June has arrived, heralding Pride events around the world. In the early hours of June 28, 1969 (do you remember where you were that morning?), at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, gays put their foot down and said “no more.” No more raids, no more harassment — we do not want to continue to live in fear of being arrested.
When the infamous raid happened it began to draw crowds, someone shouted “gay power,” a drag queen hit a cop on the head with her purse, and a “typical New York Butch” shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” The crowd went beserk, and thus began a great story that is still celebrated in small towns and big cities.
While some take our Pride celebrations for granted, considering the event just another festival and parade, we still have brothers and sisters whose government makes strong-arm attempts to push LGBT communities back into closets. This year, reflect on how lucky we are that we can be out, proud, and with our friends and communities.
Key West has celebrated Pride for 29 years. Known for being a liberal community, in 1983 we elected America’s first openly gay mayor, Mayor Richard Heyman, who proudly served two terms. A documentary, “The Newcomer” highlights Mayor Heyman’s political race for office and the choices he made while in office, which had ripple effects that extended beyond the shores of Key West.
Nine years ago, Key West celebrated Pride by unfurling a rainbow flag from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. We proudly carried the mile-and-quarter flag that had been sewn in a tiny Duval Street building by Gilbert Baker, the creator of the flag seen today throughout the world.
(FYI, Gilbert created the first flag at the request of Harvey Milk and the original flag can be seen atop San Francisco’s city hall on their Pride day.)
Sections of the iconic Key West flag have been shared across the nation and will be seen in upcoming Pride events in Buffalo, NY, Houston, TX, Columbus, OH, Key West, Orlando, and Chicago. It’s easily recognized, since our “sea-to-sea” rainbow flag sported the original eight colors. Magenta and turquoise were omitted from the mass-produced flags, but we wanted our flag to be original — and indeed, we restored the flag to its original splendor.
We begin this year’s Key West Pride week June 6 with a Pride Luncheon with “FagBug” activist Erin Davies. A resident of Albany, NY, Erin was a victim of a hate crime when her VW Beetle was vandalized and painted with the words “fag” and “u r gay.”
Deciding to embrace what happened, Erin took her VW, complete with the graffiti, across the United States and Canada. If you’ll be in Key West, I encourage you to meet Erin and hear her story.
After the luncheon, at 5 p.m., join several hundred Key Westers at the acclaimed Island House resort for the Key West Business Guild’s annual Pride Mixer. Twice a year the Island House welcomes everyone to enjoy champagne, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres served by the hottest boys in Key West.
Each evening during Pride, you can see a great variety of films at Tropic Cinema as part of the 5th annual film festival hosted by AIDS Help. Our community-based service organization offers assistance to those whose lives have been touched by HIV.
Key West has too many Pride events to list here, but I recommend attending the Saturday night pool party at Bourbon Street, where dance music accompanies moonlight swimming and a trip through a mountain of foam. And check out Fury’s LGBTA Ultimate Adventure, which includes sailing, snorkeling, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, rock climbing, and water trampolining — plus breakfast, lunch and beverages.
On a more somber note, last week we lost one of Key West’s shining stars, Denise Linder Dunbar, who left us to join the many Keys stars in the heavens. A genuine and loving member of our community, Denise and her husband Greg made Key West their home in 1995. She was the director of community relations for AIDS Help, Inc., coordinating events like the campaign for King and Queen of Fantasy Fest. Many of my readers have met Denise and Greg at events across the island, and we share Greg’s grief over his loss.