Even though many of us have grown up reading about the likes of MCC founder Rev. Troy Perry and lesbian activist Ivy Bottini, there will be young people in our community who have never heard of any of McElhinney’s 11 subjects.
That’s why films like this are necessary and there’s an urgency to capture the memories of those who were around in the bad old days before the Stonewall Riots began the movement in earnest.
The stories have been told before — of McCarthy-era persecution (much of it orchestrated by a closeted J. Edgar Hoover), police raids on gay bars for such then-unlawful acts as wearing articles of clothing meant for the opposite sex or touching a person of the same sex, being considered “sick” and generally being under far more pressure to remain closeted than most of us are today.
This film is more Los Angeles-centered than “Before Stonewall” (New York), “Last Call at Maud’s” (San Francisco) and others that have documented our pre-history. It begins with almost dizzyingly brief takes to introduce the B, the T and the nine L’s and G’s who will be our guides. Most get to tell their own stories later at a more leisurely pace.
Bottini was president of the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter until she started standing up for lesbian visibility. Soon she found herself in L.A., where she was welcomed as a hero but still controversial.
Perry couldn’t find a church where gays were welcome so he started his own. Nancy Valverde endured repeated arrests for not dressing as a woman “should.” Actor Dale Reynolds formed the Alliance for Gay &Lesbian Artists in the entertainment industry, in the days before GLAAD.
You may not know all their names but after you see the film you’ll look down and realize you’ve been standing on their shoulders.
If you love to cry at weddings you’d better bring a bucket to the June 12 screening of “Married…and Counting,” the story of actor Pat Dwyer and photographer Stephen Mosher celebrating their 25th anniversary of becoming college sweethearts by getting married in all the states where it was legal in 2010 and early 2011. Dwyer, Mosher and Director Allan Piper will attend the screening, so bring your questions too.
Never has a film been more eager to move from the Current Events shelf to History. It’s already dated. When Stephen and Pat began in the fall of 2010 they only had six states and the District of Columbia to visit; the number of states has since doubled, and the Supreme Court could make the state-by-state procedure obsolete this month.
At the time it was an important statement for the men to make, both politically (the film touches all those bases without becoming strident about it) and personally, as a demonstration of their love and a challenge to their not-fully-accepting families.
They also wanted “the maximum amount of legal protection that we can get,” having already gone through the needlessly complicated process of drawing up wills that would withstand probate.
Their weddings involve a number of longtime friends and occasional strangers. When the Iowa wedding has to be moved up because of a threat to overturn the state supreme court’s ruling, it’s held in the home of a friend’s chiropractor’s receptionist’s father!
After seeing them marry in Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, California (for symbolism sake) and (on their actual 25th anniversary, April 26, 2011) in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, you may wonder as I did about Connecticut. A New York Times article reveals they had eloped there in 2009, before Piper started filming.
The belated passage of marriage equality in Stephen and Pat’s home state of New York allows the film a happy Coney Island coda.
George Takei, may he live long and prosper, narrates to perfection, but my favorite line comes from Stephen’s mother, commenting on those who oppose marriage equality: “People who wave their Bible need to read it more.”
Top photo: Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer celebrate their wedding on the steps of the Supreme Court. (Publicity photo)