When the last major piece of Supreme LGBTQIAP history — Obergefell v. Hodges — came down in 2015, I literally woke up to it. My radio alarm switched on to the newscast presenter announcing that same-sex marriage had been legalized in all fifty states. It was settled.
I had been peripherally aware of, but never particularly familiar with, political movements agitating for LGBTQIAP liberation. Like most everyone else in high school, I was in the bleachers when the Gay-Straight Alliance made announcements during assemblies. I heard about passing LGBTQIAP controversies and caught snippets of interviews with activists the same as everyone else when they occasionally rotated through the news cycle. But, laying there with society fundamentally altered basically having done nothing but roll over and adjust my pillow, I began to realize gears in society outside of my range of sight were turning — and had already been grinding along for a long time.
Soon after, I got tapped on the shoulder by an older gentleman in a salmon v-neck t-shirt. My partner and I were walking across the Tacoma Mall, not too far from the infamous Pokemon vending machine. “I just wanted to let you know how happy I am to see people like you.” He continued, “I never could have even dreamed of dating in public when I was your age.” He disappeared back into the crowd.
I had been peripherally aware of LGBTQIAP people who lived through other times, who had not come up and come out in my generation. I think I could’ve associated the AIDS crisis, maybe the Stonewall riots, with the LGBTQIAP community. But not much more than that. My blind spot wasn’t just contemporary context of the LGBTQIAP politics. I also knew next to nothing of LGBTQIAP cultural and political history.
Recent Supreme events inspired me to take stock of my own experience over the intervening half-decade of becoming acquainted with LGBTQIAP history.
🔗 Fish Out of Water
To the extent that LGBTQIAP history is learned, I suspect that haphazardly and informally rank highly among pertinent adjectives. (In part, the reason I wrote all this.)
I grew up in a liberal-ass town
god I'm going to miss home, a pedestrian just used hand signals at an intersection— Matthew Andres Moreno (@mmore500) January 4, 2019
beret-wearing retiree in a prius at the Co-Op... CORVALLIS BINGO!!!!— Matthew Andres Moreno (@mmore500) December 28, 2018
and studied at a liberal-ass liberal arts college.
Nonetheless, I proved rather much of a rube of contemporary LGBTQIAP culture, much less history.
I went to my very first pride parade during that same summer of 2015. I optimistically wore my red, white, & blue polo shirt. This was subsequently supplemented with some red, white, & blue face paint. Whiplashed between the Microsoft corporate float and The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, I learned that the earnest patriotic vibe was in common with exactly nobody there. My lesbian friends who took me along found this very amusing.
The next summer, I went out on Columbus, Ohio’s Short North with my REU’s LGBTQIAP mafia. It was a weekday, but on-site promoters were still on-site to hand out shitty plastic mouthwash-size cups of free Bud Lite and rainbow headbands. To earn the aforementioned free beer I had to fill out a nametag that read something like “#pride I’m unafriad to…” After a full minute just staring at it and drawing a total blank I scribbled something even I knew was super lame and tame on there, probably like “have fun with my friends” or “do my taxes.”
Following the cynical branding of my cultural moment by corporate America, I was (righteously) roasted by the drag queen on duty for my fugly Croc flip flops.
🔗 History Begets Culture
As I dipped my toes in, my early experiences with LGBTQIAP culture were jarring and honestly — as in the case of the penis fairy (??) roving Seattle Pride to grace spectators by the tap of a wand affixed with a tiny plastic pointer — sometimes a little disconcerting.
By no coincidence to my befuddlement, I knew next to nothing of the conditions LGBTQIAP culture had arisen out of. The connection is summed up nicely by, of all things, this excerpt from a satirical piece on The Onion.
“After centuries of oppression as an ‘invisible’ segment of society, gays, emboldened by the 1969 Stonewall uprising, took to the streets in the early ’70s with an ‘in-your-face’ attitude. Confronting the worst prejudices of a world that didn’t accept them, they fought back against these prejudices with exaggeration and parody, reclaiming their enemies’ worst stereotypes about them and turning them into symbols of gay pride,” Thorne said. “Thirty years later, gays have won far greater acceptance in the world at large, but they keep doing this stuff anyway.”
“Mostly, I think, because it’s really fun,” Thorne added.
