Stonewall Happened in 1969. Webster Schott, a Straight Ally, Was Writing About Gay Rights Years Before.

“The right to have sex without state intrusion must inevitably be confirmed and codified by the Court.”

In 2018, the statement isn’t groundbreaking. But the writer, Webster Schott, is 90 years old and he wrote those words in November 1967 for The New York Times. The legendary Stonewall Riots wouldn’t happen until almost two years later in June 1969.

“They were people who were looked down upon because of their sexual preference and the truth is most people have almost no control over their sexual preference,” Schott told SFGN. “You’re born that way. It’s genetic.”

And it wasn’t just one piece. In Schott’s nearly 50 years as a freelance journalist, his byline can be found in Life, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Sun-Times, and more. By day, he was a business executive at greeting card companies like Hallmark Cards, American Greetings and Gibson Greeting Cards. When he got home, he would take out his typewriter and work on his articles.

“I loved my wife and I love my children, but I did stay up and write at odd hours and in odd places, taking my typewriter to vacations in North Carolina and to Cape Hatteras and to Massachusetts and to New Mexico and California and all of that,” Schott said. “Wherever I went at that time, my typewriter went along.”

His first published piece was when he was 14. He studied journalism at the University of Missouri, where he became the first member of his family to get a college degree in 1948. It was a far cry from his upbringing during the Great Depression–one year, his father only made $400.

For The New York Times, Schott was first assigned to review fiction written by gay people, including Mexican-American writer John Rechy. Schott was already interested in writing about gay people from his experience working in the psychology lab in college and seeing how they were treated in society.

In a 1986 tribute to the late gay writer Christopher Isherwood, Schott wrote “What he showed us was that being homosexual also means feeling everything. It was something we needed to know.”

In his writing, Schott criticized the U.S. for its laws regarding sexual expression being fit for “Mayflower Pilgrims,” highlighted the gay press, noted a source who said homosexual relationships have more longevity than heterosexual ones, and investigated what experts believe is the cause of homosexuality–including one who says it’s not a mental illness.

“I guess my fundamental sympathies in life are with people who are either ignored, badly treated, or plotted against. I’m kind of organically sympathetic to people who are different,” he said. “We’re generally moving over a long period of time toward greater understanding of the importance of individual freedom and individual self expression.”

However, not everyone thought the way that Schott did, which motivated him to cover the equality and civil rights movements. Almost always, he said, he wrote for progressive papers, including The Nation and the New Republic.

“Society as a whole moved in what I consider to be a right direction,” he said. “Our present situation, of course, is a pause in that inevitable movement, I think, toward greater freedom. But it’s an alarming pause, from my point of view. I’m 90 years old and I really look forward to living long enough to see Donald Trump thrown out of office.”

When asked if he thought his reporting was groundbreaking for the time, he quickly replied, no. Instead, Schott gives the credit to the editors and those who gave him the assignments for recognizing that the stories he wrote were worth telling.

“I was extremely fortunate, very lucky, to be able to write what I wrote and I think I wrote about the right things at the right time,” he said. “I think I was part of much larger forces at work in the world headed for more social justice.”

 

Originally published in South Florida Gay News

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Ron Blake Was Raped in 2015; Now He’s On A Mission to Share His Story and Get on the ‘The Late Show’

It was late on Nov. 2, 2015 when Ron Blake was sitting on his couch in Phoenix, Arizona. “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” had just started, and per usual, he opened the show with a monologue taking jabs at politics and pop culture.

Blake doesn’t remember what it was exactly, but Colbert made a joke during the monologue that had him cracking up with laughter. When he realized he was laughing — something he hadn’t done in a while — he paused the show to take in that moment.

“It’s not the fact that I laughed at that show that saved my life, it’s that I recognized that something was good . . . I went to bed with hope that night.”

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Shedding Light on Eating Disorders in the LGBT Community

Eating disorders only affect straight, white, teenage girls.

Well, that’s the stereotype that most people buy into, delaying diagnosis in males, older people, and the LGBT community.

“It’s definitely a misconception,” said Myra Hendley, a program therapist at the Eating Recovery Center of the Carolinas in Greenville, South Carolina.

“That’s not to say that body isn’t a huge part of eating disorder, but it could be anxiety driven or some kind of control mechanism … people don’t just say ‘Oh, I’d like to be skinnier’ and then develop anorexia. There’s something playing into that.”

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Charity and Sylvia – The 200-Year-Old Same-Sex Marriage

Rachel Hope Cleves

The legalization of same-sex marriage may be brand new to American history, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything unique.

Rachel Hope Cleves, a professor of history at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, has been studying the love story of two seemingly ordinary women: Charity Bryant and Sylvia Drake. After meeting in Vermont in the late 1700s, the women were “inseparable” and essentially lived as wife and wife for four decades.

In 2014, at the cusp of the Defense of Marriage Act being overturned in the United States, Cleves published “Charity and Sylvia” — a reminder that LGBT people are nothing new to history.

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Becoming Mommy: Lesbian couples share their journeys into motherhood

Jessica and Mandy Gerow during a maternity photo shoot. Photo by Stephanie Sonju.

