Memories of That Night at the Stonewall Inn, From Those Who Were There

Few people are still around who were really at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on that summer evening 50 years ago, when a raid by the police led to a violent uprising. Just this month, the New York Police Department apologized. Here are recollections of that night from three men who were there.

In February 1969, Martin Boyce moved into the Manhattan apartment where he would live for the next 50 years. At the time, Mr. Boyce, then a 21-year-old history student at Hunter College, was living with his family. Most nights, however, he traded the East Side for the West Village, where the Stonewall Inn resides.

“Christopher Street was our turf,” he said in a recent interview at his home.Stonewall Inn

Mr. Boyce and some of his friends liked to dress in “scare drag,” a looser style of gender-bending that, he recalled, some drag queens derided as “lazy” and “no ambition.”

But the point was “to confuse someone for just a few moments,” he explained. In any case, one of his personal philosophies of scare drag had a practical benefit.

“Never wear heels, because you had to run,” he said.

Evading police harassment was a fact of life for gay people like Mr. Boyce. Many of the unwanted interactions were predicated on a criminal statute allowing for the arrest of anyone not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing. (“And socks didn’t count,” Mr. Boyce said.)

While allowing that the officers “generally” followed the rules, he said that “it was all their whim to make our lives miserable.”

According to Mr. Boyce, the routine police stops, regular attempts at entrapment and raids of establishments frequented by gays all contributed to an atmosphere in which being gay meant feeling hunted.

“We all had our lists in our heads of friends who were beaten, maimed, thrown out of their house, informed on by the cops — tragic stories,” he said. “But there was nothing you could do about it.”

The Stonewall Inn, a seedy gay bar on Christopher Street, was different things to different people. Many resented the Mafia’s control of the bar, which manifested in ways ranging from police payoffs to what Mr. Boyce described as a sign-in book at the entrance. (“I can’t tell you how many times Judy Garland was there,” he said wryly. “Not one real name.”)

But Mark Segal, a Philadelphia native who, at 18, arrived in New York City in the spring of 1969, was more than happy to overlook the overpriced and watered-down drinks.

“It was a safe place for us,” he said. “When you walked in the door of Stonewall,” he added, “you could hold hands, you could kiss and, more importantly, you could dance.”

The bar also drew an unusually diverse crowd. “Stonewall was like a Noah’s ark,” Mr. Boyce said. Its patrons exhibited “degrees of loudness,” he explained, “going from drag queens down to professionals.”

To avoid alienating any particular demographic and ensure that the clientele remained mixed, Mr. Boyce said, the bar’s various Mafia front men performed a crude calculus at the door: “Not too many whites, it’ll tip to white; not too many blacks, it’ll tip to black.”

Still, “it wasn’t the only gay bar in the neighborhood,” Jim Fouratt pointed out in a recent interview. Mr. Fouratt turned 28 in the summer of 1969, when he was working for CBS Records, giving the label cool-kid credibility in meetings with bands. He preferred a bar at the nearby Cherry Lane Theater, he said.

“Most of the customers were closeted married men,” he said of the Stonewall. In his 1993 book “Stonewall,” the historian Martin Duberman quoted a description of the bar by Mr. Fouratt that pulled exactly zero punches: “a real dive, an awful, sleazy place set up by the Mob for hustlers.”

anytime.com, by louis Lucero II, June 16, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

David Strah Shares His Experiences Raising a Trans Son on Latest Episode of Daddy Square

Author David Strah sat down with the Daddy Square guys to talk about fatherhood, his book, and experiences raising a trans son.

Here’s a fact: gay parents are much more attentive to their kids’ gender expressions than heterosexual parents. Just from the nature of growing up different, sometimes in an unwelcoming environment, we don’t want our kids to suffer the emotional pain that we went through.David Strah

This is a partial explanation for an amazing growing phenomenon, where gay couples step forward and adopt transgender youth who were thrown out of their homes. In this episode of Daddy Squared we brought on David Strah, a family therapist from Los Angeles who specializes in LGBTQ issues. David is also a father of a transgender boy, and shares from his own personal experience.

