This LGBTQ History Month the Target 10 team reflects on the past and shares a moment in history is important to each of them them.
On the evening of April 30, 1997, every LGBTQ person was determined to be in one of two places; either glued to their TV set with the VCR set to “Record” or inside any gay bar with a TV. Something incredible was about to happen. Minds were about to be blown and lives were about to be changed. And boy, our community needed some good news. The 90s, after all, sort of sucked. President Clinton signed a federal law to ensure millions of us would never marry. Intimacy between two adults of the same sex made you a criminal in most states. The military expected LGBTQ service members to not tell. And our fellow citizens elected leaders who called us disgusting degenerates from the Senate floor as thousands died from AIDS. But that spring night almost twenty years ago was a bright spot that signaled that change was coming.
As luck would have it, I never got to see it happen live. Like me, hundreds of other people decided to try and watch it at one of DC’s popular gay bars never thinking that far more of us would show up than could fit inside. But it didn’t matter. When the roar came from the bar and cheers echoed up and down 17th Street we all knew what had happened. She had said “I’m gay.” And with those words she did what she always does best. She made us happy. Thank you, Ellen.
One event that was tremendously emotional and memorable for me was when the New York State legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act on Friday, June 24, 2011 (the Friday of Pride weekend in NYC). I was enjoying happy hour with my boyfriend (my now husband) and a group of friends at the famed gay bar, The Cubby Hole, in the West Village as they broadcast the vote live. When the bill passed the entire room was overcome with emotion and elated with joy. Becoming the 7th state (8th jurisdiction when you include DC) was further proof that the fight for equality was making tremendous gains–and fast. It was the moment that I knew myself and Justin could marry legally and enjoy all of the same protections that marriage provides. Shortly after the vote passed we the made our way to the streets in front of the Stonewall Inn to celebrate. That Sunday Gov. Cuomo was the hero of the Pride parade and received the loudest cheers in recognition for pushing for what was right.
One of my most memorable queer moments was not public, but rather intensely personal: coming out to my mom. I had known I was gay pretty definitively since I was about 15, and had started pursuing that aspect of my identity via media, books, and even slipping out under false pretenses to go to LGBTQ youth nights at clubs. I had even come out to a few friends in high school, but coming out to my mom was the biggest hurdle I still hadn’t overcome. I was not going to come out in a traditional way, either; I had written my college entrance essay about my first coming out experiences with those high school friends, and my mom was demanding to read the final version of the essay prior to my submitting it. Unbelievably nervous, I printed her out a copy, handed it over, said “Enjoy,” and retreated into my bedroom. 20 minutes later, she knocked on my door, and I opened it to find her standing there with tears streaming down her face, and moments later I was being pulled into a warm, wonderful hug that lasted as long as I needed it to. It was the opening of a new chapter in our relationship, one that blossoms with each passing day, month and year, and has turned her into a staunch ally for not only me but the LGBTQ community at large, which has in turn welcomed her with arms as open as the ones she offered to me that day — a day I will always hold in my heart, and she in hers.
The most significant experience I have had as a gay man was the night that marriage equality was passed in Washington State. A few years before same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court, Washington State passed Referendum 74, which extended marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. To watch the election, some friends of mine and I got together and went to a bar up on Capitol Hill, the queer neighborhood in Seattle. We had drinks and watched results come in from around the state, and when they announced that love had won that night, a huge celebration erupted. The corner of Pine and Broadway was filled with people, music was blaring above us, champagne bottles were popping, people were dancing, some were crying with tears of joy and affirmation, couples were kissing. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I feel very lucky to have been there with my fellow queer people, having the party our community had been waiting decades to have.