Its June 2020, Pride month. The world is in a state of massive upheaval and we are seeing prejudice rear its ugly head in a means that rivals to the days of the early Civil Rights Movement. I don’t mean for this post to take away from the state of affairs we are currently watching unfold, but it’s a means of looking back at how history seems to repeat itself. It’s more of an assessment of how safe any of us are.
In some ways, I feel like I grew up at a crossroads in LGBTQ history. By 1978/1979, I entered kindergarten at the age of 5, the Stonewall riots had taken place a decade earlier. And by the mid 1985/1986 I was leaving grade school to move on to middle school around the same time that Ronald Reagan first mentioned the word AIDS on television. The world watched, some in horror and some thinking it was punishment for our decadence, as the disease spiked, and millions were dying. By the time I graduated high school in 1992 and started to college, the first big movements for legalizing Gay Marriage was starting. By May 5th, 1993, the Supreme court case Baehr vs. Lewin challenged Hawaii’s ban on same-sex marriage and deemed the ban unconstitutional. I remember because it was in 1997 the first man I loved had proposed to me and wanted to go to Hawaii to get married.
All during this time, it was still illegal in most of these United States for LGBTQ people to engage in sex. We knew who our enemies were, and we also knew that many of them also cruised for sex on the wild side. It was this very time that we entered the crossroads, at least from my viewpoint. We were seeing many of the laws change and society start to change their perceptions of LGBTQ people. Televisions shows, however small at the time, were starting to show characters like us and include storylines we were all too familiar with. Yes, they were bit-part characters that usually lasted an episode before being written off, but it was still progress.
The world seemed different then, we had to hide, and we seemed to appreciate the dance of meeting someone and sleeping with them. Granted, that didn’t happen for me until college. Until that very point, the most contact I had was jerking off with friends and fantasies of what more I wanted to do. Without the ease of dating apps, we had to go to bars and go through the act of courtship rituals to attract a mate. Making eye contact across a smoke-filled, music throbbing dance club and hoping the glance was returned. Carefully moving about the room to get closer to the object of our desire and hope you could keep their interest and then finally taking the leap to just say “What’s up?” Often times you never made it out of the club before your hormones took over and ended up fucking in the bathroom. We left feeling alive and like we were some kind of pioneer for breaking the law. It felt like good times, stupid, but good times.
We watched with bated breath as the slow climb to gay marriage happened. Flipping from the thought that there would be no way this backward country would ever let us have that right to utter elation when it was finally achieved five short years ago on June 26th, 2015. The anniversary is only two weeks away. We thought it would never happen and that it was about time. The future seemed so clear and optimistic. We thought progress was happening and that the change we were promised was finally here. That was until November 2016, seventeen months after the legalization, we watched Donald Trump ascend to the office of president. By January of 2017, we started witnessing the changes he would bring to this country. We watched in horror as the assault on all we worked hard for began unfolding.
In the last of his four years of presidency, we have watched as many have said they supported us only to turn to the other hand and work so hard against us. Oftentimes, we don’t even see the ones that seek to take away our rights and send us back to the days before Stonewall, where we had to scurry about in the shadows. We still watch as those same enemies sneak away from their spotlight to seek sex on the wild side and so many of them have been outed because of it. The future is left with tinges of bleakness and despair.
I remember how pervasive those early days of LGBTQ discrimination were and sometimes, just sometimes mind you, I miss them. Only because today we are left asking, “Are LGBTQ people safe now?” It is only the progress we have achieved and still cling to that keeps me warm at night and thinking that we are in a better place than we were before June 28th,1969. Again, an anniversary that is only two weeks away. Remember in this Pride month that we have to both celebrate and have a memorial for the progress we have made and the darkness we have moved from. If only so that in the future you can look back and say, “I remember when…”