As October comes to a close, so does LGBT History month.
We can only fully appreciate where we are today by looking back and not forgetting about those who helped move the needle yesterday.
Once again, SFGN partnered with the creators of the national LGBT History Project, populating our pages with rich and rewarding stories celebrating LGBT heroes, people who have distinguished themselves in a host of careers.
These gay men and women were pioneers, whose courage and conviction helped to engineer the world of equality we move closer to each day.
There have been standard bearers that carried our flag in decades past, from coast to coast, bucking the tide and challenging the status quo.
Our newspaper tries to celebrate some of the people in our own community who have achieved much over the years. My business partner, Pier Angelo, an angry old Italian, peppers our paper with a unique feature, ‘Homo History 101.’
One fundamental principle still holds today. Those who stood up, back in the ‘day’, were united in the proposition that gays and lesbians should be treated equally. We knew in our hearts and souls that discrimination was evil and unjust. It is unacceptable now, and it was intolerable then.
You read a piece about putting a permanent gay rights flag at city hall in Wilton Manors, and you think back to the day when gay bashing, not gay marriages, were the norm. But gather we did. When a national task force can hold a dinner in the Fontainebleau that attracts over a thousand people you can see how strong we have become.
One of the first gay organizations in Broward, the Tuesday Night Group met in Joe Campanella’s condominium along A1A. This small network grew and grew, eventually forming associations like Americans for Equality, the United Citizens for Human Rights, and GUARD, Gays United Against Repression and Discrimination. It was a young lawyer named Dean Trantalis who helped organize them.
The former president of the Log Cabin Club of Broward, Jack Majeske, made a good point last week. There were Republicans; there were Democrats, but all our voices spoke for equality. They were open. They were out. They had the courage of their convictions when it took guts and it counted the most.
They were people like Charlie Bado, who went on the air with the first local weekly radio show, Queer Talk, on WFTL. They were lawyers like Alan Terl, who stood before the county commission and fought for domestic partnership ordinances.
They were columnists like Marty Rubin, who brought his unique take on issues to Hot Spots Magazine weekly, and columnists like Jesse Monteagudo whose articles still appear in SFGN today. Or an Andy Eddy, ever the voice for the Log Cabin Club.
The Weekly News, TWN, under the guidance of Bill Watson, recorded South Florida’s gay history for years. Copies of them can be found in our own Stonewall Museum, along with early copies of David, the Blackbook, Scoop, 411, the Buzz, and a host of media entities that have come and gone. We feature some past covers beside my column today.
They were bar owners like Lefty, who openly showed you could be gay, proud, and strong; a bear of a man who would go boar hunting on vacations in the mountains of New York State. And there were drag queens like Dana Manchester, who would be on stage for every charitable cause you could muster.
They were activists like Tom Bradshaw, Brad Buchman and Gary Steinsmith, who became the community’s conscience on HIV and AIDS. It was a small group of people with that willpower and grit who gathered in 1984 on A1A in the Marlin Beach Hotel to form CenterOne, the agency that would become the county’s largest HIV advocacy group. There were the Tom Martins and Pedro Zamoras of this world, young activists, who would carry their torch as educators.
Somewhere in the Stonewall Museum library, I assume you will find the late Alan Terl’s ‘History of Gay and Lesbian Rights’ in South Florida. One of South Florida’s earliest advocates for authenticating domestic partnership ordinances, he was an expert on the HIV virus, and educated ever so many.
For years, Pride South Florida awarded the Karl Clark award, honoring one of our first civil rights leaders, who organized the earliest gay rights political action committees and one of the people who helped bring the Dolphin Democrats Club together.
No, there were not that many women as players, but still many worthy of mention. You can still see Robin Bodiford’s ads in our paper, and she was one of the leading ‘out’ lesbian lawyers fighting for your rights decades ago. So were Jamie Bloodworth and her partner, Bev Cothern, along with names you may have never heard of, like Lynn Mattingly.
You can’t forget the gay bar owners who have fought for your rights, too, from Jack Campbell to John Castelli. There are some like Richard Fasenmeyer, who used their wealth to provide a legacy even today, sustaining HIV foundations 15 years after his death. I owe my activism to some of them, engaged by them to go to court to stand up for your rights.
Based in greater Fort Lauderdale, SFGN’s primary focus is Broward County, but we strive to illuminate Palm Beach and Miami Dade weekly. Wherever you live, every community in every town and hamlet across America has its LGBT heroes. In rural places, some still stand up, often alone. Justice is on their side.
We all played our part and many now first do. It takes a little longer for some people to get across the baselines. That’s OK. Welcome everyone to the game. When it is your time, it is your time.
LGBT history month may celebrate some of our community’s more prominent persons, but the truth is new heroes are born every day. May you live your life in such a way today that you are one tomorrow.