Stonewall Moments in the African American Community

By: Evelyn Bailey

In the month after Rochester Celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, Shoulders To Stand On will recognize members of the African American community that lived their Stonewall moments before and after 1969 and helped to shape the legacy of Frederick Douglass.  What is a Stonewall Moment? A moment in time when you raise your voice to resist discrimination, oppression and prejudice. When you are empowered to move beyond these barriers to take your rightful place in today’s society with dignity and respect.   

The Rochester community has always been part of a region that has been a powerful voice for dignity and civil rights: a region built on the quest of people seeking to better their lives with opportunities to express free thought, innovation, education and worship. Today, we “stand on the shoulders” of many heroes who made Rochester a city that celebrates diversity and has often set benchmarks for civil liberties throughout the nation. But, even as history is made, history remains fragile and can be quickly lost.

And so we remember.

The Rochester region is well-known for its ties to former slave, abolitionist, orator, and publisher Frederick Douglass, who made his home here in Rochester from 1847 to 1872. Aside from its well-deserved place in abolitionist history, however, Rochester has a rich and varied past that is alive with stories of notable African-American citizens who helped contribute to a more progressive way of thinking not only in Rochester, but in Western New York and the state as a whole. There is Asa Dunbar, said to be the first African-American settler, who cleared land for his farm in Irondequoit (near present-day Winton Road North) in 1795. Austin Steward, a runaway slave who came to Rochester in 1816 and opened his own meat market on what is now West Main Street. Frank Stewart, who started the first African-American baseball team in 1866, called the Unexpected. (Frederick Douglass’s son Charles is rumored to have been a member.) Activist Hester C. Jeffrey came to Rochester in 1891 and founded a number of local African-American women’s clubs, including the Susan B. Anthony Club for Colored Women.  Isabella Dorsey incorporated the Dorsey Home for Dependent Colored Children in 1917. Dr. Charles T. Lunsford, Rochester’s first licensed African-American physician, opened his private practice at 574 Clarissa Street in 1921. The following year, Dr. Van Tuly Levy became the first licensed African-American dentist in Rochester. The city’s first African-American architect, Thomas Boyde, Jr., joined the Siegmund Firestone Architectural Firm in 1930. Boyde was the chief architect for the Monroe Community Home and Infirmary and contributed to the design of the Rundel Memorial Library, the Great Lake Press Building, and the Strathallan, to name a few. In 1931, Beatrice Amaza Howard earned the distinction of being the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Rochester. Howard Coles, who founded the Frederick Douglass Voice newspaper in 1934, was a noted historian, journalist, activist, and expert on the writings of Frederick Douglass. In 1948, Charles Henry Price became the first 

Roc. African-Americans CC20162 African-American member of the Rochester Police Department.  Price became the first African-American captain in the department 30 years later. Kathryn Green Hawkins, the first African-American woman in the Rochester Police Department in 1956, was promoted to lieutenant in 1964. Dr. Freddie Thomas, scientist, inventor, biologist, and scholar, moved to Rochester in 1952 and is known for his pioneering research in genetics and plastic surgery at the University of Rochester.Internationally renowned, Tony Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan moved to Rochester in 1970. He still resides in Rochester, serving as Artistic Director and President of Garth Fagan Dance.(Sources: Rochester History(various issues); African-American Who’s Who, Past & Present, Greater Rochester Area, 1998.)  Excerpted from Rochester’s African-American History, Research Guide, Central Library of Rochester, and Monroe County.

These are only a few of the many unique individuals in Rochester’s African American history who helped contribute not only to Rochester’s growth as a city, but also to its reputation in the advancement of science, technology, scholarship, the arts and its struggle for equality and justice for all. 

Shoulders to Stand On is proud of these African American Rochester citizens, and invites the Rochester community to provide the Shoulders to Stand On Program with information, stories, names and anecdotes about African American individuals, groups, organizations, and agencies that participated in the Gay Liberation Movement before and after Stonewall.  These individuals were and continue to be involved in the Rochester LGBTQ’s community struggle for justice, equality, and basic human rights. Their contributions are important and need to be documented to make Rochester’s history and the history of Gay Rigts in Rochester inclusive and more complete. Please contact Evelyn Bailey at evelynb@outalliance.com with any information about the African American community’s involvement in the Gay Liberation Movement in Rochester.  

