Five decades ago, the Stonewall Riots, unknowingly, sparked a movement for acceptance and awareness of the LGBTQ community.
Now, 50 years later, June is slated as the time to honor, remember, celebrate and educate as it is labeled Gay Pride Month, and serves as a platform to spread LGBTQ awareness and acceptance.
Seguin residents Jim Germann and Dave Stuimenoff have been together for more than 30 years and married the past five, and all too well know the difficulties a gay couple faces. In the past, they have dealt with the struggles of being gay in a world that wasn’t always accepting. However, Germann said the Seguin community has been nothing but supportive. The couple recently talked about overcoming obstacles, as well as raising education and awareness about what it means to live in the LGBTQ community.
“I grew up in Seguin and was born and raised a fifth-generation Guadalupe County resident,” Germann said. “Seguin was originally home so we came back and built a house on our farm after retiring.”
Throughout the years, the couple has seen a gradual change in attitudes and acceptance.
“It’s definitely becoming more welcoming,” Stuimenoff said. “It’s been slow, but when Obama became president, it was accelerated. I never thought we would be able to get married in the U.S. but lo and behold Obama made that possible. I see it as a gradual forward movement but we’ve made great leaps in the last 10 years.”
Gay Pride month began as a way to remember the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969. However, recently it has evolved into a celebration of gay freedom and the future that is to come.
“This is a significant pride month because its the 50th anniversary,” Germann said. “We have come so far, even what the gay community is looking for now has changed a lot from when Stonewall occurred. Police would go into gay bars and arrest people just for being there. As a result, they would be fired from their jobs and so on. They just wanted to be left alone and then it moved on from there.”
Patty Latham, who is a recently retired science teacher, has lived in the Seguin area for over two-and-a-half years and has been openly lesbian for most of her life. She believes that most negative sentiment towards LGBTQ individuals is a result of a fear of the unknown.
“Most of the time discomfort or hatred towards anything is usually because people are not educated,” Latham said. “They have fear of something different and once they realize that it’s not a scary thing they become more accepting. More people need to come out and talk about it and be comfortable whether it’s a parent or a gay person because it is just a fear.”
Germann shares Latham’s sentiment.
“Pride month is a celebration of who we are,” he said. “It’s a chance to be proud of ourselves and not be ashamed because we have been told all of our lives that we are inferior. The parades are great because It’s nice to be around other like-minded people and educate each other first and foremost that it’s okay to be gay but also to show the community that we’re just like everybody else.”
While there are no parades planned in Seguin, a local group works hard to support area residents who are gay, as well as their family members and friends.
PFLAG Seguin-formerly known as Parents, family, friends of Lesbians and Gays-organized about eight years ago, and currently consists of about eight members.
“The organization was started in 1972 after the Stonewall movement,” Latham said. “It was the parents and mothers of people who were in the parade who came together in order to support their loved ones.”
Although Gay Pride month is considered a celebration for the LGBTQ community, Germann believes it opportunity to bring people together.
“I hope people don’t interpret gay pride as somehow diminishing towards non-gays,” Germann said. “ We’re not saying that at all, or at least I’m not and I think most gay people aren’t either. It’s perfectly fine to be straight or gay we love straight people but we would love for the folks that are not part of our community to love us as well as long as you aren’t trying to hurt anyone come on down and celebrate.”
If not to celebrate, then maybe to learn, accept and educate, something Germann is familiar with doing.
Last year, while reading a State Farm Bureau policy handbook, Germann said he ran across some shocking information.
“Most of the book was agricultural related,” he said. “All the topics that you would think that the Farm Bureau would support were there and then, out of nowhere, the book said that the Farm Bureau is opposed to gay marriage and that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.”
Upset by what they read, the couple took action at a Farm Bureau state convention and won a vote to have the bureau remove the language from its policy book.
People coming together similarly to participate in Pride Month could reap similar benefits, Germann said.