It was June, 1969 when the patrons of the Stonewall Inn resisted arrest for being in a gay bar, protested for several nights for their right to be treated with dignity, and captured the attention of the media. Though not an isolated event, we celebrate Stonewall as the beginning of the modern Gay Rights movement.
During the 70s, we had the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Pride marches and festivals sprung up around the nation and world. Minneapolis Pride was among the first in the nation and this weekend celebrates 50 years!
The gay community was evolving and forming its identity around pride, affirmation and empowerment to replace the shame and humiliation that was so engrained in our culture. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association even stopped diagnosing homosexuality as a mental illness. But, even within the movement, all was not inclusive.
“Gay” was viewed as a male term. Lesbians began to assert our own identity to the movement, as did people who identified as Bi-Sexual. Gay liberation became known as LGB. Still, this was not inclusive enough.
People who identify as Transgender asserted their rights so we became the LGBT movement. Still, this was not inclusive enough, so the broader term, “Queer” was added, which was a bit controversial as this label had been so violently weaponized over the years against our community. Still, it stuck. We became the LGBTQ community. Still, this was not inclusive enough.
People who identify as intersex, pansexual, asexual and in other ways did not feel included so we added the “+”. It seems today, we are mostly known as the LGBTQ+ community.
We have evolved toward greater inclusion of sexual minorities. But still, we are not inclusive enough.
Enter the non-binary folks who are not just looking for another label within our movement or stripe on the flag. They are seeking a whole paradigm shift for sexuality and gender identity. “They” are questioning bedrock assumptions, not only within the LGBTQ+ community, but within modern society itself.
Questioning the underlying premise of binary gender may cause us to question other polarities as well, like race, politics, geography, and everything that separates and divides us. This is risky and dangerous thinking within a culture that thrives on “us versus them” mentality.
Through their bold ideas, actions and expressions, they may hold the keys for dismantling destructive patterns of oppression and exploitation that undergird our culture and institutions.
I am grateful and proud to be part of a movement that continues to redefine itself to be more inclusive. Our community is full of visionaries, prophets and role models of authenticity who, since Stonewall, and before, have paved the way, often at great personal cost, for more kindness and compassion toward all.
If you have never been to Pride, I encourage you to go or at least spend a few minutes observing the festivities. You will come away feeling more joyful and connected. What shines through the flamboyant costumes, the feather and glitter, the Dykes on Bikes, the rainbow families and the dancing in the streets, is dignity and humanity.