“If Athens shall appear great to you,” wrote Pericles, “consider that her glories were won simply by good men doing their duty each day.”
The real heroes of the gay revolution walked up and down Wilton Drive last Sunday. You.
Just as thousands marched in Denver last weekend, and will parade in Manhattan this Saturday, gay America has no closets anymore.
The real heroes are people who work every day as businessmen and citizens, breaking down barriers. If we list their names, we of course inadvertently omit others. But a yeoman like Bob Kecskemety cannot be forgotten. Fifteen years ago, he was editing Scoop Magazine. At the Pride Festival Sunday, which he helped coordinate, he was putting out a thousand fires.
You partied at a spectacular venue, The Manor, because businessmen Paul Hugo and Brett Tannenbaum made a multi-million dollar investment into our community, building a spectacular facility which has become the epicenter of Manors’ nightlife, hosting a fine restaurant, featuring nationally known lesbian comics one evening and a stunning five-piece band the next. Their business plan has heralded in the beginnings of New Orleans-style nightlife for our community. If city commissioners did not have their head in the sand, they would be awarding them with plaques instead of citing them with noise ordinance violations.
The real heroes of the gay revolution, like the owners of Georgie’s Alibi, Sidelines and the New Moon Saloon, invest back in the community by sponsoring gay sports teams, funding charities, and opening their venues to social functions for the rest of the community. Of course, there are the Dan Chois who push the envelope on DADT by protesting at the White House. Still greater are men like Frank Kameny, whose five-decade-old battle to allow gays to serve openly in the military was honored in D.C. this week when a street was named after him.
Speaking of D.C., when he is not acting as a fleet manager for a local car dealership, Michael Albetta is fighting for the dignity of human rights in political circles. Along with Paul Hyman, the director of the GLCC, he is amongst those invited to the White House this week to celebrate gay pride. President Obama has done more than invite gay citizens to an Easter egg hunt. He has appointed gays and lesbians as United States District Court judges, U.S. marshals, and U.S attorneys. As gays and lesbians find a place at the table, we see ourselves emerge as candidates for congress and judicial office. It was no small surprise then to see openly gay candidates like Justin Flippen hosting a booth at the Pride festival or gay jurists shaking hands while campaigning openly for re-election.
The real heroes of the gay revolution go to work in schools every day, and they teach our community about compassion and caring, in hospitals as nurses, in clinics as caregivers, and in classrooms as teachers talking about tolerance. We can walk proudly in a parade in the sun on a hot summer day with our shirts off, but we can be more proud of what we are achieving on weekdays with our shirts on.
Every community has its heroes and its history. Our history and our legacy in South Florida were written by men and women like Gary Steinsmith, Alan Terl, Dr. John Graves, and Jamie Bloodworth, in places like Center One and the Marlin Beach Hotel. The aspirations of those who are gone are fulfilled by those who are here, and preserved in places like the Stonewall Library and the Sunshine Cathedral.
There was a time and era when gay men and women met in small rooms to chart out bold plans. Today, we meet in large halls to map out small victories. There are still battles to be won, and causes to be fought. Anti-gay violence still exists. HIV still populates our community. Laws insuring that gays and lesbians are not discriminated against but treated equally are still awaiting passage in legislatures.
No matter how much you have done, there is more you can still do. The real heroes are You, the community, and each other. You are only limited by the boundaries of your imagination. Margaret Mead said it best years ago when she suggested there is nothing a small group of committed people cannot achieve. Stand your ground and there abide, and the whole world will come to you.