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Support the Generations Project

June 17th, 2017

Written by Eric Ulloa

“How many here have heard or know about the Sip-In?” 

Six hands went up. 

In a room of over one hundred gay men and women, six people knew the reason that we were allowed to sit there on that Saturday and drink together, openly speaking about our homosexuality. 

Yet that same lack of historical knowledge is exactly why these people were gathered for Brunch on the weekend before Pride week officially kicked off. 

The Generations Project came into my life as I was embarking on a project about Queer history and wanted to push beyond all the research I’d done. I had read numerous books on Stonewall and the era, but wanted to find that personal account. Stories from the lips of people who were and have been out there living, fighting, carving a place in a society that had not yet accepted them. 

I was referred by a friend to Wes Enos, founder of The Generation Project, and upon our first meeting I knew that this was a group that I not only wanted to be a part of, but that I wanted to help in any way I could. 

We traveled to GMHC together to learn more about this organization and speak to some who had been there since its inception. We met the former president of the Mattachine Society at Julius’s for a 3 hour talk about the Pre Stonewall era. And with each meeting, the blanks began to fill themselves in. Blanks that books can’t teach you. Blanks that an entire generation took to the grave with them during the AIDS crisis. 

My first actual event with The Generations Project was the BEFORE Pride Brunch, held on June 17th at Etcetera, Etcetera. 

101 people sat down to a meal/drinks and listened to various stories from older and younger generations of the LGBTQ community. Dick Leitsch, former president of the Mattachine Society, taught everyone about the “Sip-In” and just why they were able to congregate with a cocktail in hand without the police arresting us. The man who physically challenged the law in 1966 was right there telling us all about it, an unknown hero that sat among us until he told the story and we realized the treasure sitting at the front of the room. 

Ruby Rims told us about her beginnings in the world of drag, with the razor wit only a legendary queen possesses. She also told us the painful truth about how the physical scars of being bashed may heal, but the emotional ones never erase themselves. 

Deborah Emin reminded us of the power of just telling your story, and how with sharing, she was able to learn her next purpose in life as a proud lesbian. 

We sat, we talked, we learned and we grew. 

And after, 101 people left and told their friends the stories they now knew, and hundreds more now had a stronger arsenal of history at their fingertips. 

A generation may have taken a lot of this to the grave with them, but there are still so many out there, brimming with knowledge that strengthen us not only as people, but as a community equipped to deal with whatever the future holds. If we don’t know our own history, we will most definitely repeat the mistakes made prior and never learn from these hero’s that paved the foundations we walk on. 

The Generations Project will change your life. I assure you. It’s changing mine.