Over the last few weeks I’ve been interviewed, filmed, taped and recorded numerous times. I’ve also been going through files — or, more like, boxes of papers and objects that haven’t seen the light of day or artificial light literally for decades — for a project I’m involved with.
This process, and it’s one I strongly suggest to all who have collected anything for a long period of time, often brings delightful surprises. You find pieces that explain parts of your life and recall people you’ve interacted with. Even writings from people that are no longer with us or you no longer associate with are, to say the least, revealing.
It also answers questions. There’s a photo of me at a demonstration next to my friend Doug Carver that’s on the cover of the book “Gay Pride: Photographs from Stonewall to Today.” I’ve always wondered which demonstration that was taken at, since that first year after Stonewall we had many demonstrations in New York City and I was arrested for the first time, and several subsequent times.
I was able to answer that question through an email from my friend and fellow Gay Liberation Front member this week: It was July 27 1969, one month after Stonewall.
You’ll also be amazed at what you learn about yourself, and maybe even accept what your friends, family and those close to you have been trying to impress upon you without much luck.
For someone like me, it’s an issue of which part of your life you feel should be highlighted. In my mind, up to this point I used 1976 as a point that change my life. Before that was the birth of the radical gay-rights struggle, my part in GLF, the Gay Action Group, Stonewall, Gay Youth and my infamous campaign against the TV networks. After 1976 I focused on bringing and organizing local LGBT media into the Gay Press Association, creating a campaign that changed local politics, writing a plan for the nation’s first governor’s commission to study problems in the gay community (which was recently discovered in Gov. Shapp’s personal papers at the State Museum). It was also learning to fund projects in the community with government funds, helping our community to appreciate that we pay taxes and deserve those funds in our community like others, using clout to create the largest AIDS-awareness day in any city in the nation and creating housing for our LGBT seniors, our first out generation.
That sounds like a resume, and for me it is. My life has been spent on these and surprisingly many other projects. So why list all of it? Recently I’ve watched as numerous young activists have been labeled egotistical from their contemporaries in their fight to bring our community together on issues of diversity, respect and inclusion. This is a message to you: I too was attacked by those who differed with my views and actions. But I did what my parents told me to do: “Go with your gut.”
That resume was born from continuing the fight, regardless of those who use your success to further their public profile. Sometimes our community is its own worse enemy. Ignore those who are bitter and instead follow that optimistic view you’ve dreamed. You won’t always be right but history will show you your successes and your failures.