As the end of summer approaches don’t forget Rochester Black Pride Retro September 4 – 8, 2019.  For more information go to: https://www.rocblackpride.com/.

Living with a Disability in the Gay Community

By: Claudia Olson 

Growing up with a visible physical disability, I was taught to live resiliently in a world that wasn’t built for me. I was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism that limits my growth and mobility. I have always been open about my disability as it relates to my identity because it was impossible to hide. However, I could avoid any additional adversity by hiding another part of my identity: my sexuality. Though I realized that I was gay at an early age, I did not come out until I graduated from high school. I could not choose to be gay but I could choose to live without the label. 

In high school, I was bullied for my disability but I could avoid further discrimination by pretending I was straight. Although my school district was performatively ‘progressive’, genuine acceptance was an unspoken privilege that only the students who were already privileged could access. Everyone else was ostracized if they proudly displayed any kind of queerness. Since my high school had no real gay community and my performative heterosexuality didn’t attract any guys, I resigned myself to a life without romance. I did not even consider dating until I arrived at Smith College, a historically women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts. Both the college and the town have a reputation for being very welcoming to the gay community. Even though I was surrounded by gay women, I still felt isolated from the dating pool around me because of my own insecurities. 

I started to convince myself that I could spend my life alone and be perfectly happy, because what able-bodied person would be perfectly happy dating me? Would anyone be willing to hold hands with someone a foot and a half shorter than them or be comfortable with bending down to kiss their partner? Despite my internalized biases, I decided to take a shot at romance before I left Smith for the summer. I cut my hair, took some cute pictures and created a Tinder profile to start looking for my special someone. Only a few days after creating my profile, I matched with a girl from Mount Holyoke, Smith’s neighboring women’s college, and I set up a date with her the following weekend. I was incredibly nervous about it but the date ended up being better than I could ever imagine. She and I went to dinner then talked for hours in a public garden as the sun set. At the end of the date, I had my first kiss on the front steps of my residence hall. Within a few weeks, she was my ‘girlfriend’, my first ever relationship. I was falling for her but there was still a quiet voice in the back of my head anxiously telling me that she didn’t reciprocate my feelings. I could not tell whether she was put off by my short stature but I had to remind myself that our relationship is about much more than our height difference. It’s about discovering what female intimacy can look like and learning how to navigate a same-sex relationship. She came from a similar background as me, growing up in a high school that was not homophobic but not very gay-friendly either. We are still figuring out how dating is supposed to work but I am excited to see where our journey goes. 

After entering into my first relationship, I began to realize that my insecurities originated from widespread yet unspoken societal biases. Because of my disability, one that causes me to be the same height as an average kindergartener, people don’t often consider me as a potential partner. They see my disability as a deficit, something that makes me less attractive.

Often, I am seen as an asexual being with no desire for romance. No able-bodied partner wants to lower their standards to help my self-esteem so they disregard my sexuality entirely. However, these beliefs are all based upon stigma. No one acknowledges that disabled people can be just as attractive and sexy as able-bodied people and no one realizes that an able-bodied person can genuinely love their disabled partner. Unfortunately, most people don’t actually witness this kind of love so their misconceptions are not challenged. If I had not grown up seeing the happy marriage between my father, who is able-bodied, and my mother, who is a little person, I may have completely ruled out the notion that an able-bodied person could truly love me. 

These misconceptions are so prevalent because the mainstream media does nothing to disprove them. Stories about people with disabilities, especially those regarding their romantic pursuits, are not nearly as widespread as they should be. 

When they are told, they are often either tragedies or mockish portrayals, and rarely does a disabled actor get to play a role. Rather, able-bodied actors take the part of disabled people so they can win awards and be praised for telling an ‘inspirational true story’. I have never seen a gay disabled love story, let alone one told by an actual disabled person, until this year. In 2019, “Special” debuted on Netflix, a television show written and starring Ryan O’Connell, a gay man with cerebral palsy. I was incredibly excited by his groundbreaking work. It gives me hope that more stories like mine, like Ryan’s, like other gay disabled people’s, can be told and heard. I wrote this piece so I can be a part of this movement, even in a small way. I don’t want anyone with a disability to grow up believing that they can’t find love because the media doesn’t tell them that they can. I want to work towards a world where disabled love is not a stigmatized idea but a beautiful reality. If I am lucky enough, I hope to live in this beautiful reality someday.

