When the staff members and directors of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives were looking for a home for their new gallery, they realized they had a problem.
“The biggest problem is we’re not in the gay community. We were two miles away [in Fort Lauderdale] but we weren’t really accomplishing our mission,” said David Jobin, Stonewall’s executive director.
“It’s important [this gallery be] where gay tourism is already centered.”
Located at 2157 Wilton Drive, Stonewall Gallery Wilton Manors opened temporarily in March with the week-long exhibit "The Times of Our Lives: LGBT People and Issues on the Cover of Time Magazine.” A permanent opening took place in June, just in time for the city’s annual Stonewall festival.
Since then, exhibits have included “Days without Sunshine: Anita Bryan’s Anti-Gay Crusade” a retrospective of the former beauty queen and Florida orange juice spokeswoman who led the repeal of Dade County’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 1977. Miami-Dade didn’t reinstate its anti-discrimination ordinance until 1997.
Jobin said the mission of the Gallery is to teach the LGBT community about its own history, the good and the bad. “You learn about your history at home, but most LGBT people weren’t raised by LGBT parents. So who is going to teach us that history if we’re not getting it inside that home?”
Michael Rajner, local community and LGBT rights activist, said the Gallery filled a much-needed role in the city’s cultural landscape.
“It’s one of the things we’ve been really missing on The Drive. While we have art galleries and studios one of the things we’re really missing, for a community and city that has such a high concentration of LGBT individuals, was something about our culture. It’s a great opportunity to introduce people to how rich our struggle is for equality.”
The Gallery is divided into two halves: one side features semi-permanent items, such as the gavel used by Nancy Pelosi when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in 2010. It was donated by Rep. Barney Frank. Also included is a timeline that features members of the LGBT community and LGBT-themed events. Featured this month is actress and comedian Lily Tomlin, who married her longtime partner, Jane Wagner, on Dec. 31, 2013.
The other half is devoted to temporary exhibits. From now until October 19, “Transcending Gender Glossary & Etiquette” is the featured exhibit. The exhibit includes a timeline of transgender and cross-dressing events and people, including Chaz Bono and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of men who dress as nuns to raise money for charity and to spotlight moral issues within society and the Catholic church. Also included are newspaper clippings highlighting individuals who were fired for being transgender.
For more information, visit stonewall-museum.org. The Stonewall Gallery Wilton Manors is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 2 to 10 p.m. and closed on Mondays.