I write this at a singular moment in queer history. The 40th anniversary of what has variously been called a riot, an uprising, and a rebellion that started at a seedy bar on Sheridan Square and that arguably began the movement for gay liberation/gay rights/lesbian and gay rights/LGBTQ rights is now upon us. Certainly, as historians have shown, the events at the Stonewall Inn in late June of 1969 were not the first time in which queers and transgendered people fought back against police intimidation; they are, however, the most prominent and have taken their place in history as the moment of emergence onto the national stage of a public struggle for change in laws, attitudes, and mores.
As we look back at this founding moment, we’re also living through a sea-change in the national political scene. As of this writing, six states have now legalized marriages between partners of the same sex, with several more poised to join them. While I know that CLAGS members have a diversity of feelings about the near-monopoly of the fight for marriage within organized queer politics, and my own ambivalence about marriage as an institution is deeply rooted in a feminist politics forged in the 1980s and 1990s, I can’t deny a feeling of – oh I don’t know – wonder at what I am witnessing. We can argue about the reasons for the passage of Proposition 8 in California, but few would deny it was a crushing blow, particularly as we were being reminded about the successes of the courageous battle against Proposition 6 more than thirty years ago. And yet in its wake, states in diverse corners of the union are changing one of the fundamental (heterosexual) institutions of US society (whether they are changing it enough is a discussion for another day…). This feels momentous, even if it will take a while to work out whether and/or how it will lead us towards a more just and equitable world.
And, of course, we are always looking towards the future. In a few years, CLAGS will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its founding and even in these straitened times we are experiencing an efflorescence of activity: partnership between the IRN and our ever-popular Seminars in the City series; the beginning stages of planning our “Lesbians in the ’70s” events that will span the Spring 2010 semester; the “Since Stonewall” competition from OutHistory.org. We established what we hope will be an ongoing relationship with the Lambda Literary Foundation, cosponsoring this year’s Lambda Literary Awards here at the Graduate Center (and CLAGS board member Thomas Glave went home with a Lammy for best anthology!). We are in the middle of a “rebranding” process that will result in a new, exciting CLAGS logo and website, as well as going online with our newsletter, CLAGSNews, and very soon we will start planning events for our 20th anniversary year and launching a major fundraising effort to build our endowment: watch this space for developments!