Movements for social, racial, and economic justice have touched every facet of American life, but perhaps none are so diverse as the modern LGBTQ rights movement. The premise was simple, but acceptance was not. While freedom from personal and political oppression, the right to live one’s own truth and identity, and the opportunity to choose love are theoretically fundamental, they continue to be hard won for those in the LGBTQ community.
Being LGBTQ was not only socially unacceptable 50 years ago, it was prosecutable. New Yorkers could be arrested just for dancing with the same sex, or engaging in private, consensual same-sex activity. The American Psychiatric Association considered “homosexuality” a mental disorder until 1973, and being “outed” could jeopardize one’s employment, housing, reputation, and relationships.
When New York acts, the rest of the nation follows. That was true of the Stonewall uprisings in 1969; it was true when New York became the first large state to pass marriage equality in 2011; and it is true today, as we work together to achieve true equality for all.
This exhibit honors the meaningful political, cultural, and artistic impacts of just a few LGBTQ New Yorkers. Its namesake is a quote by Harvey Milk, an incomparable leader featured within it who declared, “Hope will never be silent.” We pay homage to the remarkable individuals whose persistence and influence have sent a loud and clear message to those within the LGBTQ community and beyond: there is power in being who you are. Let their voices rise above the silence and continue to move the fight for equality forward.