Sunday, June 21, 2009
Around this time all over the world, LGBT and Allied people celebrate Pride with special festivals, parades, and events. These celebrations happen each year to commemorate something called the Stonewall Rebellion - viewed as a turning point for LGBT equality.
The Stonewall Rebellion was a series of riots - spontaneous, violent conflicts between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied people and police, that took place for several days beginning in June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. This was one of the first times that LGBTA people fought back against overt discrimination and violence in the United States. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.
Forty years ago, there were no out LGBT elected officials, no laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, no Will and Grace, no L Word, no LOGO Channel, no civil unions, no controversy over gay marriage (because there was no gay marriage), and no campus-based LGBT Centers anywhere in the country. (The first campus-based center came along two years after the events at the Stonewall Inn. A little pop quiz - anyone know at which institution of higher education this first occurred?)
Though there were other major clashes, as well as peaceful demonstrations, that took place in American cities before Stonewall, Stonewall is usually cited as the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement.
Celebrate Pride 2009 by learning more about pre-Stonewall events as well as the Stonewall Rebellion. The film “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria” (shown on campus as part of the "Out of the Closet and Onto the Screen" film series) can be previewed here. The film documents events that took place in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood in 1966. And for a bit of east coast history, Philadelphia had been observing "Annual Reminder Day" each year for several years before Stonewall. The city of Philadelphia has erected a historic marker commemorating the Annual Reminder Day and its organizers, and has a special section of its tourism website devoted to Philadelphia LGBT history.
To learn more about Stonewall, the program In the Life has created a special podcast episode commemorating the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. Also this year, a plaque listing the names of 40 current day people engaged in the continuing quest for full LGBT equality will be placed at the Stonewall Inn next week.
To find a Pride event closest to where ever you are this summer, consult an online pride calendar. And no matter where you are this month, happy Pride! Have pride in who you are, in our communities, and in all that has been accomplished over the last forty years!
Friday, June 5, 2009
When I was a very small child, one of my favorite songs was Georgy Girl by the Seekers.
It told the tale of Georgy, a woman who projected one image to the world, but who had a very different concealed inner self striving to break free. Whenever it played on the radio, I would sing along at the very top of my (little childhood) lungs.
Much later I realized the tune had a double meaning of sorts. In fact, that ambiguous play on words was later recognized by the creators of the documentary film Georgie Girl, who used the song in the film as well as borrowing its title. It’s about New Zealander Georgina Beyer, who captured the world’s attention in 1999 by becoming the first transgender person to hold national office. (The film was also featured as part of the LGBT Center’s Out of the Closet and Onto the Screen film series.)
Why all this about an old song and a new-ish documentary film? Because these last few weeks, a new song has come along. A country tune by Phil Vassar currently climbing the charts, and one that is as crystal clear in its subject matter as Georgy Girl was ambiguous. It’s called Bobbi with an I, and it’s unabashedly and without any doubt about a cross dresser. It’s the featured song on Phil Vassar’s website and his myspace page right now, take a listen.
There haven’t been all that many songs about cross-dressing people; in fact I can only think of a handful - and none of the country music variety. Bobbi, according to the song, isn’t “just one of the guys” – he’s a former football star, can bench-press more than 300 pounds, and can be found driving a tow truck by day and wearing a pink party dress on Friday nights. Perhaps the most interesting lyrics of the song describe Bobbi’s friends explaining matter-of-factly “we live and let live, that’s how it is, nobody gives a second thought these days.”
And perhaps even more noteworthy are some of the comments shared by listeners about this new tune, such as:
“Bobby sounds like a great guy. The kind who’s always on your side. The kind who’d never leave his friends behind."
“omg i heard this and was like did i just hear him right???then i listened and liked it...at least he is being real and singing bout real life. I commend him. ...It might not be our thing to live but life happens.”
Life happens indeed. And sometimes music, of all genres and varieties, helps us interpret and make sense of life. What’s important, what’s not, and how to tell the difference.
Phil Vassar performs the song:
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The drab landscape seems suddenly transformed to a thousand shades of green. Car top carriers sport loads of kayaks, not skis. Instead of listing the dinner specials, a sign outside one restaurant on the Commons inexplicably reads “Congratulations Locals!” There are literally thousands of people roaming about, and all of them are smiling. Music from live bands emanates from several different venues at once. What is it? Just another Ithaca summer!
Ithacans look forward to Ithaca Festival, the unofficial sign that summer has begun and a harbinger of all the season has to offer. Four days of music, art, food, and all kinds of activity draw folks from throughout the city and beyond. The festivities kick off with an eccentric parade featuring stilt walkers, an automotive ballet performed by cars outfitted with tutus, one of Ithaca’s LGBT choruses, a briefcase drill team, and a large chainsaw “marching band.”
Take a look at this photo from this past week…it would be tempting to tell you that the moment the last student leaves town, the city erupts into 3 months of non-stop parades, dancing in the streets, and merriment. Not quite. Some days it may seem that way, though.
Ithaca is a very special place in the summer. The pace is slower, perhaps a bit quirkier…and the fun requires less down-filled outwear. Many of the things that make Ithaca distinctive move to the out- of- doors – concerts, plays, free dance lessons , sports, dining, socializing – you name it!
With more than 150 waterfalls within a 10 mile radius of downtown, and three of the state’s six gorge parks in our county, opportunities to get outside and up close to nature abound. City and state parks and other recreational opportunities are plentiful, and take on a unique summer flair.
The Downtown Ithaca Alliance has a listing of many of the events and attractions Ithaca has to offer summer residents and visitors. A concert series, gallery nights, special events like Ithaca Festival and sidewalk sales –it’s all here during summer in Ithaca.
Whether you live here each summer, this summer, or are considering staying the summer at some point in the future, an Ithaca summer is the best kept secret in town.