I’ve already started what I’m calling my “Stonewall 50 Tour,” which includes more than 20 speaking gigs, interviews, exhibit openings, parades and conferences. It culminates on June 30, when I share the honor of being Grand Marshal of New York’s World Pride/Stonewall 50 parade with my fellow sisters and brothers of Gay Liberation Front New York 1969-71. I want to share this journey with you; so, here are a few of the things that have happened thus far.
Two weeks ago, Jason and I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale to address a couple of fundraisers for The Stonewall National Museum and Archives. On the way to the airport, our Lyft driver was very talkative and asked what I did for a living. Simple answer: Publish a newspaper for the LGBT community. That seemed to surprise him and he then asked if gays could marry each other. I answered: “Yes, and we are married.”
Then he asked — I did tell you he was talkative — of the two of us, “Who is the man and who is the wife?” My thoughts immediately turned to GLF 1969, along with strong memories.
One of the first items that GLF tackled was identity. We took our identity away from society along with their labels for us. Now, we would self-identify.
To do that, we examined masculinity and femininity, which was strongly debated each week and sometimes got out of hand. But we were in new territory. Never before had our community demanded to self-identify, including across gender lines. We were determined to be inclusive even if we did not totally appreciate or understand others’ views. On top of it all, we had different political views, and it was a dysfunctional organization. But it was also magic, and these conversations and debates created the LGBT community we have today.
So, here is what I think of the Lyft driver’s question, through the lens of GLF membership. The core of the question is very personal. It asks about our sex life, and it’s totally inappropriate. Maybe I should have asked him who’s the top in his marriage. It shows how some still think of us — in only sexual terms.
A couple of answers come to mind when I think of the question asked to my husband and me that day. Maybe, “What do you and your wife do in bed?” Or, if being polite, “That’s a personal question. One I wouldn’t ask you.”
This journey to Stonewall has held many experiences. The question from the Lyft driver was only one of many. Last week, filming for BBC and BBC America outside of Stonewall, a couple of men were a little impatient when we took a break from filming and said, “Stop hogging the site. Who do you think you are?”
The BBC crew and I smiled at one another and the host came over and said to me, “Without what you and your friends did here 50 years ago, they wouldn’t be here for a picture.”
We moved out of the way and watched them take their picture — two men cuddling in front of a neon Stonewall sign. It really was cute.
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.