Out, loud and proud
June 26, 2013 —
Forty-four years ago this week, I woke up, went downstairs and overheard my parents discussing the news. My folks subscribed to two papers, The Sun Bulletin and The Evening Press, both published in my home town of Binghamton, NY. Keeping abreast of local and national news was important in our household. My sister and I were well read, and education was considered not only important, but also mandatory. I was 15 in 1969 and had already witnessed desegregation in schools and my mother reading Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique,” had heard the grown-ups discuss the pros and cons of the march on Washington, women’s lib, the Vietnam War and the endless arguments that ensued over the length of my hair. Many times, my parents were divided over these and other issues, but that day, June 28, 1969, the debate raged on, this time about the civil rights of a different community.
The Stonewall riots were a “series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States” (www.wikipedia.com.) I had been to the Village, had observed members of the gay community and was harboring the secret knowledge that I was “one of them,” but attempted to not let on, understanding that this was something to keep hidden and never discussed or admitted to anyone. I was ashamed, fearful and scared. The turbulent ‘60s had ushered in a new age, and everything was changing so quickly that it was difficult to know what was acceptable in polite society. Although emboldened by the news of Stonewall, I held my tongue.
All that changed, of course, and before the mid-‘70s, I was out. While I might have had a ways to go before achieving proud, there was no mistaking that my declaration to the world was loud. My father was angry, my mother wept, but the world was evolving and for me, there was no going back. Little did we know how much perceptions would change, and I’m still amazed by the headlines today as one by one, citizens stand up to be counted and make their voices heard. Are there still prejudices to be overcome in the world? Yes, but the times, they are a changin’... even here, in the Upper Delaware Valley.