Browsing: July-August 2009

July-August 2009

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… In the aftermath of an unexpected death, the surviving spouse faces a jumble of legal responsibilities, emotional reactions, and practical considerations. At 42, I never expected to find myself planning a memorial service for the 39-year-old love of my life. …

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IN THE FORTY YEARS since the Stonewall Rebellion, an event that achieved legendary status almost before it was over, its power as a symbol has continued to rise more or less unabated. Four decades later-after two books, one film, several radio documentaries, countless articles and news stories; after hundreds of gay events and organizations named in its honor; and after becoming the first gay and lesbian site to be designated a national historic landmark-Stonewall retains its power to fascinate and inspire.

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The movement that followed Stonewall represented a sharp break with the past; the impact over time would transform the world in ways unimaginable to earlier activists. What’s more, scale of change over the ensuing forty years has been breathtaking. What, then, was so special about Stonewall?

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… if you find yourself hankering for some gay history on the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots this summer, here are some spots where you can pay tribute to our collective past.

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SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO, on June 23, 1992, sculptor George Segal (1924-2000) witnessed the installation of his first outdoor public sculpture in Manhattan, the city center that had inspired much of his work and had made him internationally famous. Titled Gay Liberation, the piece had taken twelve years to find its intended home within the triangle of Christopher Park in Greenwich Village, just across Christopher Street from what had been the Stonewall Inn.

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Note from the author: The first half of this article originally appeared in the December-January 1970 issue of ComeOut! The second half was to have been published in a 1972 issue of ComeOut! Some time before production, the print shop that housed the galleys was raided (perpetrators unknown-at least to me) and the galleys were destroyed. The latter half of this article, tracing the rise and fall of Radicalesbians, never made it to press.

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NOW seventy years old, Larry Mitchell has invited me into the labyrinthine apartment he and his lover Richard have shared for 25 years in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In the faded gold living room, we sit down to talk over tea and the sounds of the neighborhood streets. Mitchell is the author of four beloved novels of the gay underground, a collaborative book on queer communal living, and a radical manifesto titled The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions.

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VIEWED THROUGH THE PRISM of the eight issues of the newspaper Come Out! that were published by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) in New York from 1969 to 1972, the Stonewall Riots ignited a decisive and twofold political trajectory that has endured for forty years. Two political models, distinct and dissimilar but not mutually exclusive, developed simultaneously. The first approach sustained and refined the paradigm of identity politics rooted in the homophile movement. The second introduced a critical reformulation of gender and sexuality that evolved from feminism into the matrix of academia as lesbian and gay studies and subsequently queer theory.

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YOU MAY not know Rob Epstein by name but you certainly know his films. A pioneer in the world of GLBT filmmaking, Epstein has been acknowledging and addressing the lives of gay people in his films for the past three decades. In the late 1970’s Epstein’s work burst onto the scene with his groundbreaking documentary, Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, which delved into the lives of ordinary gay and lesbian Americans. Six years later, he conceived and directed the Peabody-Award-winning documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk (1984).

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