I do not have a bucket list.
I do not plan on kicking the bucket any time soon.
I do, however, have something I call my “Crazy Awesome Life” list.
That’s what I want to do.
I want to have a crazy awesome life.
This summer, I’ve crossed a LOT of things off that list. Things that scare me. Things that I put on the list in hopes of someday happening. Things I thought were just a pipe dream.
You see, when I made the list, I was still in the closet.
DEEP in the closet.
So far back that I was closer to Narnia than the door.
So closeted that I couldn’t show the full list to people, because it would have outed me.
But now the list is out, because I’m out.
And I’ve been crossing things off like crazy this summer.
First…well. Lots of firsts.
And a big one –
Have a drink at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, NYC.
Ever since I learned about the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 riot started by a drag queen of color birthed the gay rights movement, I’ve wanted to go.
To sit in the seats where so many have found sanctuary before me.
To pay my respects
Express my gratitude
Raise my glass to those who literally fought back so that I can walk down the street without fear.
It’s been a really long day. Tracy, Karen, and I walked all over Chinatown, up through Nolita, and back into the village. By the time we exit the subway across the street from the Stonewall, I’m exhausted. My leg is dragging. I am having a difficult time controlling my muscles, and am fighting back tears of frustration.
We are still on a mission.
My favorite shop – a tiny hole in the wall tea place called McNulty’s – is up Christopher St about a quarter of a mile.
We walk there, and I pick up my requisite stash of teas to get me through the winter.
My body is screaming.
I’m dropping things all over the place.
Tracy wants to go to Myers of Keswick, which is ANOTHER half mile in the opposite direction.
I just can’t.
Thankfully, they realize that I am struggling, and, while I’m inside collecting and paying for my carefully weighed tea leaves, they decide that we’ll split up.
Tracy will go to her shop, and Karen and I will head for Stonewall.
So we make our way back up the street, and, on our way, pass through the park across the street from the bar – America’s first monument to LGBTQ Rights. It’s a tiny park – a pocket park, really, but it’s teeming with people.
We pass the 4 statues – two same-sex couples just enjoying the park like everyone else – and I quietly snap a photo with my phone. I stumble, and Karen takes my arm to keep me from falling. She’s not my girlfriend, but I’m acutely aware that we are two lesbians walking arm in arm in the heart of NYC, and I’m profoundly grateful for the Stonewall Veterans who fought to make that very simple act legal.
I tear up, not tears of frustration this time, but of gratitude.
[my picture didn’t turn out. this one is from google]
We make our way into Stonewall, which is surprisingly small. I am not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t this.
Just inside the door hung a sign, behind plexi-glass – THIS IS A RAIDED PREMESIS.
A reminder of those fateful nights in 1969.
Through the second door, and we squint into the darkness, trying to adjust our eyes.
There’s music playing, but not obnoxiously so, and a row of people sit at the bar sipping their drinks, under the cover of rainbow flags that wave in the air conditioned breeze above them.
We make our way to the back, over well-worn wood floors, very obviously weathered with time and heavy use.
I can almost feel them.
I can almost feel the people long gone
The ones who fought back that night during the raid
The ones who celebrated in the streets when marriage equality became the law of the land
The ones who gathered to mourn after the horror in Orlando
I’ve only been out a year, and I live in very conservative Central PA. I’m just starting to connect with other LGBT people in my area. I come from a strict religious background that doesn’t have much tolerance, let alone acceptance, for people like me.
It can be incredibly lonely.
Sitting in the back room of Stonewall with Karen, sipping my ginger ale, looking at the framed photos of the riots, I feel myself, for the first time, feel pride.
Yes, I’ve been to a pride event.
Yes, I’ve worn rainbow hair ribbons and performed gay weddings.
In this place
I realize that I’m….
That if I lean over and lay my head on Karen’s shoulder, no one is going to think “ugh. Lesbians.”
We spend an hour in Stonewall. Eventually, Tracy joins us. Mostly, we sit in silence. I am lost in thought.
After we’ve rested, we decide to head back uptown to Tracy’s apartment, so we walk toward the front door. Even now, in the height of happy hour, it’s still a quiet, neighborhood bar.
Two men greet each other with a kiss and a hug as we’re walking past. I hear the beginnings of their conversation – “Hey sweetie, how was your day?” “Oh my god, you have no idea…”
I smile, and as we step out into the sunlight, whisper two words.