BY LUIS GRONDA
The LGBT movement has progressed immensely over the last 40 years, but there is still room for improvement.
The movement began in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots, which were several violent demonstrations protesting a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan.
Police raids on gay bars were commonplace back then and the gay community expressed their dismay, staging protests over several nights after a raid at the Stonewall attracted crowds and attention.
As a result of the riots, gay activist organizations were formed for the first time and gay pride marches were created in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in 1970. The riots are considered one of the most important events in the LGBT movement and kicked off the fight for gay equality in the United States.
That movement also spread to the Borough of Queens, gaining prominence over the last few decades. The Pride Parade in Queens was one of the first established in the outer boroughs and organizations like the Queens Pride House were founded to bring services and programs to the gay and lesbian community.
There have also been LGBT community members taking on more prominent jobs in recent years. Council members Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) have been openly gay for several years. They are just two of six openly gay City Council members. The other four are Council members Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Rosie Mendez (D-Manhattan).
Both Van Bramer and Dromm offered different reasons for how the LGBT movement has risen to prominence in recent years.
Van Bramer said the increased amount of people coming out as gay, lesbian or transsexual has made a huge difference in the movement. He said more people being open about their sexuality has allowed for more conversation about the issue.
“It’s the single most important thing anyone can do,” he said. “When people know gay people, they feel very deeply about the issue.”
Dromm said establishing the Queens Gay Pride Parade, which he helped found, had a profound impact on the movement, because it showed that gay and lesbian people are all around us.
“It made people realize that we are their family, friends and neighbors,” Dromm said.
Van Bramer described how the gay movement has progressed as “moving at warp speed,” with more openly gay elected officials and marriage equality becoming the law in more states, including New York, but more can be done.
The Councilman said more needs to be done to combat bullying against the LGBT youth as well as helping LGBT seniors come out and getting them more services.
For the bullying, Van Bramer said they need to make sure educators in the City take the issue seriously and make sure there are stricter penalties in place for LGBT-related bullying. They also need to cultivate a more open and accepting environment for LGBT youth.
Coming out is difficult for seniors, Van Bramer said, because they grew up in a different time that was not as accepting to gays and lesbians and they should be encouraged to come out.
“LGBT are probably in those senior centers, but they might not be out,” he said.
Dromm said more should be done in schools to teach gay history and encourage LGBT teachers to come out as well. He said that Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña would support LGBT teachers and an increased focus on a curriculum that teaches LGBT history.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.