Thoughts with Richard Bleil
It is June 28, 1969. New York City police raid a popular gay bar, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich village, roughly hauling off patrons and employees to jail. This sparks a six-day riot and is marked as the first step in the establishment of gay rights.
I was six years old. The Civil Rights movement began fifteen years earlier in 1954, culminating in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, five years before this riot. I remember 1969, so to me it doesn’t sound so long ago, although it was about half a century ago, so maybe to some of my readers it does. But the struggle for sexual freedom does not end in 1969. It just began.
A few years later, in 1973, psychiatrists deemed homosexuality not, after all, a form of insanity. Although still illegal in many states, there was a meeting of the national psychological society where they voted and decided that it was not grounds for institutionalization. One day you could have been thrown into and insane asylum for your sexual orientation and released the next. The guidebook for psychiatrists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM), however, did not drop homosexuality as a mental disorder (at least not entirely) until 1987. This was a little over thirty-five years ago, and beginning to feel more recent, isn’t it? In 1987, I already had my Bachelor’s degree, had worked for two years as an analytical chemist, and was ready to quit my job to pursue my doctorate. It feels like yesterday.
Still not convinced of how recently this battle continued? Consider that it was not until 2003 that the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality nationally. Yes, people were still being arrested for their sexual orientation just twenty years ago. Today, there are still far too many hate crimes against homosexuals, including mass shootings.
Yes, this is Pride Month, and well-deserved. June was chosen because of the Stonewall Riots, and it’s important because there is still far too much prejudice and misunderstanding. Somewhere, somebody is reading this and thinking, “well, why isn’t there a ‘straight’ month then?” The answer is simple. Heterosexuals never had to fight for their freedom in the land of the “free”. White people never had to fight to bring attention to the injustices as minorities have had to in this land of “justice”. Men have never had to fight for their rights in this land of “equal rights”.
I’m sitting pretty in this nation. I am a white heterosexual male. I’ve never been eyed with suspicion as I shopped for food for my family. I’ve never been afraid of being dragged out of my car and beaten or worse by a cop for a traffic stop. I’ve never had to hide my sexual orientation for fear of retribution. But I am ashamed to be a part of the demographic that is pushing back against what they are calling “woke culture”.
To be anti-woke, which in and of itself is offensive and threatening, is not just the desire to halt progress, but to literally turn it backwards. The desire to avoid being “woke” implies a desire to remain ignorant, to refuse to grow either intellectually or emotionally, and to live in hatred and anger in an effort to frighten anybody different back into hiding. “Anti-woke” is the new term for racist against sexual orientation, skin color, religious beliefs, and anything else that makes “them” different. As a matter of fact, the “anti-woke” people are also anti-science.
Twenty people, a vast majority of whom were school children, were slaughtered in Uvalde, Texas, a largely Latin-American community. Ten innocent people were killed in Buffalo, New York, in a largely minority visited grocery store. In 2018, a shooting at a Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania shines light on the continued seething of anti-Semitic elements in our nation. In 2016, a shooting occurred in an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub.
It’s time for the madness to end. Offer as many prayers and thoughts as you wish, but the reality is that the hatred in this nation is palpable, and those who would pursue aggression and oppression have only become emboldened in recent years. It’s time to take a long hard look at ourselves and seek out the roots of this hatred, and that cannot be done with an anti-woke attitude. For my LGBTQ+ friends, I am not one of you, but I am a staunch ally. I love all of you, and weep for your continuing struggle. And if you need anything, I am here for you, and will stand with you in your struggles.