“It’s sort of a myth that trans people or trans kids come out and say ‘this is the way I am’ at age 2,” David explains. “There are normally a few things that happen or that show up, and sometimes it means that they are going to be trans and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it means that they’re going to be somewhere in the middle. I think it’s about educating ourselves, about being sensitive, about creating a household that’s trans friendly, talking about things, really getting in front of the issues, talking about the gender spectrum – all the differences, and how it is a spectrum and you don’t have to be one way or the other. You can be somewhere in between or you can lean towards being a boy or lean towards being a girl and then another day you can decide to do something different.”

David thinks it’s really important to listen to our kids and if they’re saying something very clearly, to really respond to that and cooperate with them.

“I think that when my younger son, when he was a girl, probably at around 5 or 6, he definitely wanted to wear boys underwear, briefs,” David shares. “So we went out to the Gap and bought boys’ briefs and we were absolutely fine with that. We didn’t really know what it meant but we felt that he was directing that and that’s something he wanted to do so we did it, and at that time, to be perfectly honest, we thought, well, he’s got two dads and a big brother so he probably wants to wear underwear like he sees on other people in his family.

“There was another time, around Rosh Hashanah, and she needed a new dress. She absolutely refused to wear a dress, she wanted a suit, so we said okay, and went to J. Crew and bought a suit and we said ‘but you have to wear a flower on the lapelle – which was kinda silly in retrospect on our part—but that was a compromise, she was very happy and she looked very chic.”

Click here to listen to the Daddy Squared Podcast.

GaysWithKids.com by Yanir Dekel, May 29, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Desperately Seeking a Black Sperm Donor

Nikki and I did something often considered too good to be true. We stumbled across each other in a humid, dark, loud nightclub in West Hollywood during the 2014 Los Angeles Pride weekend; it was love at first sight. 

anonymous sperm donorsFast forward to 2018, when we got married and bought a house within the same week. But our dream wouldn’t be complete without one more miracle: motherhood. The medical recommendation is that women have children before the age of 35, so we decided that Nikki should carry first since she’s 33 and I’m 28. But like many folks who seek out fertility help, we had no idea how difficult it would be to find the perfect sperm donor, let alone a black sperm donor.

Nikki is an extrovert who works as a global partnership senior manager for a top technology company. If her perfect smile and big hair don’t blow you away, her optimism and ambition will take you around the universe and back. Nikki would describe me as a super creative, solutions-oriented introvert. I’m the person everyone comes to for advice, but I was at a loss when it came to finding a suitable sperm donor for our needs.

Even before we started looking, I was under the impression that there was a limited supply of black donors. Maybe that’s because I don’t know any black donors. Maybe it’s because buying sperm or conceiving a baby in this fashion isn’t considered a “black thing.” As it turns out, I was correct. Though private sperm banks are not required to share the ethnic origins of their donors publicly, as we started our search we found the number of black donors to be vanishingly small.

Below is a conversation between Nikki and me about the start of our journey to motherhood. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Nikki: I searched for a gay-friendly sperm bank, because I figured that sperm banks function like most institutions or companies.

B.A.: How do most institutions function? Are you saying that you expected sperm banks to be less prepared to assist customers who weren’t white, straight and married?

Nikki: Yes, potentially. So, I felt like I needed to specify gay-friendly sperm banks. I came across a blog that listed about 10 sperm banks with each bank’s contact information, a little blurb on why to choose that bank and how they accommodated LGBTQAI+ families. The bank we ultimately decided on offered extensive genetic testing and data, and the website had a little rainbow heart confirming their support for families like ours.

NYTimes.com, by B.A. Williams, May 6, 2019

Click here to read the entire article about seeking a black sperm donor.

I Wanted to Change the World for Gay Black People. Starting With Myself. Queer Love In Color

I’m working on a book based on my Times article, “Queer Love in Color,” a celebration of the joy and romance that queer couples and families of color share. Here’s how it came about — and how you can help.

queer love in color

Last year, I published an article that changed my life.