Pride on Ice by Chris Allman

By: Chris Allman

Are you a fan of ice hockey, and have always wanted to learn how to play the game? Or perhaps you played growing up, and always wished that there was an LGBTQIA hockey organization in Rochester that could fill that void while creating a new social outlet for you?
I am happy to inform you that if either of these are true for you, Rochester Pride Hockey is here, and we are hoping that you’ll get involved!
The entire concept of Rochester Pride Hockey came full circle after I moved to Rochester in July 2018 after living in Madison, Wisconsin for a little over 2 years. During my time in Madison, I was fortunate enough to lace up my skates and get involved with the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA). The organization was created to provide ice hockey opportunities to our community and over time had built itself up to a full 10-team league. The MGHA has successfully created a positive, inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQIA community to get together and play what I personally believe to be the greatest sport on earth – ice hockey.
I was fortunate enough to grow up playing the game and eventually began officiating, which turned into a 20-year career for me. While the perception of most sports is less than ideal when it comes to inclusion, the game of ice hockey certainly goes against that grain. I have been heavily involved at both the amateur and professional levels of hockey, and I have always found nothing but incredible levels of support and understanding as an openly gay participant of the game.
While working full time as a referee, I met Chris Woodworth, who worked beside me for many years, and was too an openly gay man. We became great friends, and while he got out of the game sooner than I did, we remained in touch ever since – which brings me back to the point in my story of when I moved to Rochester.
In July of 2018, Chris offered me a position working with the team at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, where he has been acting as General Manager since 2012. The idea of creating an inclusive hockey organization in Rochester was something he had desired for many years, so once I was onboard at the Iceplex, the concept of Rochester Pride Hockey was born.
To grow this organization, we knew that we would need to teach new adults the game of hockey, and also identify LGBTQIA players in the community in an effort to make them aware of this opportunity.
The challenge that adults face in getting involved in the game late in life is that traditionally there are no programs catered to that group, as all opportunities to learn the game are designed for children. I was pleased to learn that the Iceplex had been running an adult learn to play hockey program for many years, one that has taught over 1,200 adults the game since 2012, called the Never Ever League.
This program is widely successful and is set in an insanely positive environment. For that reason, it echoed the exact tones of how Rochester Pride Hockey would operate, so we naturally partnered up with the Never Ever League as a means of teaching Rochestarians how to play hockey, and get involved with Rochester Pride Hockey.
If you are an adult that is new to the game and have an interest in learning more about this great program, visit our website and read the information provided on the Never Ever League. You will learn all about this great opportunity to get in the game, but will also be able to take advantage of the special discounted price for registration that is exclusive to Rochester Pride Hockey (RPH20 will get you 20% off).
In an effort to locate existing players that are currently in our community, we are hopeful that this article will assist. We will be holding a friendly pick-up game of hockey at the Iceplex on Sunday, August 11 th starting at 1:30 pm. Any players out there that would like to participate in RPH are urged to attend for some friendly fun on the ice. We will also be holding an informational session afterwards to inform all about our plans for this new initiative in Rochester. The Iceplex Adult Hockey League is also having their championship games for the summer session afterwards so everyone can watch some action!
Our website is full of information, so anyone that is interested should visit us there (rochesterpridehockey.com) and are welcome to reach out to us through the website with any questions.
In addition, we will be present at this year’s Rochester Pride activities and will be available to chat face to face, answer any questions, and share our vision for Rochester Pride Hockey.
Not only is the game of ice hockey a sport that I strongly feel is the most skilled and action packed of them all, it also does something that very few sports do – it creates incredibly strong bonds for those who play, acts as a positive social structure that makes life more enjoyable, and is great exercise to boot.
Hockey has played a huge positive influence and addition to my life, and I look forward to being able to share those opportunities with the LGBTQIA community in Rochester so that it can do the same for others!

Gay Is… by Stephen Schwei

Gay is the boy who just started working with flowers

and gestures so immaculately that everyone has always known

that he is a gay boy.  He loves his job, you can tell. 

 

Gay is the big guy in the “Daddy Issues” t-shirt or dozens 

of other beefy bears, secure and confident in their image and eager

to meet more of their own kind, blocking the way and laughing in their groups.

