fuss, or being soft spoken. They have everything to do with equality. Nothing else. Remember that. NEVER let anyone tell you differently.

I also told them they should never settle. Marriage or nothing. Separate but equal is not equal. I told them that well meaning folks (the do-gooders) actually believe separate can be equal. Separate can never be equal. That's why it's called separate.

I'm not sure these young guys believed the history I told them. By looking at their faces I could see they were doubtful but didn't want to question the old farts memory.

These wonderful young folk thought the whole movement started and was about nothing other than gay marriage. Can you imagine?

I can see how that history would seem pretty incredible to someone so young. It's not like there are gay history books or teachers that teach gay history. These guys had no idea what it was like back in the day. They had never experienced most of that. Believe it or not, that sort of made me proud. My generation did such a good job, these young folks did not have to experience those things with the unrelenting viciousness we had. We made the world better for gay men and lesbian women.

I explained that there was a lot of history long before gay marriage ever came to the forefront. The first fight was just being able to be. To live where we wanted. To work where we wanted. To simply be allowed to live, to survive.

Seeing your rights put on the ballot box and taken away, was a very small piece of that history. A horrible, painful piece of history but still just a small piece. I believe future generations will look back on these days with disdain and shame.

But today. Today. A FEDERAL judge said, you can't do this to these people anymore. It's wrong.

I can't even imagine. Look how far we've come.

A federal judge said we exist and are equal. We have been acknowledged. For the first time in the history of this country, a Federal judge said I matter. My heart is full.

This is an absolutely incredible unbelievable day. Look how far we've come. Just look. I only hope I live to see it finally finished.

When I look back at the struggles we had, the adversity we faced, I am truly amazed and in complete awe of the strength and perseverance we showed.

Looking back, I can't help but wonder how so much happened in just one lifetime.

So be proud. Be very proud. It truly is a glorious day. Dance, laugh, sing. Just take some time and bask in the joy of this day. Tomorrow we can resume the fight. But for today, party your ass off. We deserve it. Our supporters deserve it. Give our straight brothers and sisters the respect and gratitude they deserve. Thank our bible toting friends. Even though they were a little late to the party, some of them have been our most outspoken supporters. Remember that their support of us did not always come without personal consequence. Most importantly, show them love, hug them and drag them out on the dance floor. Dance with them. They deserve to dance. This is their day too.
#2
Thank you for putting into words what was and what can be. I remember all of it
#3
Thanks for sharing that...

I was shocked to find out these young folk had no true understanding of the AIDS quilt and what it signified. How it came to be.

I helped make a couple of the first panels for friends of mine who I dearly loved...I tried a couple times to visit the quilt but I break down crying and cannot go past the front door. The grief is too intense for me...I want to see it so badly but I am terrified I won't be able to stop crying...ever.

...again...thanks for sharing...It is good to remember
#4
Thanks for your post, DAT.
#5
Very interesting thanks for posting.

I have one comment, you seem to care more about the principle of equality than the actual rights that come with marriage. In Britain, my boyfriend and I are planning are Civil Partnership which is in practice closer to equality than marriage recognised by State but not Federal Government. I am glad that gay advocates were reasonable, behaved respectably and were pragmatic, they made (some of) the 'do-gooders' our allies rather than rejecting them.

Just my thoughts....
Fred

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
#6
that you for posting that i read the whole thing up and down
#7
fredv3b Wrote:Very interesting thanks for posting.

I have one comment, you seem to care more about the principle of equality than the actual rights that come with marriage. In Britain, my boyfriend and I are planning are Civil Partnership which is in practice closer to equality than marriage recognised by State but not Federal Government. I am glad that gay advocates were reasonable, behaved respectably and were pragmatic, they made (some of) the 'do-gooders' our allies rather than rejecting them.

Just my thoughts....

Agreed. To a point. Please show me where my words gave you the impression the principle was more important than equal rights. If anything, I see them as equally important. It was not my intention to imply we made enemies of the do-gooders. In fact, I thought my words would give the opposite impression.

I hadn't planned on this turning into a debate, but as you asked, I do believe there are principles and dare I say, integrity when you talk about equality. I don't see how you can ever have equality without principles. I don't believe anyone should bow and be grateful because you've been given a little something to shut you up. Unless a little something is all you're interested in. If you don't need the big picture and have no need to see your family validated and deemed as good as anyone else. Than by all means, be happy.

The entire principle of this movement is that homosexuals are just as valid as heterosexuals. They are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals. They should not be required to take what they can get and then be grateful about it. The requirement is equality. Not separatism.