I was a few weeks into my job at The New York Times when I realized I was never taught how to love another gay, black man.

I mean, I’d done it. I’ve had fulfilling relationships and I’ve said “I love you” and meant it. But did I really know what I was doing? Did any of us? It’s hard to do something you’ve never seen. For most of my life, the most visible queer couples in media have been white. I’d always been aware of this, but I didn’t realize what it was doing to my head.

So I made a list of all the things in my life I started to question soon after working here.

  • The truth is hard. So hard that The Times, where I’m a digital storytelling and training editor, built an entire advertising campaignaround it. Is it too hard for me? Do I even know how to do journalism? Do I have a basic grasp of the English language?
  • How do I single-handedly reverse over a century of problematic representation and erasure of minority communities by the media? Will it make me Twitter-famous? 
  • How do I learn to love other gay men? When I figure this out, how do I teach the rest of the gay community? 

I got to thinking.

Six months earlier, I had been in Orlando, at a gay bar with a young man named Josean, whose two best friends were murdered in the Pulse Nightclub shooting 357 days earlier. We were searching for Khia, rapper of “My Neck, My Back” fame, who was performing a benefit show for survivors of the shooting and their families. (We never found her.)

Late that evening, I met another young man, who, upon learning I was a journalist, lamented the media’s coverage of the Pulse shooting and its aftermath, and the focus on bloodshed and tragedy over the community’s continuing story of strength and triumph.

I was emotionally overwhelmed by both that story and that moment and felt a clarity of mission that I’d never felt before.

I remember wishing I had someone to talk to. Or alcohol. Or tacos. (There are great tacos in Orlando.)

Instead, back at my hotel, I cried and watched TV and eventually I was no longer awake.

About a year after crying myself to sleep in that Orlando hotel room, I wrote and photographed an article called “Queer Love in Color” for The New York Times. That was a life-changing experience, too, in the literal sense. I grew more optimistic about love, the queer community and our ability to honestly represent the two in our reporting. 

NYTimes.com, April 6, 2019 by Jamal Jordan

Click here to read the entire article.

The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting

Raising children has become significantly more time-consuming and expensive, amid a sense that opportunity has grown more elusive.

Parenthood in the United States has become much more demanding than it used to be.

Over just a couple of generations, parents have greatly increased the amount of time, attention and money they put into raising children. Mothers who juggle jobs outside the home spend just as much time tending to their children as stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s.

The amount of money parents spend on children, which used to peak when they were in high school, is now highest when they are under 6 and over 18 and into their mid-20s.

Renée Sentilles enrolled her son Isaac in lessons beginning when he was an infant. Even now that he’s 12, she rarely has him out of sight when he is home.

“I read all the child-care books,” said Ms. Sentilles, a professor in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “I enrolled him in piano at 5. I took him to soccer practices at 4. We tried track; we did all the swimming lessons, martial arts. I did everything. Of course I did.”

While this kind of intensive parenting — constantly teaching and monitoring children — has been the norm for upper-middle-class parents since the 1990s, new research shows that people across class divides now consider it the best way to raise children, even if they don’t have the resources to enact it.

There are signs of a backlash, led by so-called free-range parents, but social scientists say the relentlessness of modern-day parenting has a powerful motivation: economic anxiety. For the first time, it’s as likely as not that American children will be less prosperous than their parents. For parents, giving children the best start in life has come to mean doing everything they can to ensure that their children can climb to a higher class, or at least not fall out of the one they were born into.

“As the gap between rich and poor increases, the cost of screwing up increases,” said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies families and inequality. “The fear is they’ll end up on the other side of the divide.”

But it also stokes economic anxiety, because even as more parents say they want to raise childrenthis way, it’s the richest ones who are most able to do so.

New York Times by Claire Cain Miller, March 26, 2019

Click here to read the entire article.