 

Gay takes your breath away when it’s a crowd out for Pride,

partying and celebrating and truly proud of being who we are,

taking over the city or the world as one large group in solidarity.

 

Gay is just out with friends, frivolous and inconsequential,

dancing the night away, sipping cocktails, oblivious to any struggle

or history.  Put the movement away for a Saturday night, and have some fun.

 

Gay is the emotional roller coaster that grabs people and makes them find

whatever their identity will be.  When they finally find love, it will be the high

of their lives.  When they meet with the bullies and persecutors, take cover.

 

Gay is the 40 year old married man, finally figuring it out

and the lesbian couple finding each other in the oddest of places,

love surfacing and surviving against the harshest of obstacles.

 

Gay are the old couples who have fought the long battles

and won the rights and privileges that we can almost take for granted.

Secure in each other’s arms, fending off any new attempts at oppression.

 

Gay is the Stonewall Inn and the night of fuming desperation,

when drag queens, transgender people, and black boys finally fought back,

to claim what should have been theirs all along, safety and security.

 

Gay is the Pulse nightclub, just out to let loose and some drugged-up dancing,

gunned down senselessly and targeted shamelessly

for daring to love and party with the people who share their lives.

 

Gay is gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, queer, inquiring, and so many other things.

Gender fluid and an encyclopedia of sexual interests and proclivities. 

Finding our own, fitting in and figuring out exactly what turns us on.

 

Gay is drag, puppies, and swishy boys, not everything making you as proud

as you’d like to be, but testing your tolerance, whether you identify with them or not.

They don’t have to represent you as long as you represent yourself.

 

(This is only a small excerpt.  Please see the full poem at getoutmag.com/gay-is/)

Empanadas: Uncrustables for Big People by Reilly Hirst

The Empanada Shop

642 Monroe Ave

Rochester, NY 14607

 

Empanadas for those not familiar are like Uncrustables that are cooked for big people.  Empanadas have a long history. Galicia, a fascinating region of Spain, which has influences of Gaelic culture (perhaps why the similarities to pasties) and holds a festival each year.  The name empanadas means to coat with bread (empanar): think sandwich with a safety handle that has been fried.

 

The ones at the Empanada Shop have the most variety I’ve seen in a long while.  The Empanada Shop consistently has on average 25 flavors of empanada fillings that they are constantly slightly adjusting.  I often get the Basura, a shredded stewed beef, with the Green Plantain. I had the Lime Cilantro Chicken the other day which was dense with chicken and seasoned with the lime and cilantro.  The Squash was simply well seasoned. The Steak and Shrimp, in contrast, was in a cream sauce and lovely. Other shops have more traditional types, and those that cater to Rochester expectations (Beef and Onion or Pizza for example).  

The Empanada Shop is easy to miss.  It’s in the same block as Aladdin’s and has a “humble” storefront.  When you walk inside it is not fancy, but is clean, brightly lit and has ample space.  Turquoise/Aqua colored chairs with blond wood table tops and light walls help brighten the dining room in grey Rochester. There’s a tree and a bamboo tiki bar not doing much in particular.  

Most get their food to go and you can tell as it is often empty of patrons with phone orders sitting to the side waiting for pick up. 

 

The combinations that I get most often are either the $5.55 one empanada and one side combo or the more often the dinner combo for $10 with 2 empanadas and 2 sides and then split with my best friend.  The yellow rice and the plantains are my sides of choice. I hear the Yucca Fries are worthwhile and I like Yucca Fries in general. 

 

What I would also say is that while these are the best empanadas in Rochester, they are not the best empanadas.  The dough for these empanadas is not dissimilar to the one at the market. Both remind me of the dough on the apple pie at McDonald’s when they still used to fry it: hard, too thick, not particularly flavorful with air pockets and a mild toughness.

Empanadas in other places have a dough that is thinner, more the texture of actual pie crust and sometimes are in fact baked.  This factor alone means that I cannot eat these empanadas every day, as they tend to be greasy and not easy to digest. But I genuinely like them and have barely touched the menu options.  There are also full dinners, sandwiches, Arepas (I buy the side one with nothing on it), etc. as well as a case of beverages. The Empanada Shop is worth visiting if you like turnovers or pasties at all.  Oh also, they are actually cooked by someone who is Columbian so do not have the white people making “ethnic” food issue that is so prevalent throughout Rochester. Go for the adventure, what do you have to lose, except a boring meal? Enjoy!

