Ah, the year 2017. It’s a far cry from 1969, but in some ways, not so much. Given that society is generally more accepting of different lifestyles today, you’ll still find the old hold outs who view anything other than white Anglo-Saxon Protestant as an abomination in the eyes of whatever god they worship. While we don’t live in closets anymore, for the most part, there are still sub-sections of the general population who create an atmosphere so uncomfortable that some choose to hide their sexuality to this day. The level of violence against LGBT has risen in the past few years as well. Governmental restrictions around the world are growing with the advent of religious zealots.
Throughout the 70’s, the gay community fought very hard to be seen and heard. The Equal Rights Movement was the agenda, as you could be denied housing, fired from a job, and generally shunned by the community for being gay. Homosexuality didn’t come off the psychology journals as a mental illness until 1974 / 1975, and even was considered a mental disorder by the World Health Organization up until 1990! The organizations in the beginning had an uphill battle, but they didn’t allow themselves to become discouraged by the slow pace of progress. Little by little, they chipped away at the stony faces of politicians and in some cases, the money helped. Eventually protections were put into place, protecting the rights of gay men and women.
Into the 80’s we marched, with our pride and banners, to be hit smack in the face by the AIDS epidemic. Hundreds of people had been dying from this disease over the years. No-one knew why, and no one seemed to care because it was primarily gay men. Then Rock Hudson brought it all to the forefront and suddenly there was shame upon the face of Hollywood. Now, gay men were rife in the Hollywood scene. But even then, no one talked about it. No one disclosed their sexuality. It wasn’t a topic of discussion, ever. Politicians denied there was an epidemic happening in the gay community. Research was done by a handful of clinicians with the meager money they could eke out of the government. The organizations themselves were partially in denial, causing splinter groups to form who were more outspoken. Thankfully these loud-mouths were the ones, just like at Stonewall, who made something happen. And all the while people died by the dozens. Their names emblazoned on a quilt did nothing to stem the horrors which this insidious disease inflicted upon its victims, their families, their lovers. The fight for gay rights also continued on through the 1980’s but we still had a long way to go.
Limping along but proud, learning from the mistakes of the past and girded by safe sex and condoms, we continued onward, to tackle the rights for trans-gender people in the 90’s and into the new millennium. While the movement for trans-gender people had been moving forward all through these decades, not even the gay community embraced this culture. As we moved through the 90’s, more and more issues arose that had to be dealt with. In some cases, they were handled indelicately, or inappropriately. So the politicians were sent back to their desks to rethink their offerings. Once again, they showed that they wouldn’t be hidden or shamed. Research of the HIV virus progressed and the medications were more effective with less side effects. Gay youth organizations became more prevalent as well as college organizations who lent a hand to pushing the causes forward.
The new millennium arose, and with it, another piece of the puzzle: gay marriage. This battle would rage for at least a decade before any laws would start to be enacted, legally providing gay and lesbian couples with the joy of legal marriage. 2003 was the end of sodomy laws in the US. 2010 would see the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which allowed people in the military to serve without repercussions for their sexuality. The year 2010 would also see the first gay marriage laws in Iceland. More and more professional sports players, public personalities, actors / actresses, musicians and politicains came out of the closet and into the forefront.
People in the LGBT communities have been fighting for rights for decades, never wavering and never giving up. We’ve come far but we have a long way to go. Still in many countries, LGBT people are suppressed, harassed, illegally detained, and killed. Places like Chechnya, Philippines, Indonesia, Russia or the Middle East, gays are outright killed. The Rainbow Railroad is working hard to relocated people from these countries but can only handle so many at a time. There’s been more and more conservative views growing in places like the US and UK which threatens to reverse the strides of those who went before us. Many of us enjoy the liberty of being who we are, going about our daily lives without discrimination or discord. Many won’t see these abuses with our own eyes in our own environments. But there are those who are affected and those who know someone affected in dangerous times. There’s those who suffer in silence at being bullied or harassed, eventually ending on a tragic note. Suicide is on the rise in our community, mostly in our gay youth. With all of the support groups out there, it’s hard to fathom but it’s a reality, a very sad reality.
If any of this touches a person and they take to their heart the long struggle which has been fought, and the strides still needed for our communities, then it’s my hope that they take some action and get involved. We need to be aware, protect ourselves and our loved ones, and do all we can to show the world that we’re a strong contributor to society in general. We have a long history, filled with so many strong characters. To know where we’re headed, we should take a moment to see where we’ve been. To lessen the suffering of our brothers and sisters in these oppressed envrionments, we can make donations to causes, petition our governments to take action, or join an organization to help further our empowerment. Together, all inclusive, we stand strong and march on to the next day. The next time you take a vow to your partner, or walk down the street without being called a queer, remember the people who gave their time and effort, their sweat and blood, so that you can have this wonderful life. Never take for granted all the work that’s been done to further the LGBT movements. They’re fragile and with one swift swing of the conservative, narrow minded hammer, can be laid waste at our feet.