First and foremost, thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the early Sunday morning horrific mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub, their families, many friends and all the people of Orlando. Before you read further, I ask you please take (another) moment and remember each of (at the time I am writing this article) 50 human beings whose lives were taken, the 53 who suffered injuries, their loved ones; family, friends and all who mourn.
Because of Orlando, my thoughts this week will center around each of us.
In just under two weeks, it will be the 47th anniversary of Stonewall.
What is Stonewall? Yes, this sounds like a foolish question, but if you were to ask many of today’s younger generation, they may not be able to answer a most basic question about it – the date: June 28th, 1969. To be quite frank, I don’t know if there aren’t any adults who may even know the year. Here is a little background from History.com. They can put it in words far better than I.
“Just after 3 a.m., a police raid of the Stonewall Inn–a gay club located on New York City’s Christopher Street–turns violent as patrons and local sympathizers begin rioting against the police.
Although the police were legally justified in raiding the club, which was serving liquor without a license among other violations, New York’s gay community had grown weary of the police department targeting gay clubs, a majority of which had already been closed. The crowd on the street watched quietly as Stonewall’s employees were arrested, but when three drag queens and a lesbian were forced into the paddy wagon, the crowd began throwing bottles at the police. The officers were forced to take shelter inside the establishment, and two policemen were slightly injured before reinforcements arrived to disperse the mob. The protest, however, spilled over into the neighboring streets, and order was not restored until the deployment of New York’s riot police.
The so-called Stonewall Riot was followed by several days of demonstrations in New York and was the impetus for the formation of the Gay Liberation Front as well as other gay, lesbian, and bisexual civil rights organizations. It is also regarded by many as history’s first major protest on behalf of equal rights for homosexuals.”
So, there it is, how it all began. Decades forward, it’s June, 2016. The changes we have see over the years. In 1978, a domestic partnership ordinance passed in Broward County. In 2005, Massachusetts was the first US state to legalize same-gender marriage. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled states cannot band same-gender marriage and it became the “law of the land” in the United States. In some places, we can freely walk hand-in-hand with the special person in our life. Transgender persons are most recently in the forefront. There have been several historic moments, but our lives are far from simple and far from accepted by all. Aside from the mass shooting, on Sunday, that evening I was reading my Facebook wall and found a website THOUGHTCATALOG.COM, and an article written by Jacob Geers. It was chock full of Twitter posts from a variety of anti-gay people praising the shootings. I was dumbfounded. But, it spoke volumes and put what seems to be our never-ending fight in true reality.
This past Saturday, I had an interesting conversation with a friend of many years. We were talking about society, both in and out of the LGBT community. Conversation was about the shooting of 27 year old singer Christina Grimmie and other things in the general topic.
The he came right out and asked me with a very serious look in his face: “Are you scared that one day someone might….” and I cut him off finishing “Take my life for who I am? No. Absolutely not.”
Our discussion continued about me being gay and in ministry, which isn’t something everyone likes or even feels is possible. We went on talking these very bi-weekly columns I write and my opinions.
I further went on to say I am who I am. I am not a person who has ever really been shy about my views or opinions and it gets stronger as I do older. I refuse to be stifled. To me, doing so is giving in, and that I don’t do easily. People may not like what I have to say, but I try my best to do it in a way that isn’t nasty. In some instances I hope it educates some and makes a light go off in the heads of others.
It breaks my heart to receive phone calls from people in their 60’s & 70’s telling me their wife or husband just died, that they have been living a different life all these years and they feel lost; they don’t know how to move forward living the life they were meant to live. It breaks my heart that persons my age or younger still have to hide who they are because of fear what may happen if they come out. Not having grown up with that fear or environment, I just shake my head in 2016 it is still an issue.
As we near the anniversary of Stonewall and our individual Pride events, remember this: We all have to move forward, even in the most difficult of times. Live your life, love who you are, and be sure to Celebrate the Pride in yourself every day.
I leave you with the words of Johann von Goethe: “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.”
Rev. Joel S. Slotnick is an ordained Interfaith minister and full time digital court reporter. He can be found on Facebook and followed on Twitter.