We all have stories. Each of us has a secret we think is all our own.
The truth is you learn that the things you think are intimately most personal are universally most common.
Stop believing you have secrets. We have no secrets. We just have shared stories that we sometimes keep to ourselves. Each October, during gay history month, we try to illuminate some of them.
For years, gay people remained in the shadows. We were afraid of the light. No more. Not ever again. We have come to discover sunshine is the best disinfectant.
Coming out, standing up, speaking your truth — that is who we are now. It always should have been that way, but as much as our schools preach individuality, institutions demand conformity. We caved for too long. That was yesterday.
Queers are lucky. We did not fit the mold, and now we have broken it. Be proud. We have shown our mettle, and now we have gay Olympians showing their medals. From Broadway to ballfields, many Billy Porters are cutting their niche into the American landscape. It's our unique history.
Your willingness to stand up and be counted as conscientious citizens has built new lives for countless generations of gay men and women. Our legacy tomorrow and our history today have been written by your courage. Don’t let anyone ever take that away from you. It was not always an easy road. Wilton Drive was not always a rainbow.
History tells stories of the past. Forget them not in the present. Even in the 1990s, South Florida cities were not issuing proclamations celebrating gay Pride. They were raiding adult gay bookstores and busting gay bars. The infamous raid of the Copa was May 5, 1991. Ten years before that, the Ku Klux Klan was still holding rallies in Davie. Think of that today.
Two weeks ago though, gay and Black legislators, as well as city officials held a women’s empowerment march in the center of Fort Lauderdale. Times change, and we with them. In 1951, it was illegal for Blacks to be east of Federal Highway after dark.
The South Florida gay community has grown from fringe groups with bullhorns standing on the corner of the streets to owning them. Come to Wilton Drive any weekend, let alone the end of this month. In full costume, we will show our colors.
One special circle of friends to celebrate and call attention to during this month are the women of the Miss Florida International Pageant. When we celebrate the history of Stonewall, let’s not forget it was neither a party or a parade.
The Stonewall protest in 1969 in Greenwich Village was a revolt against police abuses. It was a collection of drag performers saying they will be dragged around no more. They questioned authority. They took risks. True heroes they were.
Today, SFGN celebrates you for enriching our lives in South Florida. If you are part of the greater Fort Lauderdale gay business community, you are playing a part in enriching our lives today, as others have done before you. That makes you a stakeholder in tomorrow.
Be proud of your role in building our corner of the world, whether you boldly advertised yourself as the first openly lesbian candidate for office or the first gay realtor to lead the Fort Lauderdale board. You bucked the tide, you dealt with adversity, and now you are entitled to a moment in the sun.
With every gay business that opens and advertises his entrepreneurial adventure on the pages of SFGN, you are lending authenticity to our lives and advocacy to our cause. Before there was an Our Fund to raise monies to seed our legacies, we were outsiders. Now we have a place at the table. Heck, we should. We designed most of them.
Years ago, ACT Up taught us silence equals death. We spoke up to voice our concerns, tell our stories, and light our candles. We shared our stories. There are so many. Your individual path, whether you were the son of a minister or the daughter of a police chief, is a story worth sharing. You see, what we all have in common is our very uniqueness.
We can’t all make headlines. We don’t have to. However, we can all make — and have made — headway. October is not just gay “history” month. It’s a celebration of how far we have come from being “Boys in the Band” to the leaders of it. We are architects of the new tomorrow, simply by doing righteous deeds today.
To those who are still struggling with who you want to be and where you want to go, let me share this about gay “history” month. What matters most is not where you have been. We have all had our moments. We have been there too. What matters most is where you want to go.
The history you create is yours to own and define, whether you are 20 or 200. To thine own self be true. Be who you are. Become all you can be. Make that happen and you will write your own story.
As long as you are alive, there is hope and a star waiting for you to reach it. When you are gone, there is not going to be anyone to sing your song. As a terrific American folk singer named Phil Ochs once voiced: “When I've got something to say, sir, I'm gonna say it now.” So do it now, while you have the voice, while you have the chance.