In 1966, Time Magazine published a cover story, “The Homosexual in America,” and acrostically referred to the homosexual as “him” in the piece.

This was before the Stonewall riots in June of 1969 in protest of a time when gay bars were “raided” to show cops were tough on crime and people wanted to win elections by going after the gays. It was clearly a product of its time.

The story said, “Such views are enthusiastically taken up by several so-called homophile groups, a relatively new phenomenon. Best known of these deviate lobbies is the Mattachine Society, which takes its name from the court jesters of the Middle Ages, who uttered social criticism from behind masks. In recent years, the Mattachines have been increasingly discarding their masks; the Washington branch has even put picket lines outside the White House to protest exclusion of known homosexuals from the civil service and the armed forces, has lately protested exclusion from the Poverty Program. Borrowing a device from the civil rights movement, homophiles have even issued lapel buttons bearing a small equality sign (=) on a lavender background.”

Things have come a long way in 48 years, with some of those picket signs from outside the White House being displayed inside the White House during this year’s Gay Pride month. The the signs were rescued and donated to the nation by Charles Frances, founder of the Republican Unity Coalition, and this should be noted as well. It shows that the movement for gay rights is diverse and reflects all Americans. So, it is interesting that on the eve of the 45th anniversary of gay and lesbian rights in June of 1969 that Time Magazine has a cover and article titled, “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier,” with a photo of Laverne Cox, an actor in “Orange is the New Black.”

When gay men and lesbians were just thinking that raids on bars were not acceptable, a small minority of transgender people was just emerging. My first encounter was reading about Christine Jorgensen in her autobiography published in 1968. I was 17 years old. She had served in the military after having been drafted in a post-World War II position as a file clerk. Then, in the early 1970s, a service began in Boston to help people with transitions. Called Gender Identity Service, it helped people in transition. Some, such as English professor Dorothy Deans, helped advise it. Dorothy worked as a male English professor during the day, and on weekends she lived her life as a woman. Others, including an economics professor, were helped to make “the change.”

A few years back, while a guest at the Air Force Academy’s alumnae weekend, I met a graduate who was a Vietnam veteran, now an engineer and a male-to-female transsexual. She as a “he” had served admirably.

Most people are unaware of the pain that transsexual members of our society experience. Once I interviewed Chas Bono. At that time, Chas was identifying publicly as a gay woman, but privately was clearly thinking in a different fashion. I remember thinking that I had never interviewed someone who was so clearly depressed. Now, Chas seems happy, happy to have found his true self.

Isn’t finding our true self what being a free American is about? The Time Magazine cover this week is once again at the forefront of a new movement for this freedom. As the article points out, transsexual people represent a much smaller percentage of the population than gay people. The estimates are 1.5 million people, or about 0.5 percent of the population. However, small numbers of people add up.  To put it another way, there are enough transgender people to fill a city the size of Philadelphia or Phoenix.

The difference now, as Time Magazine points out, is that now the activists and people who chose gender reassignment surgery are younger. One transgender person, Cassidy Lynn Campbell, came out as transgender and her classmates elected her homecoming queen. That this generation coming of age now accepts gay and transgender people has unfortunately been lost to many older politicians and policymakers. It shouldn’t be.

Times are changing, America is changing, and this new acceptance and freedom will make us all stronger as a free people.

Media wishing to interview Ellen Ratner, please contact [email protected].


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