“What was it like being gay in the sixties?” The latest addition to the Pye-Harris Project’s “Coming Out Series” brings together four inquisitive young people to examine this question with the best resources available: those who actually lived through it. The Project aims to unite the LGBT activist community through cross-generational info sharing. Each decade will be represented in the series aimed to show the evolution of the modern LGBT movement. A movement that has, in some way, affected each young interviewer. Those who agreed to recount their stories include an activist minister, a transgendered military veteran, an Ohioan with rural roots, and a child of Mexican farm laborers. Although their demographics and circumstances vary, all involved offer a distinct perspective to a common struggle.
It is sometimes hard for youth coming of age post-1960s to fully connect with an era in which social revolution pulsated through the streets of nearly every major city. Words like “liberation”, “rebellion”, and “civil rights” have all situated themselves comfortably in the liberal vernacular. Now regarded as common and cliché in boring history textbooks. But the interviewees aim to exhume the vigor of their defiant pasts to the surface: a past of gay speakeasies, blatant police abuse, and the definitive lesson of strength in unity. One interviewee, Adrian, remarks how all oppressed minorities took the concepts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to heart when he popularized the notion of equality for everyone, – the idea that birthed the new era of identity politics. In the video, however, the complex politics, jargon, and theories associated with this concept are successfully brought down to a human level.
In fact, perhaps the most interesting part of the segment was that half of those interviewed really had no particular political interest at all. Since the very act of living their life was a radical political statement, the “movement” simply enveloped them. “I was doing the activism, but I didn’t know I was doing the activism,” admits one interviewee. All involved can relate to this act of stumbling onto a cause driven by the natural desire for fair treatment. In this way, the video successfully performs its purpose of utilizing empathy to introduce young people to the realities and implications of being gay in the pivotal sixties. Those who incited a movement were just regular kids like them. It will likely inspire the imagination for more research and action on the part of the young viewers – an act necessary to continue the movement for decades to come. And the advice from the “elders” to the queer activists of today? – remain focused in unity, appreciate and utilize the resources given, learn the history, and remain passionate.