Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This Little Light of Ours...

What a way to end the month-long "Queer As Faust2 Festival"! About 50 people with candles, walking in quiet conversation or in silent meditation from Tallahassee's City Hall to the State Capitol building, to commemorate the event that started the modern day LGBT civil rights movement. Ours was a stark contrast to the fire ignited in New York City that hot night in June, 1969, when the NYC police were met with resistance and retaliation for their brutality. One of the patrons of the Stonewall Inn bar, the place where the rebellion was born, described the scene this way:

"Queers started being filed out, being put into police cars, and the loose change started flying-- you know, everybody started throwing it as payoff to the cops. And then the words, the cursing: 'Hey, fuck you pigs. We're not moving. We're tired of this bullshit.' You know, all this was happening, and I guess you could taste a bit of freedom before it even happened. Because I know I was feeling good, just for the change being thrown at the cops, for gay brothers and sisters and drag queens and street kids and hustlers, just throwing
this money at these people like, 'You've been treating us like shit all these
years? Uh-uh. Now it's our turn!... It was one of the greatest moments in my
--Sylvia (Ray) Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) from the companion book to the series, "The Question of Equality".

Forty years later, in the Deep Southern capital city of Tallahassee, we lit our candles as we re-membered ourselves with those whose anger at their conditions of constantly enduring raids and harassment in mafia-owned bars finally said, "No!"

We were much more polite.
Our ceremony showed the direction that out movement has gone over the course of time: appealling to those in power with the demonstration of who we are at our core: loving human beings who simply want to love and live with the people whom we love. A reporter was asking me questions before the ceremony about the difference between then and now. And really, I see it as a matter of assimilation. More and more gay people are coming out. More and more gay celebrities are on TV and in the movies. Queers of all colors and creeds are taking a stand in the name of love. And we look 'normal'. We aren't ONLY women dressing in men's suits, or men slipping on skirts. And because of that, the majority is feeling more comfortable with us. And we, the queer community, have become more comfortable living among the straights.

But this comfort is coming at a price. It is leading to complacency. It is resulting in us seeming so 'normal' to the 'normal' people that they don't understand that we ARE still second-class citizens. And we are becoming our own worst enemies. We like our comfortable life. We like our status as part of the "mainstream". And we, I think, are forgetting that our foremothers and fathers of this movement were anything but that.

And so with the assimilation, there is also a schizophrenia. We are accepted... but only if we don't ask for "too much". We are included... but only if we agree to wait "for a season" while the straight community adjusts to the temperature change. We can participate... but only in the assigned roles as determined by the majority. Is it time for another riot?

No. Not like the nature of Stonewall. Different time. Different circumstances.

But re-membering ourselves with those rebellious outcasts of 1969 is important. Those candlelights flickering in Florida, a state known across the nation as one of the worst in its treatment of the LGBT community, must be the spark to action, and a beacon toward real change. Let it shine... let it shine... let it shine.


Anonymous said...

I liked this blog very much. Much more calm and collected and very much to the point. I loved your single picture and the one of all of you marching is peaceful and pleasant. Good job.

Good writing as always too.


PS: I love the picture

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