Insanity Founder Shaun T Opens Up about Twin Life After 12 Pregnancy Attempts With 5 Surrogates

Shaun T

Aside from trying to get the world physically fit, Shaun T and Scott Blokker are raising baby twins. Easy, right?!

Six years ago, fitness trainer Shaun T, creator of the Insanity workout and the new Transform :20 program, was ready to start a family with his husband and business partner, Scott Blokker. But the journey wasn’t easy. “We went through all the things that couples struggling with fertility go through: tests, doubt, grief, not knowing, waiting,” Scott says.

Twelve attempts, six egg donors, five surrogates, two doctors, one miscarriage, and thousands of dollars later, their two adorable sons, Silas Rhys and Sander Vaughn, arrived. Though they share the same egg donor, Sander is from Shaun’s sperm and Silas is from Scott’s sperm. Their surrogate delivered them two minutes apart. “Ask all the questions you want,” Shaun says when people wonder how the boys came to be. Adds Scott, “It blows my mind how much I’ve learned.”

The boys turned 1 in November, and their dads could not be more proud, especially after all they’ve been through. The babies were born at 32 weeks and spent the first three weeks in the NICU. “On their last night there, we had no monitors, no nurses, just us,” says Shaun. “I remember thinking, ‘This will be a piece of cake.’ I was so wrong. They cried nonstop!”

Well, guys, welcome to parenthood! Scott and Shaun speak of the first four months of parenting twins as an almost comically dark time in their lives. “It was terrible,” says Shaun, laughing. “We got into more fights than we’d ever had in our entire relationship.” Scott adds, “I even questioned whether we’d ruined our marriage by having kids, but it wasn’t the kids. It was the not sleeping!”

Two preemies meant both parents doing every feeding around the clock. “No more than two hours of sleep at a time for weeks in a row is killer,” says Scott. Meanwhile, Sander wouldn’t eat, or if he did, he’d spit up. “We felt bad, but at 3 a.m. it was, ‘Okay, who wants Sander?’ ” Shaun says.

Eventually, the babies started to sleep through the night, and so did Shaun and Scott. Like magic, conflicts abated. They divided and conquered. Scott says he’s the family manager, while Shaun is the cruise director. “I do all the planning—babysitters, shopping, doctors—and Shaun brings the fun.”

Daddy Squared Podcast tells the story of the 14th annual Men Having Babies NYC conference

In this special episode, we flew to New York City to experience the annual Men Having Babies Conference. 

MHB provides unbiased surrogacy parenting advice and support for gay men worldwide. The Conference featured parenting options in the USA and Canada, in-depth panels — including on insurance, budgeting, and teen surrogacy children, and an Expo of surrogacy parenting info. In this episode we shed a light on the history and work of Men Having Babies, on the conference and on the Canadian surrogacy option.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Sam Thoron, former PFLAG president, dies at 79

Sam Thoron sold insurance and raced sports cars — but he was better known for changing the lives of thousands of straight families with gay children.

His decades of work and eventual national presidency of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, began on the day in 1990 when his 19-year-old daughter, Liz Thoron, came home from college on vacation and told him she was gay.sam thoron

“I realized our daughter had not changed but that we needed support in integrating this new information into our lives,” Thoron said in an essay he wrote in 2007. “We found that support with PFLAG. I became deeply committed to the principle that my daughter deserves to be treated, in every aspect of her life, with the same respect and dignity as seems to flow so naturally to her two brothers.”

Thoron, who served for four years as national board president of PFLAG, died Nov. 17 of esophageal cancer in his San Francisco home at the age of 79.

Current PFLAG president Kathy Godwin said Thoron’s leadership was “personal, caring, thoughtful and filled with passion — but mostly it was about the right to love, to be authentic, and to share one’s life in joy and dignity.”

“He was the embodiment of what PFLAG stands for,” said Liz Owen, the group’s communications director. “Warm, loving, with a shoulder for everyone. A strong parental voice for equal rights, not just for his own child but for everyone’s.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Thoron was a 1964 graduate of Harvard University and a U.S. Army veteran who had a brief stint as an amateur race car driver in New England until his wife persuaded him, after an accident, to knock it off.

by Steve Rubenstein, sfchronicle.com, November 30, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

They were a gay, interracial couple in an age of relentless bigotry. The two Harolds didn’t flinch.

