The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor at Chautauqua, will lead a WorldPride/Stonewall 50th Panel at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Hall of Philosophy. The discussion will center around the LGBTQ rights movement before, during and after Stonewall, a series of spontaneous riots that were led by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid in 1969.
Robinson believes that featured panelists, Judy Shepard, Addison Moore and Sultan Shakir, will give an interesting perspective to the past, present and future efforts and accomplishments of the LGBTQ rights movement.
Shepard is the founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and president of its board of directors. In 1998, she lost her son, Matthew Shepard, to a violent murder fueled by anti-gay hate. In the aftermath of his death, Shepard and her husband, Dennis, started the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Through the foundation’s work, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was passed — a federal law that designated bias crimes directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people as hate crimes.
“Judy Shepard is just an icon in our movement, and she has for 20 years; she just put herself out there for us,” Robinson said. “Her grief and her pain sobered us all up, and her hard work everyday since — it’s just a model in our community.”
Robinson said that having Shepard at the panel will allow Chautauquans to see the work and effort her foundation has put into the LGBTQ rights movement throughout the last 20 years. He wants to show past and present efforts, while also bringing awareness to current issues in the LGBTQ community.
“I knew that I wanted the panel to look to the future and that transgender people are sort of on the front lines now,” Robinson said. “It’s important that our movement move to protect them, and so that’s what I wanted the forward-looking part of our panel to do.”
Shakir is the executive director of Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, where Moore is health and wellness coordinator. SMYAL is an organization in Washington D.C. that works to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.
Shakir won the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance Distinguished Service Award, has been honored with the Community Circle Award by Baltimore Black Gay Pride and named Jewel of the Month by the National Black Justice Coalition. Robinson was particularly interested in having SMYAL be part of the panel because of how long it has been working for LGBTQ rights and its advocacy efforts in the transgender community.
“I’ve known about their work since the ’80s so I thought of them right away,” Robinson said. “Because this is on the cutting edge, there are not a lot of people who have been doing this work for very long, except for this organization. SMYAL has been doing this work pretty much longer than anyone else, and at the moment is really on the cutting edge of things because Washington D.C. has a huge African American population and their clients just happen to be teenage and early adult African American trans people.”
During the month of June, New York State is hosting a Pride Celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of the StoneWall uprising and a half-century of LGBTQIA+ liberation. Todays panel is an official part of this celebration.
“I think it’s very exciting,” Robinson said. “Often, in rural areas, people think things are terrible out here. There was a time when in order to have any kind of decent life you needed to move at least to a big city, if not some particular cities where there was a large gay community, but now there are LGBTQ people doing remarkable things in very remote places.”
Robinson said Chautauqua’s involvement in WorldPride is important — it shows there are activities and events happening all over New York, not just within the city. The I Love New York campaign has partnered with remote and rural areas in New York to make sure WorldPride is being celebrated all over the state.