Stonewall-sized ex­pec­ta­tions

GA Voice - - Best Bets - By MELISSA CARTER

If you’re gay you’ve cer­tainly heard of the Stonewall ri­ots, but have you ac­tu­ally ever been to the bar where it took place? I have and it was noth­ing like what I ex­pected.

I wasn’t born when those demon­stra­tions took place at the Green­wich Vil­lage bar. Once I re­al­ized I was gay as a pre-teen, I se­cretly re­searched his­tory re­gard­ing our peo­ple and the Stonewall ri­ots were some of the first pin­na­cle mo­ments in mod­ern gay his­tory I found.

The fact that it took place in New York seemed so big to this small town South­ern girl. I en­vi­sioned a huge build­ing with mas­sive crowds, and some statue in place to com­mem­o­rate the sac­ri­fice those pa­trons gave to make sure that raids of gay bars were no longer a stan­dard prac­tice by po­lice.

That’s not what I found. While vis­it­ing New York for the first time years ago, I wanted to make sure I had a drink at the Stonewall Inn—it would be sac­ri­le­gious as a les­bian to come to the Big Ap­ple and not do so. I may have ac­tu­ally passed the place be­fore I re­al­ized I had ar­rived there.

A small, smoky lounge at­mos­phere was what I stepped into, with very few peo­ple in­side. No statue out­side, no huge gath­er­ings, just a dive for those who wanted a quick drink and ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion with the solo bar­tender.

I must say I was hon­estly dis­ap­pointed. Not that there was any­thing wrong with the place; the poor bar was never go­ing to live up to the pala­tial pre­con­cep­tion I had de­vel­oped in my mind. Maybe I thought there would be a big rain­bow car­pet to wel­come weary gay trav­el­ers. Maybe I thought there would be a ticket win­dow for guided tours of the his­toric site. Noth­ing. It was just a small bar that weaved non-de­scriptly into the fab­ric of the neigh­bor­hood.

I had my drink, de­spite the headache I de­vel­oped from the nicotine-in­fused fab­ric I was sur­rounded by, but soon left with­out a sou­venir. My media-drowned mind would have set up a t-shirt shop next to the bar, with do­na­tions ben­e­fit­ing ACT UP. Maybe they had all that some­where else and I just missed it.

I walked away re­al­iz­ing that I mis­un­der­stood his­tory this whole time. I al­ways paid at­ten­tion to the out­come of events but rarely ab­sorbed the fact that a small spark is re­ally the start of a mas­sive blaze. Like with Stonewall, all of our lives ben­e­fited from that small space. Not only did we be­gin to be taken se­ri­ously as a com­mu­nity, but ev­ery Pride event or march you have par­tic­i­pated in was in­spired by those ri­ots. The key is rec­og­niz­ing that you’re as equally im­por­tant as an in­di­vid­ual as you are part of the col­lec­tive.

Now I re­al­ize that mak­ing a true dif­fer­ence doesn’t re­quire be­ing a vi­ral sensation with throngs of peo­ple chant­ing your name. It sim­ply re­quires you to re­main au­then­tic to your true self when it seems the world around you would rather you be some­one else.

Melissa Carter is one of the Morn­ing Show hosts on B98.5. In ad­di­tion, she is a writer for the Huff­in­g­ton Post. She is rec­og­nized as one of the first out ra­dio per­son­al­i­ties in At­lanta and one of the few in the coun­try. Fol­low her on Twit­ter@Melis­saCarter

“Maybe I thought there would be a big rain­bow car­pet to wel­come weary gay trav­el­ers. Maybe I thought there would be a ticket win­dow for guided tours of the his­toric site. Noth­ing. It was just a small bar that weaved non-de­scriptly into the fab­ric of the neigh­bor­hood.”

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