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Milestones in Gay History

In the past 50 years—particularly after the Stonewall riots—social, political, and cultural changes have improved the standing of LGBT people. Watch

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Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Got Us Started: Q-and-A With Kate Clinton

Kate Clinton, 62, is a political humorist, lesbian icon, and the author of several books, including the recently released, "I Told You So," "Don't Get Me Started," and "What the L?" She has also written for The Progressive and The Advocate.

Q: Where were you at the time of the Stonewall riots?
Kate:
At the time of Stonewall, I was trying to stay in the closet in upstate New York. I was teaching. I tried not to hear about it. But I did hear it.

Q: When did you come out?
Kate:
I really came out in 1979.

Q: When you think of the Stonewall riots, what comes to mind?
Kate: It was so recognizable. It was so revolutionary—gay people coming out inspired more to come out. The visibility of crazy, not-going-to-take-it-anymore gay people during Stonewall inspired so many people to come out.

Q: On the progress continuum, how do you think we’re doing in the face of setbacks such as Prop 8?
Kate: After the election was another ‘Anita Bryant moment’ for me. I never felt gayer than after the last election. Everyone was happy, but I felt like it was a slap in the face, like, ‘Not you, little Lesbian. You stay in your box.’ The older I get, the less patience I have with heterosexist imperialism. I want to say, ‘Get over yourself.’ But we have to realize that we’re in a long struggle. Yes, it’s about changing hearts and minds. But it’s also about screaming and yelling, asking and telling.

Q: Do you feel hopeful for the future of LGBT rights?
Kate: I do. I have an enormous faith in people’s belief in equality. When [gay equality is] framed in a human rights issue, the majority of Americans do rise to the occasion and get behind equality. When people understand the unfairness, they will get behind us.

Q: What should young people know about Stonewall?
Kate: It’s important to get out there and be counted. It’s a lot of fun and very sexy. It feels real. The message of Stonewall was, ‘We’re not going to take it anymore. We’re going to be in the street and in your face.’

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