It was two years ago that Kara Matus stepped into the NICU to visit her tiny twin daughters, little miracles named Reese and Cameron. The nurses asked her, “Where’s dad?”

She replied, “I’m dad.”

Matus’s wife, Jaclyn, gave birth to their daughters thanks to the growing field of reproductive medicine, and many other lesbian couples like them are able to have children together — and in a variety of ways (check out our infographic).

“There continues to be so many advancements that I noticed definitely there’s been an increase year after year in the LGBT patients that we’re getting,” said Dr. Lesley de la Torre, who practices at Associates in Advanced Maternal Fetal Medicine in Miami.

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The Boycott of Florida Orange Juice: How the breakfast juice turned toxic to the gay community

 

For a time in American history, public enemy No.1 was a seemingly innocuous item:

Orange juice.

But not just any orange juice: the juice that came from Florida. And thanks to the bigotry of Anita Bryant, her mission to “Save Our Children” turned the nation against the gay community.

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Caribbean Tourism is a Big Business; Billions Are Spent Each Year

This summer, Floridian ports will be jam packed with visitors from around the world eager to hit the seas and head to the Caribbean.

In this region, chock-full of beaches, outdoor adventures, luxury hotels, and bars, the LGBT community is rising up for equality.

“You can’t quantify the entire region with one brushstroke, and have to look at it country by country,” said John Tanzella, the president and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.

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Finding Life: Local filmmaker explores local gay and lesbian adoptions

Photo courtesy Carlton Smith

A local filmmaker’s documentary of adoption in LGBT families is now available to the public.

Carlton Smith’s “Finding Life” was recently picked up by Amazon and Google Play, allowing subscribers to watch his film following the lives of eight same-sex couples and their experience with adopting their children.

“I’ve only shared it to those who have worked on the film,” Smith said. “I’m excited to get everyone’s thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, the goal is to make people take a second look at fostering, for straight couples or gay couples.”

Smith has worked in the film industry for a number of years, including the country music scene while living in Tennessee. His last film, “The Black Miami,” looked at the contributions of African Americans in the Magic City. It too, was picked up by Amazon and Google Play.

It was while he was working his full-time job that he ended up at Kids in Distress. There, he saw a little boy walk into the room and yell “Daddies!” then running into the arms of two men.

“My jaw dropped and I was like, ‘Did that kid say daddies?’”

Smith, a gay man himself, had no idea same-sex couples could adopt or foster children. As he studied up on it, he decided his second film would be about LGBT couples expanding their families. For two years from start to finish, he was welcomed into the homes of multiple couples of different races and backgrounds to share their stories, all of which vary.

At the start of the filmmaking process for “Finding Life,” gay couples were not allowed to adopt. In 2010, the state’s ban on gay people adopting was overturned, but couples together could not adopt. Typically, one partner would adopt and be the child’s legal parent. The second parent was legally no more than a babysitter. Finally, in 2015, couples were given the right to adopt and be legally recognized as parents in the eyes of the law.

“I just wanted to really show that it didn’t matter, gay, straight or what your race is, that everybody if they’re willing and able can foster children,” Smith said. “It’s so important to show the diversity that’s out there.”

Also, Smith hopes it’s a learning experience for the LGBT community, some who may be like he was and learn that it’s possible to have children.

“I think it’s going to touch your heart. Whether you want to be a parent, whether you want to be a  parent, whether you’re gay, whether you’re straight, it’s going to touch your heart.

Want to watch “Finding Life?” Visit FindingLifeMovie.com to watch on Amazon or Google Play.

 

Story originally published in South Florida Gay News.

The Trans Woman Behind the Right to Have Surgery in Prison

In January, a California prisoner, Shiloh Quine, made headlines when she became the first prisoner to receive sex reassignment surgery.

However, her story begins much earlier and through the journey of another transgender woman, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy.

“I am so happy that she got it,” Norsworthy said of Quine. “Anybody who disagrees with an inmate getting sex reassignment surgery is saying — and a lot of trans people are against it — … that gender dysphoria is a choice, [that the surgery] is an elective or cosmetic procedure.”

Norsworthy, 53, who is now out of prison, made waves of her own when she petitioned the state to receive the surgery while she was serving time, a surgery she and medical professionals said was a medical necessity, in Norsworthy v. Beard.

However, after being denied parole five times, the state decided she was “cured” and ready to be released from prison. While she could finally say goodbye to prison life, it meant that she would no longer be getting the surgery.

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HRC Releases Ultimate Guide to Raising Trans Children

The Human Rights Campaign teamed up with two national pediatrics groups to produce a comprehensive guide on transgender children to help family, friends, and physicians.

The 24-page guide, Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, was produced with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP). It goes over basic definitions of gender, the benefits of affirming a child’s gender identity, debunks myths, and provides support and tips for those who care for transgender children.

“As we’ve made more and more progress with transgender rights and our society is getting a deeper understanding of what it means to be transgender, more and more people are comfortable in coming out at younger ages,” said Sarah McBride, the national press secretary at HRC.

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