Maybe in Britain your civil partnerships come with the exact same rights as marriage. Ours do not. Even if I lived in Britain I wouldn't settle for separate but equal. That just doesn't work for me. Civil unions that grant the same rights as marriages? Sounds like a good start. My question is will you have to show your civil union papers in situations where showing a marriage license is not required? Something like buying a home together. Something like adopting a child together. I have no clue how it works there and I am really curious.

I personally would have no issue if the word 'marriage' was done away with all together and everyone had civil unions/partnerships. After all, it is a license you can only get through the government. My point is, equality for all. You don't get to have marriage with 'special' rights while we get civil unions/domestic partnerships with 1,000 or more less rights. You don't get to keep us as 2nd class citizens by pretending you've done something generous for the little homosexuals.

From what you stated it sounds like civil partnerships will have the same rights as marriage. Everyone would still be equal. It sounds to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, that you have decided to settle. I have never looked up civil partnerships in Britain. I'll put it on my to do list. I just thought the British were a little more progressive. Other countries allow gays to marry and call it marriage. Why is the name different in Britain if not to call attention to your lack of worthiness? Or was it done to appease the heteros and allow them to still feel superior? It certainly doesn't matter to me what Britain does regarding this issue. If you are happy having the same rights regardless of the name, I'm happy for you.

In this country, as gay men and lesbian women we have two options. A civil union, which is available in a handful of states. We also have domestic partnerships that are more widely recognized. Neither of those come close to providing the benefits that marriage does.

My partner and I had a civil union. That civil union is not transferable from state to state like marriage is. So the civil union we received in Vermont would not be accepted in Nevada. Now Nevada has domestic partnership, so you move to Nevada and now apply for domestic partnership. You then move Arizona where neither a domestic partnership or civil union are accepted.

Let's talk a little about what domestic partnership and civil unions give us in the US. That's where it becomes interesting! When you take the pretty name away and actually look at it. There are multiple documents required to live safely and protect your family. .

Let's talk health care.
You will need a medical power of attorney to make medical decisions for your partner. Sometimes a normal power of attorney works with a rider. But that can be contested by the family. This typically costs around four to six hundred dollars per person. I believe we paid a little over $1100 dollars for ours. I believe that privilege is free with marriage?

How about children.
A partner can get what is called guardianship for their partners child or a child they adopted. If you have guardianship it is basically thrown in the trash if your partner dies. It really means nothing when you really need it. You can and will lose you child(s) with or without guardianship. That document is relatively inexpensive. It's around 4 bills. Of course with marriage, it's free. There really isn't even a question. While both of you are alive it's a pretty decent document. It allows both partners to make medical decisions and both partners to have access to school records, etc.. It offers a few other gimmes as well, I just can't remember now what they were. Yeah, we had one of those too. Our daughter is now 32 years old and I couldn't be prouder of her and the life she has made for herself.

There is something relatively new here. By that I mean it wasn't around when we were raising our daughter. It's been quite awhile since I've had to worry about protecting my child from hateful family members or society in general.

It's a document called parentage. It only costs around $5,000 dollars. I will say parentage is a much better document than guardianship as it provides additional protections. Unfortunately this document isn't foolproof either. Guess what is foolproof? Marriage. This little benefit even comes free with a marriage license.

Finances:
You should also have a co-habitation document. No one expects their civil union or domestic partnership to end, but sadly they do. My partner was a stay at home parent and spouse. This document gave him some financial protection in the event we decided not to stay together. He would have no right to any monies accrued during the marriage. You basically decide up front what a fair settlement will be should the relationship dissolve. Every few years as net worth increases it needs to be revisited. I don't even remember what that cost us. I do remember updating it several times over that 15 year span. Of course this document is not foolproof either. I think it really depends on how amicable the split is. You know what is foolproof and gives complete financial protection? Marriage. In fact with marriage you don't even need this document. This right comes free with the license.

Then there is the durable power of attorney. This document allows you to take financial responsibility for your partner should he become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. This was about $500 dollars each. Again, it comes free with marriage.

Let's talk about the joint tenancy agreement. This is the document that allows you to purchase a home or other property together. It also allows you to legally hold bank accounts together. Without this document a sharing of a bank account is not legal and in the event of a death, family can move in and take whatever is in the account. This document is also suppose to allow the property to pass to the survivor should something happen to you. Doesn't always work. Again, not foolproof. This document comes in at the low low cost of a mere $1500. However it does come free with marriage should you choose to go that route! And with marriage, unlike civil unions or domestic partnership it will always be treated with respect and never ignored.