Stonewall Was A RIOT: Gran Fury’s Activism Through Art

By: Erin Hayes

In 2015, Pride Month was charged with joyful energy in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Flags reading “Love is Love” waved in the summer heat and people marched in shirts that proudly declared “Love wins!”

But as we observe the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it’s important to remember that we’re not just fighting for the right to love. We’re also fighting for the right to exist.

It’s fitting then that, on June 2, the RIOT mural was unveiled by artist collective Gran Fury at New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center. The piece is a 96″ x 96″ recreation of the painting originally created by Gran Fury artist Mark Simpson (d. 1996).

“RIOT calls to mind the battles that the LGBTQ community has fought over the past 50 years, including those it still fights today,” said Glennda Testone, the executive director of The Center, in an interview with The Body, an HIV/AIDS Resource.

“Especially as the eyes of the world turn to New York for WorldPride, this is a vital reminder that our struggle to secure equity and justice for all within our community is far from over,” said Testone.

Gran Fury was an AIDS activist artist collective created in 1988 by 11 artists. Members included Amy Heard, Marlene McCarty, Robert Vazquez-Pacheco, Richard Elovich, Avram Finkelstein, Tom Kalin, John Lindell, Loring McAlpin, Donald Moffett, Michael Nesline, and the late Mark Simpson.

Gran Fury described themselves as a band of individuals united in anger who were dedicated to using art to end the AIDS crisis. 

The group used powerful historical images to create posters, billboards, stickers, T-shirts, photographs, and postcards for provocative and informative political public projects.

The goal of Gran Fury was to circulate information about AIDS to the masses, and circulate they did. Some of the most iconic LGBTQ art pieces came from Gran Fury including SILENCE = DEATH, Let The Record Show, “Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do,” and Venice Biennale (the “Pope Piece”). All the Gran Fury artwork is in the public domain and can be found on www.granfury.org.

Gran Fury placed their art in non-traditional art spaces by using billboards, fliers, and posters. They wanted to push political figures such as Ronald Reagan, then New York Mayor Ed Koch, and John Cardinal O’Connor to address the AIDS pandemic openly in a more practical way with more information provided to the public.

Gran Fury disbanded in 1995 because they felt their art strategies weren’t able to communicate what they needed to about the AIDS crisis. But their artwork has continued to be a source of inspiration for activism.

Before the group disbanded, one of the founding members of Gran Fury, Mark Simpson, painted the RIOT piece as a part of the group’s first overseas exhibition in Germany. Simpson painted the piece in response to an AIDS wallpaper project that was based on Robert Indiana’s LOVE painting.

Avram Finkelstein, in an interview with The Body, said Gran Fury disagreed with the wallpaper project because, without context, it appeared to say that love led to AIDS. The general idea of the RIOT piece, Finkelstein said, was that if love leads to AIDS, then AIDS leads to riot.

Although the original painting, a 6′ x 6′ mural, went missing while it was moved around for exhibitions, the newest mural is even larger at 8 feet and is just as incredible.

RIOT grew out of the AIDS crisis in the late 80s when every gay person in New York felt under attack,” the Gran Fury collective said during the unveiling of the RIOT mural. “Even though antiretroviral therapy that activism pressed for has alleviated the crisis for some people, our battles are not over, even for HIV/AIDS.”“We salute all those in the LGBT community who continue to fight for our rights and equal treatment,” Gran Fury continued. “Stonewall was a RIOT.”

Out in Syracuse: P.R.I.D.E. By LoriKim Alexander

By LoriKim Alexander

As long as I’ve been out and going to Pride it’s never felt like it was for me. Never. It’s been for gay white men with gym bodies in hot pants and body oil and all the subsets of gay white male culture. How’d that happen, I wonder? I mean, Pride began with a riot against police brutality. Right? But even then, Pride was extra white and they booed our foremothers Marsha P. and Sylvia Rivera when they talked. They ignored Storme because she was nothing but a woman in a nice suit. 

