Adora Wow, I loved the Stonewall National Museum & Archives. So glad we finally went up to see it, both the permanent collection and the current exhibit, “TransCuba,” by the photographer Mariette Pathy Allen. It’s all kind of laid-back and easy.
Teddy Behr Yes, me too. It’s small: set into two storefronts right on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors, in the heart of the LGBTQ neighborhood. It feels really grassroots and kind of like the start of something that will become important over time, as our community starts to understand more and more the importance of our own history.
They also have an archive on LGBTQ history in another location that isn’t set up for exhibits but may be accessed for research.
Adora I loved Allen’s photos of trans people in Cuba. Since I haven’t been back to Cuba in so long, it’s great to get an idea of what’s going on there. And the photos have a sweet, personal quality that I really liked; it’s obvious that the photographer established a good connection with her subjects.
Teddy Behr And the permanent collection was cool: pics and posters and newspaper and magazine clippings of gay and lesbian life, and legal and social advancements going back decades. They extend all the way to the so-called “Gay Nineties,” the 1890s, when famous poets and writers like Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and Jose Martí were raising eyebrows by being more or less out.
Adora They also have a lot of newspaper clippings about AIDS. There’s news about celebrities with AIDS, like Rock Hudson, where you can see the stigma that was attached to AIDS back in the early days.
Other celebrities, like Liz Taylor and Princess Diana, came forward in defense of people with AIDS. They visited them in hospitals to try to show people not to be afraid, that people with AIDS were suffering enough without being marginalized just because they’d gotten sick. An AIDS diagnosis was still considered a ‘death sentence’ at the time.
There are also clippings about Ryan White, the Indiana teen with hemophilia who was kicked out of his middle school after being diagnosed with AIDS in late 1984. White went public to fight AIDS stigma, and Congress honored White’s activism by passing the Ryan White CARE Act Program in 1990. Today, Ryan White Programs are the largest provider of services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.
Teddy Behr Mmmmmm, it’s amazing to see how it all got going: Gay Pride parades (marches, really, in the beginning); the “Gay Liberation” movement, as it was called when it grew out of the 1960s counterculture; the sexual revolution of the ’60s and ’70s; and, of course, the Stonewall Riots in New York City 1969, which was by all accounts a pivotal moment for the whole movement — the event commemorated by the name of the museum.
Adora And now we’ve finally moved on to include the most marginal people of all, people who haven’t really had fair treatment even within our own community: the transgender community.
It really makes sense to see the “TransCuba” show after taking in the Stonewall Museum’s exhibits on the history of the Gay Liberation movement. These images of trans people in contemporary Cuba, where, as in a lot of less-developed countries, all the medical necessities of transitioning — whether it’s the hormones, psychological support services, or surgeries — are really hard to come by, show that the struggle for equality continues.
Teddy Allen’s photographs have a really personal, empathetic feeling to them. Looking at a lot of images, especially some of the portraits, you feel as if you’ve really gotten to know the person inside. We have to be clear that coming out trans still takes waaaayyyy more courage than coming out gay or lesbian.
Adora The next exhibit is about the Nazi Holocaust and how LGBTQ people were forced to wear pink triangles on their jackets and then put into death camps along with Jews and Gypsies. I guess we’d better see that one too; after all; it happened back in the 1930s and ’40s, not that long ago.
Teddy Behr Mmmmm, they say that history is repeated for those who fail to learn its lessons. So I guess, yeah… we better go see that exhibit too.
“TransCuba” continues through Sunday, July 15 at Stonewall National Museum & Archives (2157 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors). For more info: stonewall-museum.org.