There was also another document we had. I think it was a rider attached to our wills. It's not in the folder I'm looking at with all these other documents so I'm thinking the mortuary must have kept it. It was a document that actually gave us permission to make funeral arrangements in the event one of us died. That was cheap too. I think just a couple hundred bucks a piece. So let's just say $400 and leave it at that. Oh, did I forget to mention it comes free with marriage?

The one thing you need to remember is if there are any changes to civil laws, chances are you'll need to redo some or all of these papers. You get to pay the cost all over again. The slightest change can render your documents useless. A marriage license is never rendered useless when civil laws are changed. Rather nice perk wouldn't you say?

So let's see. There is a marriage license that I believe is about 30 bucks a pop and never has to be renewed. Then there are civil union/domestic partnership which costs in the thousands and will need to be renewed several times over a lifetime.

All of these documents gay men and lesbian women gladly pay because they are under the misguided assumption they will protect your family. Actually they are better than nothing.

These are just the things the US gives to homosexuals at cost. With the hope that we'll take our civil unions, domestic partnerships and just shut up and go about our business. Sounds pretty equal to me.

I won't bore you with the details, but these documents that we spent thousands of dollars on, and I do mean thousands, failed us miserably.

I wasn't allowed in a hospital room when my partner was recovering from lung cancer and was in ICU. His family didn't want me there. I had to fight them in court for that 'privilege'. A slight change in civil law rendered my power of attorney useless. Not only would they not allow me to make medical decisions for him, they wouldn't even let me in the room to hold his hand no matter how many times he asked or how much I pleaded. So as you see, our domestic partnership and our civil union did incredible things for us. Just not positive things.

Even when you think you have done everything properly to protect your family, you sometimes find out you're wrong. Thousands of dollars and your family still isn't protected. I'll take that 30 dollar marriage license any day secure in the knowledge that my family is safe.

That civil union did not prevent the police from treating me like garbage when I found my partner floating face down in our pool. An accident in case you're wondering. That civil union did not prevent the police from disrespecting me, my home or my partner. It didn't stop them from ransacking our home looking for drugs. The police wouldn't even look at my documents. They told me I would not be able to take possession of my partners body nor plan his funeral the way he and I had discussed. They even refused to leave our home until they spoke to a "family" member. We were together for 15 years with a domestic partnership and a civil union, but we still were not recognized as family under the law. Thankfully the mortuary had no problem accepting the documentation I supplied and I was able to do for my partner what I knew he wanted.

It's hard enough to figure out how you're going to live the rest of your life without him. How you're going to be able to go to sleep tonight without him holding you and without the sound of his snoring that always irritated you so much. It's hard enough to try and figure out what you're going to do when you wake up in the morning. Now add onto it the horrible horrible sickening feeling that you may be able to perform this last act of love for your partner. Trust me, it's something you never get over.

So no, I personally will not settle for civil unions. They don't work. People will never take civil unions seriously. They will always be something they gave the fags to shut them up.

Oh your married? Come on in!
Oh you have a civil union? May I see your papers please?

Yep sounds pretty equal to me.
#8
Thanks. It is interesting to read your personal recollections. While I lived through similar times in England, my experience was different and I spent years trying and frequently failing to live a traditional straight life.

Attitudes were born out of ignorance. Most of this was a case of other people deciding they knew better than those of us who lived the lives. I feel some shame that I swallowed the lies and thought life would be simpler when I married my best friend. Those you call the "do-gooders" made gay men and lesbians out to be sad, depraved monsters. I was unable to identify with either the popular image of gay men in the media, mostly on television and the radio, or with the images of homosexuality that I somehow imagined existed outside of myself. I was not "one of them" - an assertion sworn by both myself and the first man I went with after an encounter in a cottage. In another cottage I was set up for entrapment by two policemen in the early seventies. I avoided trouble on that occasion by having a healthy mistrust of anyone with short hair, shiny shoes and creases in their jeans.

Hopefully these are more informed times.
#9
I personally think principle goes right along with the rights. I don't see how you can have one without the other. If you just take the rights (some) you're settling. That's not for me.

I don't know how things are in other countries (outside of Canada), but here if you have a civil union (only offered in a few states) or a domestic partnership you still have over 1,000 less rights than marriage gives you.
#10
I forgot, thanks for reading this. Any creticism I might find helpful? It's going to go into my book. I'm thinking it will be the opening and then it will be expanded on. It's different twist on the book I've been writing, but I'm thinking it's the way to go.


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