“Summer of Stonewall” honors 40 years of LGBT activism

When I first came out, I dated a reporter who sometimes took me along on interviews. One such time, we went to the home of an older gay man to hear about his experiences growing up gay in Dallas. He took us into a room packed with newspaper and magazine articles going back some 50 years that chronicled the LGBT quest for equality. As someone who never even heard the word “lesbian” until I was well into my 20s, I was overwhelmed.

Memorial Day weekend seems a good time to think about our LGBT heroes — the men and women who fought — and still fight — tirelessly to make life a bit easier for those who follow.

This summer, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, In the Life will present the Summer of Stonewall, a three-part mini-series featuring reflections and firsthand accounts from activists and leaders of the LBGT movement, past and present.

The first episode, “40th Anniversary of Stonewall,” airing June 1, features first-hand accounts from some truly incredible men and women, including two remarkable lesbians.

Phyllis Lyon

I can’t think about Lyon and her late wife Del Martin without getting teary. So many things that today’s lesbians take for granted (like AfterEllen.com) would simply not be possible without the pioneering work of these two courageous women. If you don’t know about Lyon and Martin, make a point of reading Malinda Lo’s tribute to Martin and follow the links in the post to learn more. You owe it to yourself.

Martin (left) and Lyon on June 16, 2008

Torie Osborn

Osborn is a personal hero to me, probably because I once met her and decided we would be BFFs if we got to know each other. She was one of the lesbians most visible in the fight against AIDS during the worst years of the epidemic and then became director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, doubling membership and tripling revenues.

Other segments in Summer of Stonewall look at the role of LGBT youth, then and now, the literature of the LGBT movement and the affect of the Internet, the “state of the movement” for equal rights, a conversation between drag queen Lady Bunny and ACT UP founder Larry Kramer, and the story of Gilbert Baker, the “gay Betsy Ross” who designed the rainbow flag.

Summer of Stonewall continues in July with a look at LGBT civil rights organizations and August brings an overview of LGBT arts and culture. You can see the trailer at In the Life’s website.

Will Summer of Stonewall be a part of your summer viewing? Who are your LGBT heroes?