Estate agent Verna Clayborne takes a seat in the dining room of an expansive 16th Street Heights home and sighs.

The two Harolds have tired her out.

It’s Clayborne’s job to get rid of the stuff of the deceased. The couple who lived in the house for more than half a century — Harold Herman, a white man who died in 2016 at 87, and Harold Mays, a black man who died almost exactly a year later at 81 — had a lot of it.Harold

These aren’t your typical finds in the home of retirees. Clayborne is sitting amid a pile of antiques and memorabilia — paintings, LPs, books, coins, stamps, personal correspondence — worth, she estimates, $500,000. These objects, curated lovingly by two collectors in love for over five decades, offer glimpses of what it was like to be black and gay in America when it was dangerous to be either.

“They knew how to live and lived well,” she said of the Harolds.

The Harolds met in New England before moving in together in post-integration, pre-riot Washington in 1965. One was a black Army veteran from St. Louis, the other a white college professor from Pennsylvania. Though family and acquaintances say they were a private couple, they could not help being pioneers.

They later ran Two Harolds Antiques in Alexandria for more than a decade and owned a collection of thousands of signed first editions so extensive that they kept an in-house card catalogue. The books are varied — works by gay raconteur Quentin Crisp amid Janet Evanovich thrillers.

Much of what’s left in the Harolds’ home doesn’t explicitly bear their mark. There’s large black-and-white prints of the last century’s black royalty: Harry Belafonte, Jesse Jackson, Lou Rawls, Cicely Tyson. Another photo includes two faces lesser known outside the Beltway in the 1960s and 1970s, but inescapable within it: Marion Barry and his first wife, Blantie Evans, on a beach.

But every collection reveals the collector, and in other ephemera the Harolds left behind, they come into sharper focus. One snapshot shows Mays shaking Belafonte’s hand at a Politics and Prose. Another shows their modest wedding, held in 2013 at what looks like a courthouse following the legalization of same-sex marriage — after they had already been a couple for almost 50 years.

By Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, October 16, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

They were gay and wanted a baby. She loved being pregnant. They made a deal.

Christina Fenn and her husband, Brian, have driven an hour and a half to this quaint coffee shop in Monroe, Conn. Fenn sips her morning latte, skittishly glancing out the window at the parking lot. “I’m nervous,” she says, grabbing her husband’s arm. “Nervous-excited, though.” He smiles back.

She’s wearing green, her lucky color. Green shirt and green jacket, green bracelets, green socks. She feels as if she needs all the luck she can get today.

“They’re here,” her husband says, standing to greet two men walking toward them.Hoylman

Bill Johnson and Kraig Wiedenfeld have been a couple for 18 years and married for four. Everyone embraces warmly.

They’re an unlikely foursome: two gay men from the Upper East Side of New York and a small-town husband and wife who met when they both were 20 at a Dunkin’ Donuts.

By lunchtime, if all goes as planned, Christina Fenn will be pregnant with Johnson and Wiedenfeld’s son. An embryo created from Wiedenfeld’s sperm and an egg from an anonymous donor will be thawed and transferred into Fenn’s uterus, and she will be considered “PUPO” — pregnant until proven otherwise.

“Let’s go have a baby!” says Wiedenfeld. They all smile nervously.

The couples drive in separate cars to CT Fertility, a clinic five minutes down the road.

This isn’t Fenn’s first time at the clinic. She has proudly carried three babies — including a set of twins — as a surrogate for two other same-sex couples. She heads to Exam Room 3, while Johnson and Wiedenfeld go to a waiting area until it’s time for the transfer.

“You have a beautiful embryo hatching,” says CT Fertility physician Melvin Thornton, sitting down with the dads-to-be.

by Sydney Page, Washington Post – September 8, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.