‘Known Homosexuals’ I Love

Susan Horowitz
By | 2014-10-02T09:00:00+00:00 October 2nd, 2014|Opinions, Viewpoints|

A picture of the late Barbara Gittings has been in my collection of top five favorite photos for decades. You can find a snap of it in this issue of BTL on page 14 – it still brings tears to my eyes when I look at it. Gittings and several dozen pioneers of the modern U.S. LGBT civil rights movement – including John James in the same story – bravely took to the streets to demonstrate four years before Stonewall took place. They did so in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, some willing to be ‘known homosexuals’.
As we begin October, and kick off LGBT History Month, we begin it by remembering the Annual Reminder demonstrations. Nothing we have accomplished in the past 50 years would have been possible without the courage of these early pioneers.
I met Gittings a number of times in my younger years while living in NYC. I was in awe of her accomplishments back then. She challenged the American Library Association to include books about gay and lesbian people in libraries across America and succeeded. She helped lead in the fight to have the American Psychological Association remove the stigma of defining homosexuality as a disorder through her work with the National Gay Task Force (now NGLTF). Gittings taught me and many others that the only way to live my life was out and proud, and her own brave and early stand gave me the courage to do that when I came out in 1972.
Our modern LGBT civil rights movement will be 50 years old next year – beginning with these early demonstrations in 1965. And with time as a marker, we have grown to see three generations of LGBT people bravely come out and support one another – through local, national and international community building – often making tremendous sacrifices along the way.
In our own backyard, many individuals have led the way across the state over the past 50 years. In this issue, we say thanks and take a look at the tireless dedication and commitment of two Ann Arbor power couples, Keith Orr and Martin Contreras and Linda Lombardini and Sandi Smith. The four of them have been a force for change for close to twenty years. They have put their time and money on the line, and most importantly have said yes when it would have been far easier to say no, anytime the community needed their leadership. That willingness to lead has given us the fabulous “homoplex” – Braun Court. It is a wonderful local example of what community building and support look like. I am certain they have inspired so many along the way – the same way Barbara Gittings did for me so long ago.
LGBT History Month … Take a moment during October to research the people who put time and energy into making this world we live in … a world that may soon include full marriage rights (OMG) … a better place for the next generation of LGBT souls. And speaking of LGBT history, please take a moment to read Charles Alexander’s piece on ‘Known Homosexuals’ and his important nod to our own Dr. Tim Retzloff, whose recent dissertation on LGBT Detroiters is a gem and major accomplishment in the field of LGBT history.
BTW – you can check out some great reads on LGBT history at Braun Court’s LGBT bookstore, Common Language!

About the Author:

Susan Horowitz
Susan Horowitz is editor and publisher of Between The Lines/Pridesource.