Last night we kicked off Capital Pride week here in Washington, DC. The opening event is one that I love for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is held inside (gotta love the humidity here). The "Heroes" reception honors people in the DC area who have contributed to the LGBT movement and last night there was an exceptional group. In fact, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the organizers named a few "super Heroes." One was Dr. Frank Kameny.
If you do not know who he is you are in serious need of a history lesson. Frank is one of the principal founders of the modern LGBT rights movement, founder the Mattachine Society in DC and has been a vital part of so many historic moments in our movement - from removing homosexuality as a mental illness in the DSM to our fight for equal treatment in the Federal government workforce. I have always taken as an omen (a good one) that his first protest in front of the White House was held the month I was born (April, 1965, do the math).
And while the event was amazing - Frank's speech was a highlight - the most fun and fabulous part for me was volunteering to pick Frank up and take him home after. It's the least I could do for someone on whose shoulders we all stand.
We have been doing some great Stonewall 40 related work at Renna Communications and a lot of it has been about contextualizing our history. From helping the media understand that there was a lot of pre-Stonewall work happening (as Frank vocally pointed out last night) to explaining how those who did stand up so bravely to the police were from parts of our community that are still marginalized and most subject to discrimination to simply making sure that they take notice of how far we have come and how far we still need to go, it has been fun and exciting. The tragedy is that our history will not be known unless we make it known.
When I came out I was like a sponge - I read all I could find (not easy pre-Internet) since my father taught me well that knowing your history is an important thing. He grew up in Italy when Mussolini was in power - 'nuff said. So I did my gay homework and the names of Frank Kameny, Lilli Vincenz, Barbara Gittings, Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lorde and so many others were with me from the beginning of my journey, like a new family and set of ancestors.
As we approach Stonewall's 40th anniversary, I will be sure and post about the work we are doing with groups like SAGE, the Ali Forney Center, Velvet Foundation, Capital Pride and others. I know last night's car ride, which included a bit of a civics lesson, a lot of history, a great discussion on how to move marriage equality forward in the District (Frank is sooo not in any kind of activist retirement in his 80's) and the knowledge that Frank and I both grew up in Queens and went to NYC public schools, just made my month and we are only in the first week.
As I drove home after watching this superhero and icon let himself into his modest home (now officially a historical site in the District) I knew what pride really means - and what it feels like, too.