The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender portion of the Equal Rights movement began in New York City in June of 1969. At that time, it was routine for the police to raid gay bars, beating and humiliating anyone there. Anyone not wearing at least three pieces of clothing matching their biological sex could be arrested. In one such raid, at the Stonewall Inn, the occupants fought back. Transsexuals, drag queens, and butch lesbians led the fight. A movement was born.
This movement was at first called "gay rights". After many years of focussing on gay white men, the name changed to "gay and lesbian." By the early 1990's it had become "gay, lesbian, and bisexual" or simply LesBiGay. In 1995, many organizations started to add "transgender" to their mission statements. Nowadays, most major organizations have become trans-inclusive in their missions.
Notably missing from the trans-inclusive groups is Stonewall Columbus, the leading community center and referral group in Central Ohio. Stonewall has listed transgender groups and events for years, and has encouraged us to use their facilities for our meetings. But their literature constantly trumpeted the phrase "gay, lesbian, and bisexual." Even trans-inclusive groups were listed in their referral guide as "GLB". The mindset at Stonewall Columbus is behind the times, and their leadership position causes other Central Ohio group to copy their language. When the 1998 June Pride event was titled "LesBiGay Holiday", it hurt. Something had to change. What day was it supposed to be for transgendered people - Monday?
It's Time, Ohio! inquired of Stonewall how to go about changing Stonewall's mission. We were hoping to establish a dialog with Stonewall and work toward trans-inclusion. At first we were told to address their board meeting. Later it was changed - we were to write them a letter, which we did. After being unable to even get our phone calls returned, we finally got a response: "No." A formal letter from Stonewall contained misinformed statements like "We believe our language `Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual' already includes you" and "There aren't enough of you."
Then something wonderful happened. Outlook, Columbus's leading gay newspaper, called us to do a story. Outlook was outraged that Stonewall had said "no" and wanted to do an expose. It's Time! decided to take a more positive approach. Outlook ran a cover story in our defense, with a very positive tone. We received many phone calls and letters of support.
Suddenly Stonewall was interested in talking with us. Our phone calls and e-mail got through. We met with Jeff Redfield, the Executive Director of Stonewall. He listened to us. We were asked to participate in events for Pride month. The tone of the dialog changed. It now feels as if there is a more careful decision process in the works, with transgender education for Stonewall and a constructive dialog. Some of us have applied for seats on Stonewall's board.
While my son and I were running the It's Time! table at the gayfest, unknown to us, another miracle was occurring. Up the street, dozens of students from Antioch College were marching in the parade. They carried banners protesting Stonewall's refusal to include us. We heard of this wonderful event days later, and we didn't know whom to thank. The event was covered by the Gay People's Chronicle (of Cleveland), complete with a photo. A heartfelt THANK YOU! to the wonderful students of Antioch College!
The dialog continues with Stonewall Columbus. We are hopeful that, a few months from now, the GLBT community of Columbus will be whole in name and in deed. I'll keep you posted.
This page and all columns are copyright (c) 1998-1999 Mary Ann Horton. All rights reserved.