“Until you know who you are, nothing will ever work out,” remarked Truett Vaigneur, CUNY LEADS Specialist at York College. Vaigneur said this in regards to dealing with one’s sexuality, a topic that has been seemingly destigmatized in our modern era. A particular time period that emphasizes the importance of this milestone is the times of the Stonewall Riots: a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community, versus a police raid, that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.
John Carlson, Student Life Events Manager at Queens College, recently hosted a Stonewall Remembrance panel that led a discussion on how transgender people of color have played a significant role in the history of fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. Carlson collaborated with Queens College student leader Sergio Albarracin, stating, “He worked passionately on this project with me to make my vision a reality.”
Dr. Adam Rockman, Vice President for Student Affairs, conducted the opening remarks. “I came out in 1984, which was not the ideal year, because as the history books show, it was the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Gay men everywhere were living in a state of intense perpetual fear… because they didn’t know how H.I.V. was transmitted. The fact that we (as a society) have come so far is amazing. In terms of this moment, this video is one of the leading up events for the pride fest.”
Albarracin also made a brief speech at the premiere in the Student Union, stating, “John [Carlson] had a vision, they wanted students to get some hope from this, and for students to understand what it means to be a member of the LGBTQAI+ community. When I spoke to everyone (those interviewed), that’s what I wanted to get out of them. Especially since one doesn’t really get the chance to speak with members of the LGBTQAI+ community so personally, especially elders who have been apart of the community for years.” He concluded his remarks saying, “What I wanted to share with you all, is what I learned, and that’s what I believe the documentary best summarizes.”
“How many of our students now might not feel safe to explore these feelings… and be open to talk about it with their teachers,” noted Dr. Paul Acario, Provost & VP of Academic Affairs at LaGuardia Community College. “I’ve had the experience of colleagues assuming that I am not queer, and upon finding out that I’m queer, expressing shock and dismay.” Acario’s contribution was followed by comments from Dr. Shereen Inayatulla, Associate Professor of English at York College. Inayatulla’s interview goes to explain why students can be open to talking about their feelings with faculty, as Inayatulla serves as an example of dealing with shock and dismay that other individuals experience when they first come out.
As for how progress has been made in the LGBTQAI+ community, “The idea of having personal pronouns, which is very fresh and new (and annoying to some people), but I get it, it’s an idea of standing firm of who you are” elaborates Dr. Margaret Vendryes, Chair of Performing and Fine Arts at York College. Adding to that sentiment was Dr. Richard Lieberman, Director of the Wagner Archives: “…we have to love each other and have respect for each other, and it’s going to be better for all of us when that happens.”
The documentary is six minutes long, and may be seen by all at the Student Union Building, in the lobby near the Starbucks cafe.