This year is a major historic notch for our community. It marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. If you weren’t already aware, within 60 days, not only you but everyone will begin to notice leading up to that last Sunday in June, since most of the TV networks and scores of museums and cultural institutions will unveil their ways of commemorating Stonewall 50.
People often ask me how many days the Stonewall riots endured, since most people know it wasn’t just one night. My answer is that it was 365 days.
The spirit lasted throughout that year in the magic of Gay Liberation Front and culminated with the very first Gay Pride, then labeled “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day.”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked about Stonewall or GLF, but, as I think about these last 50 years I do have a message to our community.
There are many people in our community who have no appreciation of what we have accomplished these 50 years. Maybe that last Sunday in June can be one day when we can unify and celebrate how far we have come.
Now there are major problems in our community: ageism, racism, anti-Semitism and many more. We have work to do on all of those fronts. In fact, we’ve been doing that since GLF. But look at the road we’ve taken …
Fifty years ago, there weren’t any nondiscrimination laws anywhere in this nation. Today, almost every major city and many states have them.
Fifty years ago, same-sex marriage in some states could land you in jail, even walking down the streets holding hands.
Fifty years ago, there was not one OUT elected official. Today, there are governors, senators, mayors and even judges.
Fifty years ago, not one company would admit to having gay employees: more likely they’d fire them and do that legally, simply because they were LGBT. Not one company would sponsor that very first Pride, which is why, as a parade marshal then, I carried a donation can. That can has since been donated to the Smithsonian Institute.
Fifty years ago, it was unimaginable that there would be LGBT police, lawyers, doctors and journalist organizations.
Fifty years ago, we never dreamed that an executive director of an LGBT organization would have an annual salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars. There were no paid activists among us.
Fifty years ago, before Stonewall/GLF, no more than 100 people would be out at a public demonstration. Today, we’re in some places where a million people come out.
That’s only a partial list of what we have accomplished. But I do have a favorite not on that list. We’ve made it possible for many people to be out and proud, and that is an accomplishment we can all be proud of.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.