Saturday, June 28, 2014

"The Kids These Days Don't Know Their History"

Kissing at the Stonewall Inn as
Pride Weekend began
Friday night, after dinner and socializing with some friends, James and I decided to walk to the Christopher Street area of Greenwich Village. Short walk from where we are. Although the portion we’re in is still, technically, Greenwich Village, we were walking to the are that people mean when they say “the Village.” (Me, I always think of The Prisoner.)

The Village was mobbed. There was a huge line of people waiting to get into The Monster, which, according to their web site, has been active since 1970. The nearby Stonewall Inn can’t claim the same degree of continuity, as the original Stonewall Inn closed in 1969, with several businesses in the space until the current Stonewall Inn. On the other hand, this was were the raid happened that sparked the Stonewall Riots, June 28, 1969.

In the early moments of June 28, we were in front of the Stonewall Inn. As we neared Christopher Street, I said to James, “is this the weekend when we get to beat up a cop at the Stonewall? That’s the tradition, right?” It was a peaceful crowd though.

We did a lot of walking hand-in-hand. It was Pride Weekend in Greenwich Village: practically obligatory. I saw one young couple walking the same way. “Awwww.” Then, they noticed that we, too, were doing it. “Awww,” said one of them. We walking faster and passed them. They hurried up to talk to us. They were a couple from North Carolina, one of them was in New York for business with his boyfriend as a tag-along. “Me, too,” I said. “James is here for business and I’m the tag along.” They had been together for three months and were already talking about rings. We showed them ours.

Shortly after, we struck up a conversation with someone more our age. He had stopped to take a photo of one of the posters on gay history that were in shop windows along Christopher Street. We talked. He started his nursing career in New York City in 1986 and spent his days treating with AIDS. He told us that seeing his first patient with Kaposi’s sarcoma was difficult. We reflected on those grim days. “They’re making a LGBT History Museum. That’s good, because the kids these days don’t know their history.”

Well, they probably don’t. I remember telling coworkers about a gay bashing that happened at the Stonewall Inn not too long ago. They didn’t get the point. “You know, at the Stonewall.” They had no idea of the significance of the Stonewall Inn. I might slightly excuse that because they were straight, but still. It’s been in the papers. Repeatedly.

I noted that when I was in my 20s, gay men in their 30s and 40s admonished us that we didn’t know our history. To an extent, they were right. As I delved into the history of the gay rights movement, I found all sorts of things that my contemporaries didn’t know. In a way, I’d like people to forget that there was a time when two men or two women couldn’t walk hand-in-hand. That’s not history, because there are too many places in the United States where a gay couple would be putting themselves at risk if they walked hand-in-hand. And that’s wrong. But someday, couples will be able to walk hand-in-hand everywhere.

Still, yes, the kids today don’t their history. As I later said to James, as we looked at the Empire State Building, it’s spire lit up as a rainbow for Pride, “history is that thing that gets forgotten.”

This is the forty-fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, so there's a bit of attention being paid to the history (plus, we're running out of things to protest). The only time James and I went to New York Pride was for the 20th anniversary in 1989. We stayed at his parent's house in Scarsdale and came into New York City by train.

Happy Pride, everyone!
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