As you’d expect, Pride month holds special meaning for me due to my history, especially me being at Stonewall and at that very first Pride. It always brings surprises, and it’s also a month which brings a lot of emotion. It’s also overwhelming since I get more invitations to speak than is possible.
This week, I found myself doing two events which might illustrate what has been achieved by our community over the last 53 years since Stonewall.
On Tuesday, at a very early hour (at least for me; I’m not a morning person) I had the pleasure to speak to a class from the Sir Joseph Williamson Mathematical School in Kent, United Kingdom. It’s amazing how Zoom allows us to create bridges around the world. The class was made up of 14 year olds. After speaking about my personal history from Stonewall, the first Pride march, and now creating LGBT-Friendly Senior Affordable Housing at the John C. Anderson building, it was time for questions.
Several of the students told me of how they enjoyed going to Kent Pride, and others asked about how to help fellow students who were LGBT. As a gay man I was not an alien to them; they were used to LGBT people being a part of their lives. That was a major difference from the first time I addressed a high school back in 1970, a year after Stonewall.
In 1970 I went to Oceanside High School on Long Island. The school’s newspaper was called “The Spider,” which reported on my visit, and the headline was “Gay People lecture, they are not neurotic.” They were surprised to know that me speaking to them at one time would have gotten me arrested for “corrupting the morals of minors.”
Then, The first time was back in the Clinton White House. It was an amazing experience, especially since The Clinton White House was the first to appoint LGBT people to actually work in the administration in the White House (about 5 of them, as I recall).
At the Clinton Pride reception, I chatted with activists from around the nation that I had gotten to know via telephone or email. At one point Frank Kameny came up to me and asked “who are all these people, I’ve never seen any of them before.” My response was that It was a new generation of activists that will take what you have built and create change that you and I never dreamed of.
Well, this Wednesday, I expect that I’ll be in Frank’s position, and for me it’s a joyous reality. Each time I head into the White House I have the same thought “Who could have ever imagined that that 18 year old me standing outside Stonewall in 1969, would be invited to the White House by the President of the United States to a reception, but not any reception, a Pride reception honoring LGBT history and our community’s accomplishments.” That will always be thrilling to me.