So let’s talk real facts right now. In Syracuse, Pride was held on the same day as Juneteenth for years. It was also lacking adequate disability access and folks complained to the CNY Pride board about it for years.  We at BlackCuse Pride tried to talk to the board for three years about this, but it fell on deaf ears as excuses were made and racist rhetoric prevailed. With the support of the Vera House Pride Coalition (a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ Syracuse through the Coalition in ways they cannot by themselves), we were able to get CNY Pride to move the date of pride away from the date of Juneteenth. This should not have taken the amount of labor from us queer Black people that it did. The anti-Blackness that comes with this is inexcusable. 

We are holding CNY Pride to this commitment to never again hold Pride on the same date as Juneteeth and remain cautiously optimistic that they will come out on the right side of this. We will remain a constant reminder that our demand for recognition of personhood is not militancy, privilege is not a virtue, and true allyship is never about the ally. 

That said we made further demands to hold space within Pride for trans and queer Black Indigenous and People of Color; the Soul of Pride. We called it the Soul of Pride and used the space to educate folks on the history of the Stonewall Uprising, the fact that we Black and Brown trans and queer people have always been the vanguard of movements even though we have never been centered in them… not until the Movement for Black Lives. We had POC vendors who would not have been able to access the festival otherwise; we turned our tent into a day party, lounge and educational space. It was a refuge and a revelation. 

The power and magnitude of this year run deeper than the 50 years that have passed since those days in the summer of 1969. This year is the 400th anniversary of the forced migration of African peoples to the European colonies of the west. It is, therefore, the year of return for all African Diasporic people. The blood stirs at the thought of all this magic. I feel my ancestors calling me home. 

All of this makes me well up with pride. But, what we celebrate today most often brings the opposite. For QTBIPOC folks Pride means exclusion. For us Black and Brown folks, it means we create our own magic within these commercialized parties that have nothing to do with us. How can we turn this around? How do we find the pride we deserve and become the true legacy of our ancestors? Let’s spell it out…

P  is for police involvement. If we want Pride celebrations to be truly celebratory for everyone and have any framework for moving forward in queer liberation we must divest from police involvement at all costs. Police forces routinely cause more harm than good at Pride events. And how can we expect to feel free when we are surrounded by the arm of oppression that routinely murders, brutalizes and harasses us? How will we get free if we do not consistently call attention to the hypocrisy and injustice that comes with allowing police to march with us and having them boxing us in during our events?  

R is for riot. The Stonewall Uprising was a full-on RIOT, fam. A riot. Have any of you ever been anywhere near a riot? Think about the energy of a days long riot, during the late sixties, when there are no LGBTQ+ centers, no shelters, no protections for Black people, women, queer people, and absolutely none for trans, two-spirit or gender non-conforming folks. Folks picked up any weapons they could, even if it was just their bodies and voices and hurled them at the cops who week after week, night after night, preyed on them. Think about someone stopping you on the street to check your underwear. They still do that, but now they also ask for ID and it’s all still fully legal. We need to invoke those days because complacency is killing us and the reality of this is lost on the most privileged of us. I’ll be honest and say that R also stands for reparations, and ride… because you cannot keep riding our backs, utilizing us only when you want to perform allyship or when white folks want someone to say something about Blackness, Native ways, and people of color in general so that you can get your grant or kudos from other white folks. For trans and queer people to get truly free, you have to stand up for the most marginalized of us. Black trans women are being killed at an epidemic rate. Where are the riots? I don’t want to see sad faces on facebook, or hashtags on t-shirts and statuses. We need full-on direct action to push social change. 

I is for intersectionality. We are lots of identities and those of us who are de-centered often sit at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. The only way Pride can be celebrated is if we honor that there is no homogenous way to be trans or queer and that you cannot talk about our issues without bringing the other daily realities we face into play. Racism within and outside of our LGBTQ+ communities exists, misogyny comes in cis and trans male too. If folks can’t realize that we are an ally to someone somewhere and that we must all work to be with them in struggle and become accomplices then what do we have to be proud of? Not to negate work that’s been done, but to shine a light on the fact that there’s more to do. We cannot keep talking about diversity without recognizing that the word has no meaning without the people it represents. And, please, recognize that we need hard tangible options for embracing our intersections. So, don’t include folks, build your pride around folks and with folks. Don’t invite me to something that you made for you, but I can join in too. 