🔗 Brushes with History
Having come of age well into the 21st century and cocooned at most half a mile from an institution of higher learning at any point in time, prejudices and barriers I’ve faced mostly pale in comparison to, well, many things. Say, to plain yogurt in a well-lit room.
technically shouldn't take Holy communion or donate blood but who wanted to anyways amirite— Matthew Andres Moreno (@mmore500) December 25, 2018
& ... the award for best gay heckle in a while goes to ... ... ohio teenybopper on a bmx bike for “you guys looking for girlfriends?” !!!— mmore500 (@mmore500) June 14, 2020
(real talk, we actually find this very funny)
In my own life, though, I have brushed up against echoes of the trauma and struggles of previous LGBTQIAP generations. Knowing history helps make sense of those experiences.
When I introduced my partner to my dad, we basically only made it through a warm hug and some “so nice to meet you”s before launching into half an hour of The AIDS Talk. It was confusing — for the life of me, I could not understand why dad kept going on and on about it — and also felt somewhat pejorative. What a strange way to kick off bringing someone new home to meet the family. Memorable, at least, I guess.
My dad worked as a pilot for American Airlines for nearly his entire career. During the oil crisis he was laid off as a pilot, but later hired back on for a time as a flight attendant. He went on to see many of his male flight attendant co-workers cleared out by AIDS. As he eventually went on to explain that day, that experience had left an indelible impression.
My dad — who attends mass several times a week and owns the rattiest imaginable t-shirt with a picture of a lawn mower on it and some inane text I can’t even remember about his lawn probably needing to be mowed — understands the experience of the AIDS crisis in ways I probably will never be able to.
This moving contemporary account from another voice, though, helped me better appreciate the magnitude of that time.
I overheard a young man on the train on the way home today, talking to another young man. Holding hands. In college, I guessed. About that age anyway. Much younger than I am.— Tucker Shaw (@tucker_shaw) September 18, 2018
🔗 My Reading, Viewing, & Listening List
Even as I’ve taken some proactive steps to better educate myself on LGBTQIAP history, I’ve found that many of the most compelling and eye-opening materials still arise by chance encounters. At some point, I started keeping track of media pieces where I felt that I learned something new or heard a new voice. I’ve provided a version of my record below.
Hopefully some of these materials might prove interesting to members of rising LGBTQIAP generations (as a certain friend might endearingly term it, “baby gays”), allies looking to better understand the LGBTQIAP community, or — I guess — anyone who just hasn’t chanced on them yet.
Outdated terminology and antiquated beliefs surface in some materials. I curated this list based historical interest, not social or political endorsement.
- One Magazine excerpts
- LGBTQ Activist Cleve Jones: ‘I’m Well Aware How Fragile Life Is’
- 81 Words: The story of how the American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness.
- Alan Turing, Who Cracked War Code, Receives Posthumous Pardon
- With Repeal Of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ An Era Ends
- Radiolab Presents: More Perfect - The Imperfect Plaintiffs
- Pieces Of AIDS Quilt Blanket Nation’s Capital
- Supreme Court Declares Same-Sex Marriage Legal In All 50 States
- 1968: After Dozens Of Acquittals, Police Forced To End Raids On Gay Haven
- Long A Symbol, Stonewall Inn May Soon Become Monument To LGBT Rights
- Christian Colleges Are Tangled In Their Own LGBT Policies
- In Newly Found Audio, A Forgotten Civil Rights Leader Says Coming Out ‘Was An Absolute Necessity’
- How Making History Unmade A Family
If Elected, Democratic Candidate Pete Buttigieg Would Be The Youngest President Ever
- “some people recognize the historic significance and some people don’t care, which is in a way historic”
- South Bend mayor: Why coming out matters
- Ellen: The Puppy Episode
- Oprah and Ellen Remember the History-Changing ‘Coming Out’ Episode
- Ellen DeGeneres Medal of Freedom Award 11-22-16
- Mike Pence: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Step back I think I’m gonna vomit Original
- please enjoy a Wholesome vine as your treat for learning so much today!
🔗 Let’s Chat!
What has your expedience getting acquainted with LGBTQIAP culture and history been like? What voices and stories should we be hearing?
I started a twitter thread (right below) so we can chat
recent Supreme events inspired me to write a blog about my own experience learning #lgbtqiap history— mmore500 (@mmore500) June 18, 2020
complete with a reading, viewing, & listening list I've been curating for a while now!https://t.co/qhs57whGc1
happy 🏳️🌈 everyone :)