Friday, June 17, 2016

Pride and Understanding LGBT History

It's Pride weekend here in Hampton Roads, Virginia and wonderful events are planned that will go on despite the horror that occurred last weekend in Orlando,  Yes, the police presence will be significantly increased and local offices of federal offices will likely be involved.  Yet again, among the information/recruiting booths on Saturday's main event will be the CIA.  Times have truly changed in some ways, but in others, much needs to be done.  Today, the June issue of VEER Magazine hits the streets and includes my column on "Pride and Understanding LGBT History."  I hope you will check it out.  Here are brief excerpts:  
June is Pride month and once again Hampton Roads Pride Fest will take place in downtown Norfolk’s Town Point Park.  This year’s event is on June 18.  The event now rivals the largest festivals in Norfolk and some have said that only Harbor Fest is larger.  When I first came out in mid-life, few could have envisioned how mainstream, if you will, the LGBT community has become.  Back then, same sex relationships could get you a felony conviction under Virginia’s sodomy statute.  My first Pride event was in 2003 and the venue was a hidden back portion of Lakewood Park.  Perhaps a few hundred were in attendance.  Fast forward to 2016, and the crowd this year could approach 20,000 people.  Pride is a time to be proud about one’s self, but also about LGBT individuals across the globe and throughout time.
This sea change in acceptance and visibility did not happen overnight and much work still remains to be done in Virginia and across America, not to mention across the globe.   Yes, through Supreme Court decisions and hard fought legislative victories, the sodomy laws used to persecute gays in Virginia are no more, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is now on the trash heap of history and same sex marriage is legal across the nation.  But, employment non-discrimination protections, housing non-discrimination and other protections remain non-existent under Virginia law and in roughly 28 other states.  Organizations such as Hampton Roads Business Outreach (“HRBOR”), the local gay and gay friendly chamber of commerce, HR Pride, and Equality Virginia continue to strive for full LGBT equality in the business community and under Virginia’s civil laws.
Indeed, members of the LGBT community are everywhere, in every culture and throughout history.  Peruse a page and Wikipedia on “LGBT history” and one quickly sees that be it ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, pre-Columbian America, Persia, Japan, China and even India, same sex relations were tolerated, if not always fully accepted.  Just a few notable LGBT individuals from history as compiled by The Bilerico Project  . . .
A wonderful source to learn more of this hidden history is a book entitled “The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies,” the end product of over ten years of historical research.  My husband and I received a copy as a gift from is two friends – both historians – who gave a dinner party us as a “wedding gift.”  As noted above, the book concludes that acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality on the part of much of society historically have been the norm – just as it is in many other parts of the animal kingdom – and that it was the rise of the Roman Catholic Church that lead to homophobia as we know it today. 
So how did this happen?  In a nutshell, the Catholic Church’s bizarre abhorrence of all things sexual that developed in the Middle Ages that was spearheaded by so-called Church fathers who were obsessed with all things sexual, and who were, in my view, mentally disturbed to say the least. 
Thankfully, this religious based tide of animus and ignorance is subsiding, but horrors continue to be inflicted on LGBT individuals by both “godly Christians” and Islamic fundamentalists.  Meanwhile, those of us fortunate enough to live in America and Hampton Roads have much to be proud about and can look at our history with pride.  If you have never attended, consider coming to Pride Fest.

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