D is for divest from corporate involvement. Corporations do not care about us. They do not. If they did, they wouldn’t just show up at Pride and leave us high and dry the rest of the year. If they cared about us they would seek us out and offer sponsorship and funding for the work we do to sustain our communities. Corporations do not meet the demands we have for living free. They cannot. Pride everywhere around this country should be supporting and supported by queer businesses, entrepreneurs and local mom and pops. 

E is for economic justice. You cannot hold Pride and not support folks who are struggling to survive in this world. When it’s time for Pride we make calls for the “community” to come out. What about those who cannot make it, or take 2 buses and don’t eat so they can make it. Will we charge them for entrance? Will we have affordable meals? Are they worthy of being proud too? Again, most often, those of us we hold in words, but not actions, our trans and queer family who’ve been abandoned by theirs, are the ones who won’t be able to make it out because they have to survive. Will you open your boards to them? Will you provide jobs in your non-profits will you plan with them in mind? 

I’m not interested in a Pride that I can’t be proud of. And I’m battle weary from fighting. So please, spend this year until next pride season honestly calling in communities you have routinely dismissed. 

Community Profile: Laura Baumbach: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur

I first met award-winning author Laura Baumbach years ago at a Toronto Pride street fair. She had a booth promoting her books. “Do you have any books about gay vampires?” I asked. It turns out she has plenty. 

People may say there is dissonance with a woman writing about gay male vampires and their romances, erotic and otherwise. But wait! She also writes about werewolves, time travelers, pirates, drug cartels, black ops leaders, biker bars, and bounty hunters; all these stories with plots revolving around gay male adult romances. Her website notes Laura writes “to the beat of a different drummer.” 

My first question was “How does a straight woman know what gay men do in bed? Your descriptions are so… accurate…or so my friends tell me!” (We share a laugh).  “I feel an affinity with gay men” she replied. “I feel comfortable with it. I think I understand it as much as a straight woman can. Gay men do a lot of the things same straight women do. (Pause) Liking men is something we have in common!” (I giggle).

Laura Baumbach, dignified in appearance and manner, is a prolific, soft-spoken author, publisher, and entrepreneur living in Albion, NY.  It is unlikely people would guess she spends summer weekends cruising the area with her family on her Can-Am Spyder motorcycle. While not beginning her writing career until after turning forty, Ms. Baumbach has written scores of novels, novellas, short stories, and screenplays. Her body of work revolves around M/M Romance (male/male). She has been lauded in Rolling Stone magazine as “one of M/M’s premier authors”. Her paperbacks, eBooks, Kindle books, and Audio books can be found on Amazon. 

 Baumbach never had a goal to become an author. Her chosen field was trauma room nursing. She began writing Fan Fiction online when two children came into her life, one needing adult protection twenty-four hours a day. Feeling isolated and in need of adult interaction, she began writing and developed a following. Soon she was trauma room nurse weekends, Mom by weekday, and writer by night. 

Breaking into print media was a struggle. While Romance novels are a genre, the topics were almost always Female/Male Romance relationships.  Male/Male Romance relationships were a tiny segment of the industry, treated as the “black sheep” of publishing. “I think it’s ridiculous you can’t celebrate love in all its dimensions,” Laura said.  Baumbach was not taken seriously by traditional Romance writers groups who defined Romance relationships as between a man and a woman. (Since changed as Romance between two people.) She was treated with some suspicion by gay groups who did not understand her motives.  An advocate for the gay community, Laura says “The reason I do this is to gain acceptance for gay rights, gay people, gay relationships.” Indeed, her characters present gay men as heroes and the good guys. 

Finding a chilly reception in the establishment “status quo” Baumbach gathered together “a small, select group of talented authors and skilled artists” and founded Man Love Romance Press, LLC (MLR Press).  While many small independent presses are closing due to financial constraints, MLR Press continues to flourish by “keeping it skinny” and having talented writers. As a final note, Laura says that a large segment of the M/M Gay Romance audience is straight women. It is these women who can take Laura’s message of inclusion and acceptance to their husbands, sons, brothers, and boyfriends. 

Currently, Laura Baumbach’s work entitled “Dark Side of the Moon” is included in Mystic Realms Romance Collection. She was the only M/M Romance writer invited to submit work. 

