Lavender Rhino at the 1974 Boston Pride Parade

Looking Back, Loving Forward

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which gave rise to the Pride movement, our community is engaging in deep reflection. In this anniversary year, the Boston community selected the twofold theme Looking Back, Loving Forward to rejoice in the strides we have made over the last half-century and to acknowledge the struggles that still lie ahead.

While it is important to commemorate the golden anniversary of Stonewall, we did not want to lose sight of the significant activism that occurred both before and after the legendary riots. As such, we centered Boston in designing the cover. Noah Grigni, our Boston-based cover artist, reviewed images of the earliest Boston Pride celebrations, ultimately selecting a Boston Globe photograph of the 1972 parade as his inspiration. The picture shows four women, marching forward with their arms around each other. Noah updated the image to better reflect the diversity of Boston’s present-day queer community. In addition to setting the scene before unmistakable elements of the Boston skyline, the cover pays homage to a unique piece of Boston’s queer history: the lavender rhino (or Mache Rhino), the original mascot of Boston Pride. The nature of the queer community, like the rhinoceros, is gentle – that is, until provoked.

Within the Guide, we examine the history of sexuality from antiquity through today. Several authors explore the legacy of the Stonewall Riots, focusing on the early activism that set the stage for the Riots, and reflecting on why Stonewall has become the place and event that many consider to be the birthplace of LGBTQ rights in the US, despite evidence that it technically did not earn that designation. We also commemorate, on the tenth anniversary of her passing, Woody Woodward, a local activist who created space for women to share their love of biking.

Hindsight provides us a more robust perspective on queerness. Early conceptions of gay sexuality led men to rigidly define their identities in terms of their sex roles. Deeply entrenched homophobia raised barriers to coming out and created generations of gay people who would come out later in their adult lives. Transgender care was initially developed to incorporate gatekeeping measures but is now evolving to an informed consent model.

Several of our contributors discuss the critical role that the arts played in the formation of the modern queer community: The world of disco provided a venue where the most marginalized, particularly in communities of color, could come together and revel in their diversity. The influence of new pop cultural phenomena, such as Pokémon Go, which attracts LGBTQ players, has yet to be seen. Art not only plays an essential role in shaping the culture, but also provides a medium through which community members can express their identities: from an autistic man using poetry to explore what it means to be “normal,” to a son using comedy to share his childhood experience of coming to terms with his father coming out, to a comic strip drawn by a young transgender boy grappling with the frustration of being misgendered while waiting to begin hormone treatment.

Loving Forward encourages us to look to the future and the progress yet to be made. Gains we’ve made are slipping away, as our rights are attacked on multiple fronts. Faith-based adoption providers are trying to use religious accommodation laws to discriminate against LGBTQ would-be foster and adoptive parents.

Even five decades after Stonewall, the LGBTQ community is still in the process of coalescing and ensuring that each segment of the community, particularly queer people of color, have a voice. In crafting this volume, we intentionally centered some of those voices, from a woman navigating her invisible pansexual identity while married to a man, to an asexual activist encountering increasing levels of acceptance each year that she marches in the Boston Pride Parade, to a black lesbian Pride and labor organizer tackling the issue of queer appropriation of black culture.

In this anniversary year, it is easy to get caught up in the past: to view our past through a singular lens, to try to realize what we perceive, through the lens of history, to have been the objectives of that global movement launched at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. But how do we define that movement? Movements are often plurivocal regarding desired outcomes and means to achieve them. While the rioters at Stonewall were unified in fighting back against oppression, they were a diverse group, with different opinions on what the ideal future would look like and how to best achieve that world. This year’s theme empowers us to build on their foundation, to create our own ideal future, to look forward, guided by love.

Jessie DeStefano's signature in pink

Jessie DeStefano