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Culturizate: Queer Miami

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Adora: Teddy” I can’t decide what to wear to the opening of the ‘Queer Miami” show at History Miami Museum. It’s all about the LGBTQ History of Miami, so I’m thinking vintage. It’s could be the 1940’s, but I saw some of the Exhibit photos from the 50’s, 60’s, and the ’70’s too…a lot of territory really.

Teddy: I saw the photo of Anita Bryant from the exhibit… She was from 1977, though’ she looks kind of like the ’50’s, so maybe something that’s the opposite of her since she’s one of the most anti-LGBTQ people in Miami’s history.

Adora: Mmmmm that was a tough time: things were opening up a bit in LGBTQ acceptance and she came along and tried to whip up a reaction against us. What the exhibit shows is that our people took to the streets. Looking back, it seems like it all back-fired: we stood up and said NO!, and as people begin to pay closer attention to the way we’d been treated, they mostly took a more tolerant view. Luckily Ms. Bryant lost her advertising gig for Florida Orange Juice. Hate and rejection is an ugly message, and luckily most people get that…even if maybe not necessarily right away.

Teddy Behr: Yes: The first Miami Gay Pride Parade was a year later in 1978, and there are several pictures of people at the parade. It can’t have been a coincidence that it followed Anita Bryant’s attacks.  Lots, maybe most Gays and Lesbians were still closeted if they could pull it off, but as more and more people came out to their families, friends and co-workers, people were able to see that: they were surrounded by US!, and that people knew us and knew we weren’t a threat. So those early days of Gay Pride, which was called ‘Gay Rights March’ back then, and people coming out of closets, were really important.

Adora: Mmmm…Drag was like really outrageous then and I doubt people could even imagine a TV show like RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 1980 a lot of Gays and Lesbians were able to leave Cuba in the MARIEL boat lift, because as bad as it was in the US for LGBTQ’s, it was even more serious in Cuba: you could get jail time for doing Drag. There are pics of LGBTQ refugees on the Captain Preston Boat arriving in Miami in the exhibit.

Teddy Behr: There’s also a picture of Pedro Zamora with his father. He became a media sensation because he came out: not just Gay but living with HIV/AIDS on one of the first Reality TV Shows: The Real World: San Francisco. People were really confronted with the whole thing on TV, which had to be huge at the time because it humanized and personalized the whole crisis the LGBTQ community was facing. Even with all the fear, people saw how we were being affected and stigmatized.

Adora: Oh yes, Pedro grew up in Cuba and Hialeah. He found out he was HIV positive while still in Hialeah High School and decided to commit himself to AIDS awareness, which was super-courageous back then, before people like Liz Taylor or Princess Diana got involved in supporting people With AIDS. Pedro Zamora and his lover, Sean Sasser (who he met on the TV show), created a ‘Commitment Ceremony’ on TV, and it won the award for ‘Viewer’s Favorite Love Story’ a few years later. He died in 1994, but he did so much for AIDS awareness; helping people to come together during that crisis. People outside our communities saw the courage coming out of the crisis we were facing.

Teddy Behr: As part of the exhibition, there’s a place where anyone can post their own stories on FB at: https://www.facebook.com/events/739980663024789/?active_tab=discussion

There are already some interesting posts…So the exhibit can serve as a catalyst for people sharing about the past or present in the LGBTQ community. It’s important, especially for older people to share their stories, for real first-hand documentation and memories of how so many people navigated secret, repressed lives, faced overt and covert discrimination, and even violence, as we’ve moved our love into the light for everybody to recognize, to accept and to value, just as all love should be.”

Adora: We still have a lot to do for our communities and really for everybody who might feel a bit outside of old gender, or other social stereotypes. A lot has been achieved for Trans people, and trans kids have seen some focus and reinforcing attention, but the really great advances have just begun. As far as ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ they are really just idealized constructs, and most people are blends or mixes of ‘Male/Female behavior, psyches and even physical traits.. .As we recognize that nobody’s really all-male, or ‘all-female’, we can let it go and just discover, and allow each other to be who we are, or to become who we might feel like. I love people feeling free to be and to become who they feel. Surprise, you get to be who you are! We know it takes courage, but when we accept ourselves…wow!

Teddy Behr:  Yup, I remember the first time I put on a dress, because I was brought up very ‘boy’, it was really liberating. It was like something was just let go of and released, and I found myself looking at my feminine side right there in the mirror. But the bigger thing is the way so many people were taught that who they are, in their deepest most-expressive self, wasn’t ‘OK.’ That it was shameful, even sinful, and had to be repressed. Let’s face it: ‘anytime we can let go of any kind of fear, either individually or collectively, we create more space for love, acceptance and connection…and like you said: FUN!

QUEER MIAMI

History Miami Museum
101 W Flagler St
Miami, Florida 33130
(305) 375-1492
historymiami.org
Open through Sept 1, 2019

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