After viewing the exhibition Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968, I thought, I got it. I get why some people do not see the LGBT movement as a civil rights movement. How could gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals possibly compare their “struggle” with that of Blacks? Where are the pictures of separate facilities and entrances? Of kids being taunted for going to school? Of Americans with placards that read “segregation forever?” Of men in robes burning crosses and intimidating communities? Of brutal encounters with armed police? Of men beaten and lynched because of who they are? Of people united in protest against injustice? Of strong and proud women and men?
Instead, what people see most are images of privileged white men who decided to live an “alternative” lifestyle and rub their choice on everybody’s noses.
It is too bad that there isn’t a Road to Freedom: Photographs of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement. An exhibit that chronicles the struggle and injustices suffered by women and men who chose to be honest with themselves and society. Images of brave and patriotic soldiers who were discharged for being homosexual. Of young women and men who are not allowed to fight for the country they love. Of children bullied day in and day out for acting and dressing “differently.” Of Americans bearing placards supporting Proposition 8 and the continued discrimination of minorities. Of religious leaders using the Bible to preach intolerance and hate. Of drag queens and other “deviants” battling police. Of men beaten and women raped for not being straight. Of Matthew Shepard‘s bloodied and limp body tied to a fence. Of straight and gay Americans demonstrating for equality for all. Of strong and proud gay women and men.
Might things be different if these images were part of our civil rights meme?
Pictures are powerful. Images of African Americans treated like second class citizens affirm and remind that theirs was and is a civil rights movement. There are no images of lesbians and gays treated as second class citizens in our collective memory. Perhaps if there were, then people would understand that ours is a civil rights movement too.
Image from PFLAG, of Jeanne Manford marching with her gay son at New York’s 1972 Gay Pride Parade. Manford was enraged that her son had been beaten up two months earlier while the police did nothing. She carried a sign that said, “Parents of Gays: Unite in Support of Our Children.” Her act started an international movement.
Equality, Marriage & the Union