Pride’s Magic By Isadora Akemi Bugan

By: Isadora Akemi Bugan

Every June, my family and I would awake to the joyful cacophony of loud cheering, pop music, and party floats. There, parading through the avenue below, were thousands upon thousands of LGBTQ people marching, demanding their rights and celebrating Pride. I would spend all day on my tiptoes, when I was still so short that the balcony’ handrail obstructed my view. The street as I knew it was transformed: just the previous night, the avenue had been mostly quiet, or as quiet as a busy street in a city of 12 million can be. Now, it had turned into a huge, colorful event; with giggling same-sex couples, rainbow flags and flamboyant queens who danced atop enormous floats.  It was as if the entire street had fallen under a spell. 

Years later, when I realized that I was bisexual and came out, Pride became associated with an entirely different kind of magic in my mind. Pride became an opportunity for me to be myself, to celebrate the battles for rights that the LGBTQ population had won and fight for the many we are still fighting. Since I still lived in my childhood home and I have a wonderful, accepting mother; during the week of Sao Paulo Pride my house became the HQ for all my LGBTQ friends and acquaintances. Instead of watching from the porch, I started attending the Pride Parade itself and the various events associated with it. Still, even then, the details behind the scenes still eluded me.

Through life’s twists and turns, I ended up coming all the way from the tropical beaches of Brazil to the freezing and never-ending winters of Rochester. Though I am sad to miss Sao Paulo Pride for the first time in my life, I am excited to be interning at the Out Alliance and learning all the hard work that goes into creating the ‘magic’ event that I adored so much in my childhood. 

What I once thought was a spell turned out to be much more complicated: boxes upon boxes of flyers to be folded, a massive amount of meetings, a seemingly endless list of tasks to be done with increasing urgency. However, despite all the hard work, I can’t help but become increasingly excited to experience my first Roc Pride and hope that everyone is able to experience a little bit of the ‘magic’ of this wonderful event.

Outlook: (Love) Letter To Mayor Pete

By: Ron Blake

Here’s a letter to Mayor Pete. This is kind of like the letter that outgoing Presidents leave behind in the Oval Office for the incoming Commander-in-Chief. It’s advice from a guy who has a shared experience with you. 

I also grew up in northern Indiana and graduated high school as the All-American guy with good grades, scholarships, and a gregarious personality. I attended the local Catholic Church and was active in the youth group. I returned from college and was quickly elected to my hometown city council.

My family and friends were so proud. I was on my way and was prepared to do what I had always imagined doing. A life of public service to my community and country.

But in 2004, I withdrew my candidacy for County Commissioner. I had a big secret. I am gay. And I was confronted about that. And most of Indiana and the country wasn’t OK with gays in public office then. I was crushed and confused about my identity. My career was put on hold.

And now 15 years later is where you come in, Mayor Pete. Your Presidential campaign brings back memories for not just me; but for all the LGBTQ people before you who never got their chance as candidates because of struggles with sexual orientation.

As your campaign moves forward, you will be challenged to fight by more people along the trail. They won’t care about the issues. Just that you are gay. There will be many moments to fight back. 

But please don’t. Anger and hate begets anger and hate. We have too much of that already. 

God knows so many of us in the LGBTQ community want so badly to see you in fight mode. We have faced an abundance of abuse over so many decades and centuries. Beatings, bullying, and discrimination. It’s only normal to want you to punch back. 

But please don’t. Stay focused on the issues. Society is better when we don’t give in to hate.

Over 72 years ago, Jackie Robinson was the first black player in major league baseball to take the field. There was intense opposition to him being in the game. 

Jackie Robinson eventually won over many fans. He was an excellent ball player who helped the Dodgers win numerous pennants and a World Series. There’s nothing like talent and results to get people to forget over time why they dislike you.

Just like Jackie, you have so much talent and many accomplishments. People will see this. You too have the ability to get people to forget why they don’t like you. Just keep being you and keep bringing the results.

You have a lot of folks behind you. Not just from the LGBTQ community. Not just from the Democrats. You have all those individuals who want to see the guy with knowledge and skills overcome hate and anger. The true underdog story. That…that right there…is the America we all love.  

I am reminded of a quote from the incomparable artist Frida Kahlo. She said, “I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.” So that’s where I will leave it, Mayor Pete. Keep on painting.

This article of equality is brought to you by that guy of love, love, love. That guy on a magical mystery tour is Ron Blake and all you need is love to send him a message at rblake5551@hotmail.com.