Kansas and the “Rainbow Connection”

June is Pride month.  The time coincides with the start of the gay rights movement at Stonewall Inn. 

Bear with me for a moment.  There are a few things I need to explain so this will all come together. 

Let’s start with a popular euphemism for gay people, known affectionately as “Friends of Dorothy.”  According to Wikipedia the origin is a little fuzzy, but many people trace it back to Kansas’ favorite fictional daughter, Dorothy Gale in 1909’s “The Road to Oz.” A character named Polychrome asks Dorothy about her travelling companions, “You have some queer friends, Dorothy”, and she replies, “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends.”  Judy Garland, who of course, played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz sang the iconic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Over the years, the gay community saw a similarity to Dorothy’s travel to Oz along with Garland’s personal struggles with their own experiences. 

Prior to the late 60’s most gay men stayed hidden (in the closet) or only ventured out to a few select bars.  Those bars were often raided by police.  Police that notified the media in advance so the offenders could be photographed and shamed in the local newspapers.

Now let’s move on to the Stonewall Riots.  June 1969.  Judy Garland just passed away.  Her gay fans gathered at Stonewall Inn to pay tribute to their icon.  That night, June 28th, the police raided the bar.  And this time the patrons fought back. A full riot that lasted until July 3rd. This is said to be the start of the gay rights movement. Two gay rights pioneers were among those arrested, transwomen, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. (pictured below)

Black and White pics from history.com

Move to San Francisco, 1974… Harvey Milk asks his friend, Gilbert Baker, to create a new symbol for the gay pride flag.  Up until then most gay pride flags used the pink triangle as its symbol.  A symbol used to mark the 15,000 homosexuals put in Nazi concentration camps.  Using an idea from Ancient Egypt and as a tribute to Judy Garland, Baker developed an 8-striped rainbow flag.  That flag was modified to the current 6-striped flag in 1979. 

Here’s the final Kansas Connection of this story.  Gilbert Baker was born June 2, 1951 in Chanute, Kansas.  After serving two years in the Army he moved to San Francisco.  That’s where he met Harvey Milk and many of the leaders of the gay rights movement.  In 1994, Baker moved to New York City, often performing as drag queen, “Busty Ross”, a nod to flag maker Betsy Ross. Baker died at home in his sleep on March 31, 2017… he was 65.

photo from bronx.net

So Happy Pride to all of you in “the family” and to those of you that are “Family-friendly.”

I close with a few words, my hubby, Jeremy posted on his Facebook:

“There have been struggles, don’t get me wrong, but I have been very fortunate in my lifetime to have experienced very little bigotry (or maybe this is where my naïveté comes in handy). I cannot express the gratitude I feel for those whose struggle was violently real… those who came before us, and those who continue to suffer through a living hell because of the human beings they just happen to be. We may not have been able to be who we are our entire lives, but we are now, and we only have this luxury because others fought and suffered and died. Thank you to all the love warriors, LGBTQIA+ and allies. Happy PRIDE, and from the bottom of our hearts, we love you.”

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