Eric Leven

40-year-old table

Filed By Eric Leven | June 15, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Ali Forney Center, gay youth, Martin Boyce, queer youth, Stonewall, Thomas Lanigan Schmidt, youth advocacy

On Saturday The Ali Forney Center hosted a panel discussion on the involvement of queer youth during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The panel consisted of two actual Stonewall Riot participants, Martin Boyce and Tommy Lanigan Schmidt as well as Ali Forney Center Executive Director Carl Siciliano and four of today's LGBT youth, all in their early twenties, answering questions relating to the ever changing now vs. then Queer spectrum.

The youth, two of whom were transwomen came across as confident and sturdily self possessed when discussing topics like being gay in today's world, coming out and how history Stonewall_youth_roundtable.jpgserves as a backdrop for today's sense pride and personal identity. As a whole the four seemed ambitious and spoke to their current lives and potential futures as though their identity and diversity serve only as an asset to who they are and who they hope to become.

40 years down the table Thomas Lanigan Schmidt and Martin Boyce, who were both twenty somethings during the summer of 1969 spoke of gay life during that time, their experience, struggles and triumphs and being the first in history to step out. Lanigan Schmidt talked about realizing his attraction to men when a best friend protected him from a local bully and Boyce described a New York where gay bashing was a city sport and electro-shock treatment a consequence. Yet still there was much talk of celebration, of life. A jukebox at the Stonewall, the rage in a queen's eye.

Below Martin Boyce sets the stage for life as a queen living in NYC in 1969 and at the 4:30 mark describes being at the Stonewall Inn the nights of the historic riots.

Eric also blogs at Knucklecrack

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What an amazing history... to be able to hear firsthand about one of the major turning points in the gay civil rights movement. It should be required listening for everybody who cares about equality and human rights. The courage those people showed at the time was amazing... no less heroic than Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus.