2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Butch lesbians and drag queens fought back against police brutality and sparked a revolution. Despite the fact that The Advocate couldnít find one single lesbian to interview for its Stonewall issue, there were lesbians involved. Today, some of us want to sweep the drag queens and the butches under the carpet because (some say that) they are somehow embarrassing or they perpetuate stereotypes.
I am sure that many of those butches and drag queens couldnít possibly conceive of a time when LGBT people can be legally married in several states, where more states are considering legalizing it and in several countries around the world, gays and lesbians can be legally married. In Spain, for example, being was a capital offense not that long ago and today LGBT people can get married there.
Probably just as unlikely to them was the idea that gay people could have successful public careers, not only in the entertainment industry but as politicians, lawyers, bankers, teachers and in other traditionally conservative industries.
June is Pride Month and there are pride celebrations all over the country. In LGBT publications, Iíve seen editorials or articles wondering if pride celebrations are still necessary. I say they are.
Despite the advances in LGBT rights, coming out can be both dangerous and scary. There are still families who will disown a gay child. There are still churches that kick people out for being gay, there are still employers who fire someone solely because they are LGBT. In many places, people still donít feel safe being out at all since violence against LGBT people is still a reality. There are a number of religious denominations who are anti-LGBT and a fair number of organizations whose sole mission seems to be preventing LGBT people from having equality.
Sometimes, even now, the only place some people feel safe to be gay is in a crowd of other gay people. And that happens, in some places, only at pride celebrations. Even then, I think they will be important. Look at ethnic festivals, for example. I canít imagine anyone being afraid to be visibly Irish yet St. Patrickís Day is a big deal in many cities.
Finally, in honor of LGBT Pride Month, I want you to find a drag queen or a butch lesbian and thank them. Do what The Advocate couldnít and find a butch lesbian who was out in the 60s. Thank them for the risks they took just by being themselves. Thank them for starting a revolution. And if you donít know any older butches or drag queens, thank a young one. They still push the envelope, they still challenge peopleís ideas, they still take the hard road and make it easier on those of us who are LGBT but not butch or a drag queen.
So, my drag queen sisters and my darling butches, thank you. Your strength and your courage are inspiring.